Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

More on the Earliest Installations of Telephones in the Town of Pelham

I have written on several occasions about my efforts to determine when the first telephone was installed within the Town of Pelham.  United States Patent No. 174,465 for "Telegraphy" was issued to Alexander Graham Bell on March 7, 1876.  Residents of the Town of Pelham seemed to recognize the importance and value of the new invention very early.

On July 19, 1884, the New Rochelle Pioneer reported that during the previous week City Island had been "connected with the outside world by the telephone" and that "Manager Deveau has been quite active the past few days in putting up telephones."  Source: LOCAL INTELLIGENCE, New Rochelle Pioneer Supplement, Jul. 19, 1884, p. 4, col. 2.  The same issue of the New Rochelle Pioneer elsewhere reported that "Several of the tradesmen of City Island concluded that they may as well be buried alive as be out of the fashion, so they have put in telephones in order to keep pace with the times. . . . "  Source:  PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND, New Rochelle Pioneer Supplement, Jul. 19, 1884, p. 4, col. 6.

Clearly telephone technology was sweeping the lower Westchester region in 1884.  The September 19, 1884 issue of The Chronicle published in Mount Vernon, New York reported breathlessly:  "The office of the Westchester Telephone Company was moved into their new quarters in the rooms over Spicers harness shop, a few days ago.  The office is now kept open day and night.  Miss May Johnson is in charge during the day time, and Mr. James Brett at night."  Source:  LOCAL NEWS, The Chronicle, Sep. 19, 1884, Vol. XVI, No. 783, p. 3, col. 1.  

There were so few telephones in the region in 1884 that a local merchants in Mount Vernon who had a telephone encouraged prospective customers to call the business using phone number "18."  See MRS. D. FERGUSON First Street, Mr. Vernon Near the Depot - Stoves, Ranges, Furnaces, Etc. Hardware [Advertisement], The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], May 2, 1884, Vol. XV, No. 763, p. 2, col. 7.    

As I have noted before, records of the Pelham Manor Protective Club indicate that on June 2, 1884 the members of the organization authorized the Westchester Telephone Company to install a telephone in the Pelham Manor Depot on the Branch Line near the end of today's Esplanade. On July 9, 1884, the Club authorized payment of the first bill from the telephone company in the amount of $20.20. Although the bill likely was for use of the telephone, admittedly it is unclear precisely what the bill was for and whether, for example, it was for installation of the telephone at a later date.  It seems clear, however, that the telephone installed by the Pelham Manor Protective Club was installed before July 4, 1884.  See PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], July 4, 1884, Vol. XV, No. 772, p. 3, col. 5 (reporting that as of July 4, 1884, "The Protective Association of Pelham Manor, have connected themselves with the outside world by telephone.").

It seems, however, that the honor of installing the first telegraph line and telegraph communication system belongs to City Island, once part of the Town of Pelham.  According to one report, in June 1878, financier William Belden was involved in the installation of a telegraph line to an office in his home manned by a telegrapher.  See City Island, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], May 31, 1878, Vol. IX, No. 454, p. 2, col. 5 (reporting that "Mr. Wm. Belden is having the A. & P. Telegraph wire extended as far as his house, and has an operator and an office of his own at his private residence.").

It seems likely that the tiny little hamlet of Pelhamville was just as active in pursuing the latest fad and installing the new telephone technology.  I have been unable, however, to locate any references to suggest that any telephone was installed in Pelhamville in July, 1884.  Below the image of the 1884 telephone, I have provided links to earlier postings addressing the issue of when the first telephone was installed within the Town of Pelham.

1884 Telephone, From a Newspaper
Advertisement Published that Year.

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Below are links to previous Historic Pelham blog postings that deal with the issue of the first installation of a telephone within the Town of Pelham.

Tue., Mar. 29, 2005:  The Earliest Telephone in Pelham Manor? 

Mon., Dec. 21, 2009:  More on What May Have Been the First Telephone Installed in Pelham.

Mon., Mar. 24, 2014:  The Earliest Telephone in Pelham? When and Where Was it Installed?

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