Author Topic: Where and who could have AE telephones at private home in the 1930's?  (Read 1645 times)

Offline Haf

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Hi,
as I'm non American I'm in need of some information. As far as I know Bell/Western Electric almost had a monopoly for private lines and technical supply. But what about Automatic Electric and independent telephone companies? Was it possible to choose between for e.g. Bell and a private company? Were there everywhere private companies in addition to Bell or only in some rural regions or only in bigger cities? And what about telephone directories? Did every company had own ones or did maybe Bell listed numbers from private company lines too or vice versa?

Maybe those questions seem silly and obvious to most of you but I really appreciate your help.

I wonder if you could have lived in the 1930's or maybe early 1940's in a bigger city and had AE telephones at your private home.

Haf
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Offline poplar1

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Re: Where and who could have AE telephones at private home in the 1930's?
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2013, 01:38:49 PM »
Bell's original 1876 patent expired in 1894. So 1894 is when other companies like Stromberg-Carson started making phones legally. There were many companies that made phones. Some would just build the oak cabinets with parts they bought from another manufacturer. Western Electric also sold to the independents before 1956. Automatic Electric bought Almon Stowger's 1892 patents for dials.

For the most part, Bell served the urban areas, but chose not to provide service in sparsely populated areas because the cost of running wire was so high. So about 10,000 independent companies formed with about half of the land area but a much smaller percentage of the telephone subscribers. Some places the farmers bought their own phones and ran their own single conductor wire using a ground return. Sometimes these farmers' lines would interconnect with the larger companies.

In many cities, there were two competing phone companies, and if you subscribed to one company, you could not call subscribers of the other company. That meant that businesses had to have phones from both companies in order to communicate with all their customers. At some point, the government intervened and eliminated the dual service in each area. After that, the companies were regulated monopolies.

You are correct that you could have your own Automatic Electric phones in a Bell area, if they did not connect to Bell's lines. You may have seen ads for Automatic Electric's PAX (Private Automatic Exchange). A business might have two phones on each desk: a dial AE phone for calling within the business and a non-dial WE phone for connecting to the outside through an onsite manual switchboard.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2013, 02:10:07 PM by poplar1 »
"C'est pas une restauration, c'est une rénovation."--François Martin.

Offline Haf

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Re: Where and who could have AE telephones at private home in the 1930's?
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2013, 02:53:00 PM »
Thanks poplar1, your answer is quite enlightening. So if I got you right most citizens of bigger cities were Bell customers. Did you maybe know when around government intervented and interconnection was possible?
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Offline poplar1

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Re: Where and who could have AE telephones at private home in the 1930's?
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2013, 03:37:10 PM »
I'm trying to research the dates. There are two different situations: the first (1913?) required Bell to interconnect with the independent companies outside of Bell's area. The second eliminated the "dual service" that existed in the same locations.
"C'est pas une restauration, c'est une rénovation."--François Martin.

Offline jsowers

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Re: Where and who could have AE telephones at private home in the 1930's?
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2013, 04:43:18 PM »
Just to clarify something, Haf, most of the time there was no choice between companies who brought telephone service into your house in the US and that is still the case for land-line service in the US, or POTS (plain old telephone service) as far as I know. I grew up and still live in an area served by an independent telco and there have been as many as five telcos serving the county I live in, including Southern Bell, now AT&T. Their areas of service were distinct and you got service from the phone company that served the road you lived on.

Up until about ten years ago, we were split by two area codes and had schools whose attendance area took children from both area codes. It required special lines from Southern Bell that cost a whole lot more per month. When the area codes changed from two to one, and a wide area calling plan was begun, we could finally let those lines go (I work for the school system in the IT Dept.).

The company that served the majority of my county was an independent telco that could trace its roots back to 1896. It was sold to a larger conglomerate in 2009. Still an independent telco, but a larger one. Until sometime in the 1990s they were installing and after 1984, selling AE phones and had been since at least the 1930s. I remember many AE40s from my childhood, and AE50 wall phones. I have one of each on display in my phone collection and several people have said "my grandmother had one just like it." And so did mine.

