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  

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