The Personal Touch from a Phone Company

The Pennsylvania Telephone Company served customers in the eastern half of the state.  It was consolidated with, or purchased by, the Bell Telephone Company of Philadelphia in 1908.


In the company’s Annual Report for the year ending 31 December 1905, the board of directors reports that

Automatic exchanges—that is, exchanges at which no operators are required—were installed in eleven towns too small to justify the installation of manual exchanges which require the use of operators.


The use of automatic exchange apparatus is to some extent experimental, but it is expected that it will prove successful for exchanges too small for a manual system, and that its operation will show a sufficient return on the investment to justify the gradual extension of its use, thereby enabling your company to give telephone service in many places not heretofore supplied, because of the insufficient revenue therefrom to meet the expense of installing and maintaining manual exchanges.

How fascinating, and how different from today, that this telephone company clearly believed that the manual system was the standard model, while those impersonal automatic systems that lacked an actual operator were to be used only where the exchange was too small and unprofitable.  I suppose a telephone historian could pinpoint the year that the business model flipped and live operators started to be viewed by impatient customers as unprofitable annoyances who slowed things down.


Anyway, the 1905 Annual Report of the Pennsylvania Telephone Company has just been cataloged at the State Library in its Pamphlet Volume 1505, and is available for your reading pleasure.

Published in: on 24 March 2009 at 1:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Not Your Usual Childrens’ Story Book

I just added cataloging for our copy of a 31 page USDA booklet titled:

The Story of the Cattle Fever Tick : What Every Southern Child Should Know About Cattle Ticks : A Picture Book Which Shows How the Fever Ticks Steal Milk, Meat and Money from Farmers and Kill Thousands of their Cattle. Washington: U.S. Department of Agriculture [G.P.O.], 1917.

This childrens’ story book begins with a letter from the chief of the Bureau of Animal Industry to the “school children of the south” asking them to help eradicate the ticks by “reading this story book and then getting your parents to fight cattle fever ticks in your county.”

The eradication effort was eventually successful — whether because because of advocacy by the kids or because of the “arsenical dipping solution” used — and today the focus of vigilance against these particular ticks is in the Texas counties along the Rio Grande.  (Now, if only we could get deer and mice to go through dipping tanks, maybe we could control the ticks that vector Lyme disease….)

Can’t make it to Harrisburg, but still want to see the pictures? Want to print out a copy of this booklet for children you know? You’re in luck. There are various digital versions available in the Internet Archive.

Published in: on 18 March 2009 at 8:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Build a Better Icebox

In our copy of “Pamphlet No. 1” published in Baltimore by the American Association for the Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality in April 1913, one can read many suggestions about the proper care and feeding of infants.

After telling us that we should always keep milk on ice, but warm it up to body temperature before feeding the little nipper, we get this:

If you have not an ordinary ice box, a simple one can be made as follows: Get a wooden box about 18 inches square and 12 inches deep from the grocery store. Go to the tinsmith and have him make you a bottomless cylinder of tin, 12 inches in diameter and 9 inches deep, or a bottomless box of tin, 11 inches square and 9 inches deep.  Then have the tinsmith make another box of tin ….

It goes on, but I won’t include all the directions here.  (We could supply copies if readers want.)  In the “current economic climate” I suppose some folks might have to make their own simple ice boxes, and would want the complete directions. 

But does your grocer even have wooden boxes?  And do you know where your nearest tinsmith is?  Have you ever seen a working tinsmith except at a living history museum?

Published in: on 17 March 2009 at 8:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Three Pamphlets Among Many

At the library we’re all working away as hard as we can, trying to wrap up certain projects between now and the end of the fiscal year.

Still, I have to mention a couple pamphlets that I came across this week while cataloging bound pamphlet volumes. This particular volume had a number of temperance items, so I wasn’t surprised to see also this item:

The utility of ardent spirits: an address for an anti-temperance society / by Amicus Justitiae. Boston: Light and Horton, 1835.

But as it turns out, this is not actually an anti-temperance pamphlet of 32 pages. It is a satire. Read this, where the writer delineates the way that consuming strong drink and ardent spirits will prevent a family from running up debt:

A retailer of ardent spirits received an application from the wife of a man whom he was in the habit of supplying daily with large draughts of New England rum on credit, for some flour, sugar, and other necessary articles for the family, which she wished to obtain on her husband’s account. The retailer replied that ‘he could not supply her with those articles on the credit of her husband, as he should never get his pay for them, but if she would bring the money, he would be happy to furnish her.’ Thus you may perceive, the poor woman was prevented from incurring a debt which she had no means of discharging, and the family restrained from a luxurious indulgence in flour and sugar; and all through the influence of New England rum. (page 22)

Well, there you have it: a case of daily rum consumption keeping a woman from running her family into debt.

Then there’s the

Proceedings of the Congressional total abstinence society, at a meeting held in the hall of the House of representatives, Friday, February 25, 1842. New York: American Temperance Union, 1842.

They met at 7 p.m. right there in the Capitol. There were speeches. There were resolutions. There were testimonials. And, yes, the Hon. Mr. Wise of Virginia publicly signed the pledge.

And finally, I can’t resist adding mention of:

The man in the moon and moonshine in general: lecture for the benefit of the Charitable Fuel Society / by C.A. Adler, Providence, Nov. 20th 1851. [Providence, R.I.: Charitable Fuel Society, 1851].

I honestly don’t quite know what to make of this piece, which consists of 24 pages similar in tone to this:

The man in the Moon! Were I to deny the existence of such an individual, I should run the danger of being mobbed and stoned, or at least of being pronounced a German infidel, a dangerous disciple of Strauss; in the papal states the holy inquisition might take me up and burn me as a heretic; yet, though I have strained my eyes to the utmost, I never could discover any trace of him, and I have often thought it might be with him, as it is with ghosts and true love; everybody speaks of them, but very few have seen them. (pages 8-9)

Well, whatever, it’s here in our Pamphlet Volumes collection should someone want to work through the rest of it.

Published in: on 10 March 2009 at 1:01 pm  Leave a Comment