One ironic thing. That same independent telco also became a cable TV company and we have a choice of cable providers because of it.
Jonathan

Offline Haf

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Re: Where and who could have AE telephones at private home in the 1930's?
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2013, 05:37:03 PM »
More complicated as I thought. And I bet it's impossible to figure out which company was where. I've got a 1924 Long Beach phone directory by the Associated Telephone Co but that doesn't say if there were other companies same time. But as far as I got it until now, if someone lived in LA, Chicago or NY City the possibility that he got a line by Bell is most likely and if someone were somewhere in the Ozarks (just a guess) got a line by a independent company. Was that the same with pay phones? The ones made by AE only in independent areas or, as it's business doesn't matter what manufacturer?
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Offline Phonesrfun

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Re: Where and who could have AE telephones at private home in the 1930's?
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2013, 07:29:37 PM »
Pay phones followed the same rules as the regular phones, since the pay phones were all installed and operated by the operating phone companies.

I grew up in Portland, Oregon.  Most of the core areas of Portland were Bell System, with some (not all) of the outlying areas being GTE, former West Coast Telephone Company.  West Coast Telephone was one of the independants which used AE and other brands of phones. 

The boundaries dividing Bell system teritories from GTE (General Tel) were not easy to figure out.  It kind of went neighborhood by neighborhood.  I lived right on the boundary, but inside the Bell System.  If you were to look down the street, most people on one side of the street were in the Bell System, and on the other side of the street, General Tel.  However, one entire subdivision on the General Tel side was connected to the Bell System.  Oh well, there is probably a story surrounding that one.

-Bill G

Offline AE_Collector

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Re: Where and who could have AE telephones at private home in the 1930's?
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2013, 02:12:03 AM »
I think LA California is one of the larger city's that was Not Bell,wasn't it?

In Canada the two largest city's, Toronto and Montreal were both in traditional Bell Canada territory but third largest city, Vancouver was GTE (Automatic Electric's owner) territory until quite recently. Fourth largest metropolitan area is Ottawa in Bell territory while 5th and 6th largest Calgary and Edmonton were independent but have merged with Vancouver's telephone company to become the major competitor with Bell in Canada.

Terry

Offline LarryInMichigan

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Re: Where and who could have AE telephones at private home in the 1930's?
« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2013, 09:22:35 PM »
Nearly the entire Chicago area was served by Illinois Bell, part of AT&T, but a section of northwest Chicago and some northwest suburbs were served by Central Telephone (Centel) of Illinois which used AE and other equipment.  I remember having alot of trouble placing calls to numbers in the Centel area.  We lived in the Ill Bell territory but near the border.  Calls would often fail to connect, and multiple tries were needed.  I did not know if the same problems existed when placing calls within the Centel area.  One thing I remember is there was a period during which Ill Bell charged 25 cents for payphone calls while Centel still charged 10 cents.

Larry

Offline Haf

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Re: Where and who could have AE telephones at private home in the 1930's?
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2013, 08:51:44 AM »
I took some time the last days and read a lot about telcos past and now on the internet... and the more I read the more I got confused. Not only that it seems that there were and are like a gazillion different companies on both sides, Bell system and independent ones but even that there is nothing like a continuity with the companies itself. The were sold, filed for bankruptcy, merged renamed and so on. It's not that easy as I thought :D and people are talking about the good old times when things were simpler.

Haf
Telephone:
0049-030-55474418
1-415-449-4743
1-604-757-7474

Offline AE_Collector

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Re: Where and who could have AE telephones at private home in the 1930's?
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2013, 12:41:57 PM »
I think you have it all figured out correctly Haf!

Terry

Offline Adam

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Re: Where and who could have AE telephones at private home in the 1930's?
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2013, 04:20:09 PM »
Los Angeles metropolitan area was Pacific Bell, part of the Bell System.  However, many outlaying areas surrounding the city, especially near the ocean, like Santa Monica, were GTE.

I heard many years ago that Pacific Bell didn't want the areas nearer the ocean because of the degradation of phone lines in the salt water air, don't know if that's true.
Adam Forrest
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