The Boneyard

When the Telephone Came to Evansville
Evansville, Indiana

Though the invention of the telephone in 1876 seemed incredible and most people doubted that the transmission of human conversation over wires would ever be practical, the inauguration of a telephone system in Evansville came rather quickly.

In the summer of 1878 the superintendent of the Western Union office brought two telephone instruments to Evansville. One was installed in the Western Union office and the other in the St. George Hotel.

In February, 1879 the first private line was installed. It connected two flour mills, the Robert Ruston mill and the Igleheart mill. About the same time one line was installed between the office of John Ingle and his coal mine. In June, 1879, the first exchange was installed with sixty subscribers, each of whom paid $5 a month.

On November 25,1881, the first telephone directory in Evansville was published. This consisted of a card with the list of subscribers, 382 in number. The instructions at the bottom of the card described the operation: "Give two sharp turns of the bell crank, take the hand telephone from the hook and listen for the exchange to answer; then announce, without uneccesary words, the number wanted."

As the number of subscribers increased, the cost of the telephone service decreased until 1899 when the consolidated company in this area, the Cumberland Bell Telephone Company, was providing home service to subscribers on party lines at the rate of $1.00 a month.

Excerpted from Dr. James E. Morlock's book, "The Evansville Story"

Produced by John Baburnich

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