Personal telephones

Oct 4, 2007
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Arlington, VA, USA
In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, I understand that concerned friends and relatives flooded the White Star offices with telephone calls. Were these people calling from personal telephones in their own homes? Were telephones commonly found in the homes of the wealthy in 1912? And could they manage long-distance calls, say, from Philadelphia to New York?
 

Bob Godfrey

Member
Nov 22, 2002
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UK
In Europe telephones even in the wealthiest homes were by no means common in 1912 - and indeed they were still rarely seen in ordinary homes 50 years later! Even in offices the telephone didn't really take off in Britain before the 1920s. In the US they'd made more headway and compared with Europe there were at least twice as many phones available per head of population, but the numbers would still seem very low to us today.

It was certainly possible to make long distance calls in the Edwardian era, but home phones were generally reliable only for local use. The usual procedure for making a long-distance call was to visit the phone company's offices and use the special equipment available there. And you generally needed to book the call in advance.
 

Bob Godfrey

Member
Nov 22, 2002
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57
208
UK
No, that would be the letter! Even for short range communication the telephone was often regarded as too impersonal, so ideally you got on your feet and paid a call rather than made one. And if you couldn't get to your social or business contacts personally, servants and messenger boys to deliver a hand-written note were plentiful and cheap. In the houses of the wealthy the first telephone was most often installed in the servants' quarters so that your butler and housekeeper could communicate with tradesmen.
 
J

Jack Dawson

Guest
You have to love those early phones.. what's that you say? Can you speak up? I can't hear you over the static!

An ad from the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T), that ran in the January 1911 volume of 'The National Geographic Society' boasts of 100,000 employees, and 25,000,000 'telephone users'. Back then, I think a lot of the phones were company owned, and you had to lease them from the company as rented equipment in essence. Correct me if I am wrong.