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