Author Topic: Evolution of Chicago Telephone Numbers  (Read 2212 times)

Offline G-Man

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1957
Evolution of Chicago Telephone Numbers
« on: May 22, 2013, 03:28:03 AM »
Occasionally there appears to be some interest regarding early Chicago exchanges. Here is a compilation from our good friend Bill Caughlin who is the Corporate Archivist for the AT&T Archives. Hopefully the columns will remain formatted-

Evolution of Local Telephone Numbers in Chicago
February 27, 2004

Contrary to popular belief, there were no central office prefixes in the beginning.  To place a call on June 26, 1878, when the Bell-licensed Chicago Telephonic Exchange first opened, the subscriber merely told the operator the name and address of the party desired.  For purposes of identification, the original telephone switchboard at 125 LaSalle St. was known as Central office.  Two other offices soon opened and were called the Halsted Street branch and the Canal Street branch.

By 1883, these three central offices had grown to 11, and around that time the Bell System-affiliated Chicago Telephone Company (formed in 1881) began to refer to most of them by number.  Thus, the switchboard at 125 LaSalle St. became known as the No. 2 office.  By then, too, subscribers were requested to call by number rather than by name.

The initial digit of the phone number generally indicated the telephone central office; that is, the subscriber who had “3123” as the call number was served from No. 3 office at Chicago Ave. and Clark St.  The three offices lying just outside the city limits had no numerical designation and were known as Stock Yards, Oakland and Ravenswood.  In 1889, Stock Yards was changed to Yards and Ravenswood to Lake View.  In that same year, telephone growth brought about the first use of 5-digit numbers, the Oakland series running from 9800 to 10,999 and the Lake View series from 12,001 to 12,499.  This first call number system was inflexible, however, because it allowed little latitude for growth.

By 1892, on the eve of the opening of the World’s Columbian Exposition, it became apparent that the city was rapidly outgrowing the old numbering scheme, and in that year the change to a system of combined prefix and number was made.  Beginning February 15, a subscriber served from No. 3 office had his/her number change from “3123” to “North 123.”  Below is the entire list of changes.

Old Designation   Serving #s      Changed to
No. 2 office      1 to 2999      Main 1 to Main 2999
No. 3         3001 to 3999      North 1 to North 999
Nos. 4    & 5      4000 to 5399      Main 4000 to Main 5399
No. 7         7001 to 7999      West 1 to West 999
No. 8         8001 to 8999      South 1 to South 999
No. 9         9001 to 9499      Canal 1 to Canal 499
Yards         9500 to 9799      Yards 500 to Yards 799
Oakland      9800 to 10,999                Oakland 800 to Oakland 999
Lake View      12,001 to 12,499   Lake View 1 to Lake View 499

Telephone numbers, therefore, started using the central office name as the prefix.  This second system remained in effect for nearly 30 years.

In June 1921, Illinois Bell Telephone Company (formed in December 1920 from the merger of Chicago Telephone Company and the Illinois properties of Central Union Telephone Company) adopted the citywide 3-letter 4-number plan, effective with the delivery of the October telephone directory.  At that time, all phone numbers with less than four digits were changed to add zeros ahead of the number to make four numerals in all cases (for example, “NORth 0029”).  Certain names, such as “Monticello,” were replaced because their numerical equivalents, in this case “666,” conflicted with other existing offices, like “Monroe.”  As a result, “Monticello” became “Juniper.”  This change was necessary for the launch of automatic dial service, first introduced in Chicago with the cutover of “CENtral” prefix (in the Franklin Building at 315 W. Washington St.) on June 9, 1923.

The fourth alteration in Chicago’s calling plan was the conversion to 2-letters and 5-numbers across the city on September 18, 1948 (for instance, “CEntral 6-1234”).  As with the implementation of central office prefixes in 1892, the change to the 2-letter 5-number plan was necessary to provide additional telephone numbers required by the enormous demand for phone service after World War II.

The following is the complete list of Chicago and Evanston central office names and their corresponding prefixes, adopted in 1948.  This system allowed for additional prefix equivalents without the invention of new exchange names.
 
