Author Topic: Evolution of Chicago Telephone Numbers  (Read 3372 times)

Offline G-Man

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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

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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

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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.

Online HarrySmith

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Offline Haf

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Re: Evolution of Chicago Telephone Numbers
« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2019, 11:50:21 AM »
Doing a little bit of reanimation after 6 years of silence :)

I recently obtained an old Chicago phone number. Area code 312, Exchange 761 (ROgers Park 1). The four digit number starts with a 0, probably from 1921 when they started the three letters four digit numbers and added  a Zero ahead of the number to make a four digit one-

So from 1948 to 1960 the Number was: 312 ROgers Park 1-0231

Anybody here who knows how that number would have been in the 3 letters 4 digit time from 1921 to 1948? Maybe an old phone dictionary could help, usually they had all exchange names listet on one of the first pages.

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

Offline poplar1

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Re: Evolution of Chicago Telephone Numbers
« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2019, 12:21:43 PM »
There are no letters associated with the figure "1" on the dial. Therefore, ROgers Park 1- central office must have been added after 1948.

ROgers Park 4- would have been earlier since RO 4- and ROG- are both dialed the same way (764-).
"C'est pas une restauration, c'est une rénovation."--François Martin.

Offline Haf

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Re: Evolution of Chicago Telephone Numbers
« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2019, 01:42:57 PM »
Thanks poplar1, of course you're right, there is no letter associated with 1. Should have noticed myself.

Meanwhile I found a very good article: "A History of the Rogers Park Telephone Office"

http://www.verycomputer.com/28_cd4860b340f6051d_1.htm
 (I don't have any idea how to save this article except copying the whole text in here in the next post)

Here is the text directly relatet to Rogers Park 1:

"September 18, 1948: Most of Chicago, including Rogers Park had been converted
to automatic dialing in lieu of manual calling. The Rogers Park neighborhood
exchanges converted to the two letter, five figure numbering system.
The third letter of the exchange name became the first digit of the five.
Old style numbers less than four digits took leading zeros as filler when
the dial conversion was complete, i.e. a number such as ROGers Park 6
became RO-4-0006.
July 25, 1949: "ROgers Park-1" opened as the sixth prefix in the area.
December 31, 1950: Stations in service on six prefixes in Rogers Park
totalled 53,055. Prefixes were "ROgers Park-1", "ROgers Park-4", "SHeldrake-3",
"BRiargate-4", "HOllycourt-5" and "AMbassador-2".
April 28, 1957: "BRoadway-4" opened as a theoretical prefix in "BRiargate-4",
which it will eventually replace. "

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

Offline Haf

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Re: Evolution of Chicago Telephone Numbers
« Reply #12 on: March 14, 2019, 01:44:08 PM »
Now the complete Article:

A History of the Rogers Park Telephone Office
A History of the Rogers Park Telephone Office
Post by TELECOM Moderat » Mon, 02 Jul 1990 03:02:00



