Canton Historical Society


Telephone Co. Serves Town Well
This Article Is From 1947

telephon.jpg (25454 bytes)
This Telephone Company Building Was Built In
1937.  Today It Houses Doctor's Offices.

While Canton celebrates the 150th anniversary of its incorporation, the Canton telephone exchange can look back on sixty-five years of service to the town. This comparison serves only to point up the relative youth of the telephone as an instrument of public service. In Canton, as everywhere else, it is a growing youngster.

    Look back to the time when the Telephone exchange here made its modest debut. Modest it was, for at the opening there were but a handful of telephones--just how many, available records do not show. Today in its seventh decade of public service, the Canton exchange serves more than 2250 telephones.

    It was in 1882 that the exchange stood ready to put into homes and places of business in Canton the revolutionary invention of Alexander Graham Bell. At that time just five years had elapsed since Bell had perfected his invention and, with his few associates, had launched it on a commercial career in Boston.

    Exchange telephone service--permitting the interconnection of telephones through a central switchboard--which had first been established in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1878, was still in its development stages. Many were the persons who still viewed the telephone with a skeptical eye, doubtful of its usefulness. Opening a telephone exchange in those days, one can easily imagine, was a really venturesome business.

    Yet there were those, throughout New England and the whole United States, who dared to do it. In Canton and in other towns and cities around Boston, the men who organized the Telephone Despatch Company were the courageous pioneers. They promoted the telephone under license from the central telephone organization which owned the Bell patents and which in years to come developed into the headquarters company of today's nationwide Bell Telephone System,.

    There is no evidence that in those early days that applicants for telephones stormed the telephone office, for early records of the business show that as late as July 1, 1884, Canton had but 39 telephones. By that time the exchange had become a part of the New England Telephone & Telegraph Company, organized in the fall of 1883 as successor to the Telephone Despatch Company and several other telephone companies in various parts of New England.

    For many years Canton's telephone central office occupied rooms on the second floor of the Brook's Block, at the corner of Washington and Bolivar streets. Until December, 1907, telephones were magneto operated, requiring the turning of a crank to signal the operator. The change to common battery operation, requiring only the lifting of the receiver to signal the operator, was a big step forward for Canton. The exchange at that time had grown to nearly 250 telephones.

    Since March 21, 1937, the central office of the exchange has occupied the building at 800 Washington street, at the corner of Sherman street, erected especially for the installation of a modern common battery system of operation. When this office was put into service, it served about 1100 telephones.

    As they have nearly everywhere, telephones in Canton exchange in the decade since 1937 have greatly increased. As a matter of fact, the increase in those ten years was twice the number of telephones in service when the new central office was opened.

    With its more than 2250 telephones today the Canton telephone exchange plays a vital part in the affairs of the community. In common with all the other it is returning to the high standards of American telephone service impaired by war and post-war conditions, and can look forward to new developments which in the future will make telephone service faster and better than it ever was before.


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