Aberdeen   AB 4
Albany   AL 2
Ambassador AM 2
Andover   AN 3
Ardmore   AR 1
Armitage   AR 6
Atlantic   AT 5
Austin   AU 7
Avenue   AV 3
Bayport   BA 1
Belmont   BE 5
Berkshire   BE 7
Beverly   BE 8
Bishop   BI 7
Bittersweet BI 8
Boulevard   BO 8
Briargate   BR 4
Brunswick   BR 8
Buckingham BU 1
Butterfield   BU 8
Calumet   CA 5
Canal   CA 6
Capitol   CA 7
Cathedral   CA 8
Cedarcrest CE 3
Central   CE 6
Chesapeake CH 3
Cliffside   CL 4
Columbus   CO 1
Commodore CO 4
Cornelia   CO 7
Crawford   CR 7
Danube   DA 6
Davis   DA 8
Dearborn   DE 2
Delaware   DE 7
Dickens   DI 2
Diversey   DI 8
Dorchester DO 3
Drexel   DR 3
Eastgate   EA 7
Edgewater   ED 4
Elmdrive   EL 6
Englewood EN 4
Essex   ES 5
Estebrook   ES 8
Everglade   EV 4
Fairfax   FA 4
Financial   FI 6
Fire   FI 7
Franklin   FR 2
Frontier   FR 6
Graceland   GR 2
Greenleaf   GR 5
Grovehill   GR 6
Harrison   HA 7
Haymarket HA 1
Hemlock   HE 4
Hilltop   HI 5
Hollycourt   HO 5
Hudson   HU 3
Humboldt   HU 6
Hyde Park   HY 3
Independence IN 3
Interocean IN 8
Irving   IR 8
Juniper   JU 8
Kedzie   KE 3
Kenwood   KE 6
Keystone   KE 9
Kildare   KI 5
Lafayette   LA 3
Lakeview   LA 5
Lawndale   LA 1
Lincoln   LI 9
Livingston   LI 8
Longbeach LO 1
Mansfield   MA 6
Merrimac   ME 7
Michigan   MI 2
Midway   MI 3
Mohawk   MO 4
Monroe   MO 6
Mulberry   MU 5
Museum   MU 4
National   NA 2
Nevada   NE 8
Newcastle   NE 1
Normal   NO 7
Oakland   OA 4
Official   OF 3
Palisade   PA 5
Pensacola   PE 6
Plaza   PL 2
Police   PO 5
Portsmouth PO 7
Prospect   PR 6
Pullman   PU 5
Radcliffe   RA 3
Randolph   RA 6
Ravenswood RA 8
Regent   RE 4
Reliance   RE 5
Republic   RE 7
Rockwell   RO 2
Rodney   RO 3
Rogers Park RO 4

Sacramento SA 2
Saginaw   SA 1
Seeley   SE 3
Sheldrake   SH 3
South Chicago SO 8
South Shore SO 8
Spaulding   SP 2
Spring   SP 7
State   ST 2
Stewart   ST 3
Sunnyside   SU 4
Superior   SU 7

Taylor   TA 9
Triangle   TR 4
Tuxedo   TU 9

University   UN 4
Uptown   UP 8

Van Buren    VA 6
Victory   VI 2
Vincennes   VI 6
Virginia   VI 7

Wabash   WA 2
Wagner   WA 4
Walbrook   WA 5
Waterfall   WA 8
Weather   WE 4
Webster   WE 9
Wellington    WE 5
Wentworth WE 6
Whitehall   WH 4

Yards   YA 7
 
The fifth and final telephone number scheme began with the conversion to All Number Calling (ANC) on September 11, 1960.  Despite some early opposition from individuals and businesses who wanted to retain their beloved exchange prefixes, this evolutionary process was finally completed in 1977.  At that point, the Chicago alphabetical directory showed all local numbers in the city to be in the now familiar 7-digit format still in use today (such as, “236-1234”).



