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The records of the Southern New England Telephone Company held in Archives & Special Collections have a historical depth that archivists and historians alike find amazing. The collection not only can give a comprehensive overview of the company itself, but the materials can also speak to other histories — of Connecticut, of the beginnings of the telephone industry, of the introduction of women into the storied profession of telephone operator (“Number, please”), and many many others.
Established as the District Telephone Company of New Haven, the company opened on January 28, 1878, with a mere twenty-one subscribers. It was the world’s first commercial telephone exchange, the brainchild of Civil War veteran George Coy along with Herrick Frost and Walter Lewis. By the time these men distributed the world’s first telephone directory three weeks later the company had 50 subscribers. The company took the name of the Southern New England Telephone Company in October 1882 and lasted until it was taken over by SBC Communications in 1998. After that it merged with AT&T.
There are many extraordinary documents and photographs in the collection and it was hard to choose among them to highlight for today’s blog. On top is the photograph of a 1906 work crew in Guilford, Connecticut. Note the goat standing between the legs of the man on the right and the dog with the man up on the pole. Above are two pages from a 1906 Work Book of Wire Gang No. 31 out of Ridgefield, Connecticut, with details of work done on the line in August 23-29.
For more information about the SNET collection see the finding aid at http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/findaids/SNET/MSS19970122.html. Two online exhibits that feature photographs from the collection are available from the electronic exhibits page, being from our electronic exhibits page at http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/exhibits/electronic.htm.
Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections
The Student Voice
Documentation of the University of Connecticut comes in a variety of formats, styles, voices and completeness. Documentation of the regional campuses can be even more difficult. Some of the hardest to document are the experiences and voices of the students who have passed through the many “doors” of the University, especially those not at Storrs. On campus for a relatively brief time, students are at the core of the University and yet they tend to take the documentation of their activities and experiences of their college experience with them when they leave. As a consequence, the little that is left behind is even more valuable–like the student newspaper. Thanks to a recent transfer from the Waterbury campus, the University Archives now has in its collections numerous student publications dating from the 1940s (extension courses were offered at the Waterbury YMCA in 1942). It will take a bit for the Archives to sort through the materials but there are four or five different student newspapers alone that will illuminate the interests, concerns and activities of the students on the Waterbury campus throughout its history. Let’s hear it for the student newspaper!