Tag Archives: early 20th century United States History

Calling Long Distance in 1900

Making a long distance telephone call in 1900 was pretty complicated.

For instance, in Mischief in March, the third in my Calendar mystery series, when Minty Wilcox wants to make a call from Kansas City to her uncle Charles in St. Joseph, MO, she can’t just grab her cell or even pick up her home phone and do it. Instead, she has to go through a fairly long process.

1) A day or so before Minty wants to make her call, she goes to the Coates House Hotel to make an appointment. She also pays for the call up front. At 50 cents, or about $50 today, it was expensive, too.

2) In the interim between making the appointment for the call and making the call, the operator sets up the connections on the lines to the destination for the call. (When the first commercial telephone exchanges opened began providing service in 1878, the operators were young men or boys. They soon proved to be too impatient for the job, so by 1900 most telephone operators were women.)

3) The next day Minty returns to the hotel and goes inside a telephone booth, also called a “silence cabinet.” When the telephone rings, she picks up the earpiece from the wall phone. And finally, after the operator completes the connection, Minty talks to her uncle Charles.

We can count our blessings that long distance calling is so easy these days.

 

 

 

 

January Jinx, the first Calendar mystery, is available for $3.99 at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4 and Fatal February, the second, is available for $4.99 at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM. Both eBooks are free from Kindle Unlimited. Look for Mischief in March coming in 2017.