Offline MagicMo

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 665
Re: Evolution of Chicago Telephone Numbers
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2013, 11:49:05 AM »
Thanks G- Man, great info! I don't remember number exchanges at all...I was a child of the 70's. My grandma's exchange was Pensacola. She also told me she had a payphone in her home. I thought that ws strange. I didn't know they had payphones in private homes. She is looking to see if she still has it on the basement.
Thanks
Mo
Practice Kindness :)

Offline G-Man

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1957
Re: Evolution of Chicago Telephone Numbers
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2013, 06:05:24 PM »
Thanks G- Man, great info! I don't remember number exchanges at all...I was a child of the 70's. My grandma's exchange was Pensacola. She also told me she had a payphone in her home. I thought that ws strange. I didn't know they had payphones in private homes. She is looking to see if she still has it on the basement.
Thanks
Mo

It most likely would have been a Western Electric 7-series coin collector. They were first introduced in San Francisco by John Saber who was then the president of Pacific Telephone and when he was loaned to the Chicago Telephone Company to clean up their operations he introduced it there and a few other cites as well. Chicago seemed to be the only city where it remained popular though.

Offline HarrySmith

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4864
  • 1937 302
Re: Evolution of Chicago Telephone Numbers
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2013, 06:20:08 PM »
When I was 15 years old my parents thretened to put a payphone in since I spent all night on the phone with my girlfriend!
Instead I got my own phone installed on a new line. I was so thrilled when the next phone book came out and I was in it! Along with 10,000 other Smiths'.
Harry Smith
ATCA 4434
TCI

"There is no try,
there is only
do or do not"

Offline LarryInMichigan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4822
Re: Evolution of Chicago Telephone Numbers
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2013, 08:03:32 PM »
My mother always tells me that her grandmother in Chicago had a payphone in her apartment.  That must have been in the 1940s and/or early 50s.

Where I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, the local exchanges were 965, 966, and 967, but some phone numbers were listed with the exchange as "YOrktownn".  I remember asking my mother why that was in the early 70s.

Larry

Offline Mr. Bones

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1443
Re: Evolution of Chicago Telephone Numbers
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2013, 09:41:02 PM »
My mother always tells me that her grandmother in Chicago had a payphone in her apartment.  That must have been in the 1940s and/or early 50s.

Where I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, the local exchanges were 965, 966, and 967, but some phone numbers were listed with the exchange as "YOrktownn".  I remember asking my mother why that was in the early 70s.

Larry


     Where  I grew up, in the very early '60's our kitchen metal dial 554 dial card had MEdford 7-3759, whereas, my parent's Rose Beige 500 in their bedroom had the area code top, 637-3759. I still have both.

     The local directory, at that point, had most numbers listed in the ###-#### format, but pretty much all the local businesses that advertised throughout it used the ME7-xxxx format, both in the White Pages, and their ads in the Yellow.

     Probably to maintain familiarity with a long-established customer base, I would surmise.

Best regards!

      
« Last Edit: May 22, 2013, 09:52:00 PM by Mr. Bones »
Sláinte!
   Mr. Bones
      Rubricollis Ferus

Offline MagicMo

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 665
Re: Evolution of Chicago Telephone Numbers
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2013, 10:26:06 PM »
My mom said our exchange was SPring 4 (not 7). Is she right?
Practice Kindness :)

Offline LarryInMichigan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4822
Re: Evolution of Chicago Telephone Numbers
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2013, 11:15:57 PM »
My mom said our exchange was SPring 4 (not 7). Is she right?

It looks like that exchange (774) covers the Edison Park and Norwood Park (possibly Edgebrook also) neighborhoods, so that sounds entirely believable to me.  I remember calling numbers in that exchange in my younger years (back when it was 312-774).

Larry

Offline G-Man

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1957
Re: Evolution of Chicago Telephone Numbers
« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2013, 12:15:29 AM »
My mom said our exchange was SPring 4 (not 7). Is she right?

Entirely possible since this is a list of exchanges as they existed in 1948. Others were added through the years, especially right after WWII to meet the pent-up demand for telephone service.