The information in this article comes to me courtesy of the Rogers Park
Historical Society here in Chicago. Their source of information comes from
notes prepared March 5, 1958 by R. L. Mahan, an employee of Illinois Bell,
for the occassion of the 75th anniversary of telephone service in Rogers
Park, the Chicago neighborhood in which I reside.
September 15, 1883:  Rogers Park was served by a toll station from Chicago.
The charge was 25 cents for 5 minutes of connection. The name and address
given in the directory of the Chicago Telephone Company was simply, "Rogers
Park, public toll station # 1".
September 15, 1886: In the Chicago Telephone Company directory issued this
date, two toll stations are listed, with the second one being "Dr. C.H.
Burbank, drug store, toll station # 2".
July 15, 1889: The south edge of the present (1958) Rogers Park office (that
below Devon Avenue) was annexed to Chicago, as a part of the city then known
as Lakeview.
April 4, 1893: The territory east of Kedzie Avenue and between Howard Street
and Devon (most of the present [1958] Rogers Park office) was annexed to
the city of Chicago. This included the villages of Rogers Park and West
Ridge.
December 1, 1895: The Chicago Telephone Company announced the establishment
of a telephone exchange in Rogers Park. The proposed rate for service was
$42 per year for local community service, with a toll fee for calls to
Chicago.
January 1, 1897: The wiring and installation of the exchange was complete,
and it opened for business this date. The switchboard was located in the
drug store at the corner of Clark Street and Lunt Avenue, and was operated
by the wife of the pharmacist and her family.
1903: At year end, stations in service throughout Rogers Park totaled 372,
versus 255 the year before.
February 1, 1905: The switchboard was moved to the building at the rear
of the drug store (actually 722 Lunt Street). Chicago Telepone Company
announced that effective that date, service would be provided 24 hours per
day, seven days per week. Prior, the board had been open during the day
and early evening hours, and closed on Sunday. The residents of the
community had a 'gentlemen's agreement' with the operator: Calls would not
be placed during overnight hours or on Sunday when she was off duty except
in cases of emergency. In a middle of the night emergency, a loud bell
connected to the switchboard rang when a phone went off hook and it would
awaken her, sleeping nearby.
September 1, 1909: The street number of the phone office changed to 1754
West Lunt, when all house numbers were changed to conform with the new
street numbering system in Chicago.
1909: The village of Birchwood (including the Germania community in the
far south end of Evanston) was served from Rogers Park on "Birchwood"
theoretical prefix.
March 6, 1915: Rogers Park office cutover; many number changes were
involved. The "Birchwood" theoretical prefix was discontinued. The office
moved to its present ([1958] and still, in 1989) location, 1622 West
Pratt Avenue.
April 24, 1915: Area north of Howard Street, east of the Elevated tracks
and north to the south boundary of Calvary Cemetery (neighborhood known
as "Little Germania") annexed to the city of Chicago, and served by the
new "Rogers Park" prefix.
March 13, 1920: Area along the lake front which had been served by the
Edgewater office (1007 stations) was transferred to the Rogers Park
office. The "Sheldrake" prefix was started to accomodate these phones.
Some of the residents in the area had "Rogers Park" numbers, and as
nearly as possible kept the same number, but with "Sheldrake" as the
new prefix. Records indicate that a John Townson, whose telephone number
was formerly "Rogers Park 6" was transferred to "Sheldrake 1".
1921-23: The Chicago Telephone Company was aquired by the rapidly growing
American Telephone and Telegraph Company, and over a two year period, all
facilities of Chicago Telephone were transferred to the control of the
newly formed corporation, "Illinois Bell Telephone Company". Throughout
its history until now (1958), Illinois Bell was never owned exclusively
by AT&T. Although AT&T owned and still owns about 95 percent of the stock
in the corporation, about 5 percent is owned by private investors, who
retained some stock rights from their prior ownership of Chicago Telephone.
April, 1925: "Briargate" opens as a third prefix in the area.
April, 1928: "Hollycourt" opened as a fourth prefix.
September, 1940: "Ambassador" opened as a theoretical prefix in the
Sheldrake exchange.
September 18, 1948: Most of Chicago, including Rogers Park had been converted
to automatic dialing in lieu of manual calling. The Rogers Park neighborhood
exchanges converted to the two letter, five figure numbering system.
The third letter of the exchange name became the first digit of the five.
Old style numbers less than four digits took leading zeros as filler when
the dial conversion was complete, i.e. a number such as ROGers Park 6
became RO-4-0006.
July 25, 1949: "ROgers Park-1" opened as the sixth prefix in the area.
December 31, 1950: Stations in service on six prefixes in Rogers Park
totalled 53,055. Prefixes were "ROgers Park-1", "ROgers Park-4", "SHeldrake-3",
"BRiargate-4", "HOllycourt-5" and "AMbassador-2".
April 28, 1957: "BRoadway-4" opened as a theoretical prefix in "BRiargate-4",
which it will eventually replace.
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
At the bottom of Mr. Mahon's notes, dated in 1958, the following additional
notes had been written in:
February, 1961: All number calling prefix 338 was opened. Ironically, had
we still been going with exchange names, 338 would have been presented as
"DEvon-8", a logical choice, the main street in the area being named Devon.
September 16, 1962: Direct distance dialing for station to station calls
became available to phones in the community. We can call many places in
the United States by just dialing three more digits at the start of the
number.
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
Rogers Park Telephone Statistics:
                                                   other/
Year       Total     1-party    2-party   4-party   business
1900       85          unk       unk       unk      unk
1905       372         23        unk       unk      unk
1910       2117        172       169       1553     243
1915       5322        700       388       3657     577
1920       12,376      2073      1072      7574     1657
1925       23,648      5355      5202      9572     3519
1930       36,691      11,861    12,823    5725     6282
1935       35,732      8556      12,760    8568     5848
1940       40,527      10,055    19,284    4410     6778
1945       43,010      11,994    22,190    2649     6177
1950       53,055      17,984    22,804    1257     11,010
1955       66,547      29,020    18,869    -- 7     18,581
Notes:
1. During the depression years 1930-35, many people could not afford phones
and had to give them up. The net decrease in that period was almost 900
stations; this is the only period in which there was a decrease rather than
an increase. In that same time period, many people chose to give up private
service and take the less expensive party line service.
2. Illinois Bell Telephone Company, successor to Chicago Telephone Company,
discontinued offering four party service in 1949, but 'grandfathered' it
to existing customers. By 1955, it was almost gone. The last of the four
party subscribers dropped out about 1962.
3. Several large business phone installations occurred during the 1950-55
period, and payphones became much more common, appearing on street corners,
the elevated train platforms, etc. In addition, Loyola University of Chicago
greatly expanded its phone service during the early 1950's. This is shown
in the large increase in other/business category in 1950 and 1955.
4. The largest single increase in subscribers was during the 1900-1910
period, when the number of subscribers increased more than twenty fold in
that decade. The increase between 1905 and 1910 alone was six fold. Having
the exchange staffed full time in its own office became a necessity!
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
Long after this was prepared and presented at an IBT Company anniversary
dinner, we added the prefix '973' in our area; then five years ago we added
'508'. We 'went ESS' in 1984, as one of the last neighborhoods in the city
to be thus equipped. All the early exchanges are still around, but known
now as 262, 274, 465, 743, 761, and 764. The relative 'newcomers' 338, 508
and 973 never had names.
Patrick Townson
Telephone:
0049-030-55474418
1-415-449-4743
1-604-757-7474

Offline RotarDad

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Re: Evolution of Chicago Telephone Numbers
« Reply #13 on: March 14, 2019, 10:18:56 PM »
Thank you for posting that, Haf.  Really great to read through that and see the evolution and struggles during times past.  We are very fortunate to have the communication systems that we now have, especially given the fact that they so reliable, accessible and inexpensive.
Paul