TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: And, Speaking of the Baby Bells ...

And, Speaking of the Baby Bells ...

TELECOM Digest Editor (
Fri, 7 Jan 2005 19:58:31 EST

... Even they are to some exent starting to go away; getting
cannibalized by each other, etc. My own personal experience for
many, many years was with Illinois Bell, which at the time of
divestiture got renamed 'Ameritech'. And following its absorption
in 1999 by Southwestern Bell, the old headquarters building at
212 West Washington/225 West Randolph Street in Chicago was
remodeled and turned into condominium apartments. About 11 months
ago, the book written by William Coughlin which was a photographic
essay of Ameritech ==> Illinois Bell == Chicago Telephone Company
was reviewed here in this Digest by myself. Here is another look
at that review, in case you did not ever get around to ordering a
copy for your own library.

Date: Sun, 22 Feb 2004 22:57:22 EST
From: TELECOM Digest Editor <>
Subject: Book Review: A Photographic History of Ameritech

Did you know 'Ameritech' originally stood for
'(AM)erican (I)nformation (TECH)nologies, Inc.? You will learn that
and a lot more in a recent book "A Photographic History of Ameritech".

Subtitled 'Snapshots in Time', this photgraphic essay of the companies
which make up the present day north-central region of SBC is a brilliant
presentation of how our past evolved into our present.

Written and compiled by William D. Caughlin, the manager of Ameritech
Corporate Archives, with co-authors Brian F. Coffey and Ilana N. Pergam,
this 200-page large size paperback book uses pictures to tell the story
of the history of telephone service from its beginning in 1876 through
the end of 1999, when Ameritech (or Illinois Bell as most of us knew it)
became part of SBC, or what we knew as Southwestern Bell.

When Alex Bell invented the telephone in March, 1876, many considered
it just a novelty, an electrical toy. Everyone -- at least all readers
of this Digest -- are aware of how Western Union essentially thumbed
its nose at the invention, a snub that about a century later would put
it out of business, along with email showing up a few years later.

The Chicago Telephonic Exchange was founded on June 26, 1878 to serve
the needs of Chicago businessmen. When the general public also wanted
phone service, the Chicago Telephonic Exchange merged with a competitor
to form the Chicago Telephone Company, in business from 1881 through
1920 to provide local service around the city. About the same time,
(1883-1920) Central Union Telephone Company started offering service
in other parts of northern and central Illinois.

Actually ahead of Chicago by about 9 months (it started in October,
1877) was the Michigan Telephone and Telegraph Construction Company,
which was the nation's first Bell Operating Company. Like Chicago,
their first interest was private line service for businesses, but on
August 5, 1878 the Detroit Telephonic Exchange opened for business.
During 1879, telephone exchanges were established in several towns
throughout Michigan, and after two years, in 1881, these various
Michigan exchanges were affiliated in the Michigan Bell Telephone
Company, and two years following that, in 1883 (through 1904) the
Michigan Telephone Company was formed.

Then comes January, 1879 and the Columbus, Ohio Telephone Exchange. By
the end of 1879, there were cities all over Ohio with phone service.
It was about that time, that telephone switchboards were started.
In the earliest days telephones were all connected directly to each
other: in other words if company A had a phone and company B had a
phone and Company C wanted to talk to A and B they had to have two
telephones, one each to A and B. Multiply that by the number of
companies in Chicago alone and you can see why the skies overhead were
black with telephone wires running in all directions. Most companies
had a phone to most other companies, so typically there were wires
running through the air everywhere. Ditto in Detroit, Cleveland and

In March, 1879, Ameritech's first predecessor in Indiana -- the
Indiana District Telephone Company began operations in Indianapolis.
It eventually became part of the Central Union Telephone Company
and had phone exchanges all over the state. Milwaukee's first
switchboard opened in 1879, and in July, 1882 (through 1983) the
Wisconsin Telephone Company was incorporated to serve that state.

These five companies -- Central Union, Chicago Telephone, Cleveland
Telephone, Michigan Telephone and Wisconsin Telephone became known as
Associated Companies in the Bell System, and that is what this
photographic essay is all about: The 1876 through 1999 period as
those five companies were born, developed, merged then merged again
and (as Ameritech) had still another merger into Southwestern Bell
Telephone Company which then changed its name into SBC.

The rapid expansion of telephone service in those early years brought
with it the need for many skilled employees, especially operators.
Although the first operators were young men, it soon became apparent
that the subscribers preferred women in this role. Women soon became
the switchboard operators, and men handled installation and maintain-
ence. But around 1972, the companies began once again employing young
men as operators in Directory Assistance and elsewhere. Page 139 in
this book shows a young man at work in Directory Assistance in Dayton,

Caughlin and his associates picked through nearly one hundred thousand
pictures in their archives and present several hundred of them in this
fascinating book along with some text to place all the pictures in
context. The book is broken into several parts, covering these periods
of time:

1876-1899 1900-1939 1940-1969 1970-1999 and in addition a section
is devoted to Ameritech's lineage. You may wish to order one or more
personal copies for your library.

The SBC Archives and History Center is pleased to offer the book
entitled, Snapshots in Time: A Photographic History of Ameritech.

This 192-page soft-cover book chronicles the evolution of
telecommunications in the SBC Midwest (former Ameritech) five-state
region through select historical images. It offers more than 225
captioned photos of switchboard operators, crews with their vehicles
and technicians testing central office equipment. The book begins
with an 1876 portrait of Alexander Graham Bell and ends in 1999, on
the eve of the SBC/Ameritech merger.

The cost for each book is $25.00, plus $4.95 for shipping.

To order, fill out the form below. If you have questions, please call
Bill Caughlin at (210) 524-6192. Or send him an e-mail at



Snapshots in Time: A Photographic History of Ameritech

NAME __________________________________________________

BUSINESS UNIT ________________________________________

ADDRESS _______________________________________________


CITY _________________________ STATE _____ ZIP __________

PHONE NUMBER (______)_________________________

I would like to order _______ copy(ies) each at $25.00, plus $4.95
shipping, for a total of _____________.

No cash, please. Make your check or money order payable to
SBC Services, Inc. and send it to:

SBC Archives and History Center
7990 IH-10 West
Floor 1
San Antonio, Texas 78230

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: This review will go in the Telecom
Archives section on history for future reference. You may wish to
visit the history section in the archives
and check out several interesting files there about the history of
the telephone, etc. I am in the process now of attempting to
establish an online museum of telephone history with pictures, etc.
I'll need readers help to do it however. PAT]

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