Saturday, October 17, 2009

October 1909 - New York Telephone Ads

100 Years Ago: From The Rensselaer Eagle [NY 41 Rensselaer 93-32173].

New York Telephone was advertising heavily in the Rensselaer Eagle throughout the Fall of 1909, as the competing Rensselaer Home Telephone service was about to become active. These ads were part of AT&T's strategy to publicize the Bell System's universal service as an institution of American Life [see Bell System History - Year of Decision]. The ads emphasized the benefits of owning a Bell System phone, from ordering coal to finding a fourth for playing bridge. (Click these to enlarge - my favorite is the plumbing emergency...)

The telephone industry in 1909 was an open competition, since the second of Bell's key telephone patents had expired in 1894, allowing independent phone companies to flourish. AT&T's A Brief History: Origins says that over 6,000 independent phone companies had been established by 1904 - but their systems didn't connect, so companies competed on "network effect" - how many people you could reach on their system.

Here's the Hudson River Telephone Co.'s ad from the Directory for the year 1907 of the cities of Albany and Rensselaer.

Rensselaer Eagle ads for Albany businesses would often say "both phones" to indicate they had a Hudson River Telephone number and an Albany Home Telephone number.

I believe that by October 1909, the Hudson River Telephone Company provided Rensselaerites access to the Bell System. [In September 1909, the Central New York Telephone and Telegraph Company had merged into New York Telephone, bringing with it the property and franchises of the Hudson River Telephone Company, which Central had purchased in March 1909 - reference Annual report of the Public Service Commission, Second District, Volume 3].

Oct. 9, 1909:

A schoolhouse without a telephone would seem strangely isolated in these days of constant communication.
Parents know that the school is always within call and this knowledge gives them a sense of security and comfort. The Bell Telephone carries the same confidence into all the relations of life. Your friends are brought within reach of your voice by the Universal Service of the Bell System.

Oct. 30, 1909:

It is wonderful how much satisfaction can be obtained from a talk over the Bell Telephone.
A letter carries words, but the Bell Service has been brought up to such a point of perfection that the modulations of the voice are clearly heard. The cheery tones show that the talker is well and in good spirits. The call may come from a suburban village or a distant city, but within the limits of the carrying power of the voice the Bell System carries the tone as well.

Nov. 13, 1909:

An hour saved in summoning the plumber by telephone may save the price of several years of service.
It certainly saves a lot of discomfort and worry. The Bell Telephone keeps the household in constant touch with all the resources of civilization and is instantly available in any emergency. It also keeps the household in constant touch with the broader outside world by means of the Long Distance Service of the Bell system.

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