Telephone Switching > Exchange Names, Area Codes etc

The TEN Project - Researching Telephone Exchange Names

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When I was a kid, our family moved to Portland, Oregon in the early 50's.  Our number was LIncoln-1971.  In 1957 they added a 2 in the front and our number became ALpine 4-1971.  I was kind of intrigued by this, and found the Telephone Exchange Name project at 

This is a searchable database of old exchange names for many US cities.  The search engine is pretty clunky, so if you can live through that, it is a good source.  About a year ago, I was in Portland, and went to the county library and found that there is still a microfilm library there available of the local newspapers going back to the 1800's, complete with an old manual paper card catalog to look up newspaper articles by topic.  That turned out to also be a goldmine to follow through time the advances that the phone company had made throughout time in putting in more and more facilities.

Anyway, I just thought some would find this resource of the exchange name project interesting.

xzzx-TEN Project-xzzx

I have been to a couple of these sites and agree that one or both are very clunky.  I made as many entries for my area as I could remember.  Interesting how Ma Bell implemented the change from 6-digit to 7-digit numbers for your exchange.  That must have been a big deal.

Dennis Markham:
Bill, that's interesting how you remembered the switch from LIncoln to ALpine.  So the numbers changed from a 6-digit to 7 at that time, in your area.  I'll bet it was difficult to remember, or get used to reciting your "new" number.

I have referenced that TenProject web site on many occasions.  It's amazing how many exchange names are listed.  I think the list continues to grow as people add numbers from their own memories.  Whenever I buy a phone with an exchange card I always check this site to see if it's there.  Very often the number will appear from a city or town that is close to the eBay seller that sold the phone.  It's really a good way to track the origin of a phone, assuming of course the card has not been changed.  It seems like many of the old black 500's still have their original cards.  

One of the things that was always interesting to me is that my grandmother had been a telephone operator since she was a girl.

I have a picture of her at a switchboard in 1927 in Portland.  The event was that during that week-end, LA, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle were all taking turns in making an historic trans-Atlantic telephone call from the US West Coast to London, to inaugurate the opening of trans-Atlantic commercial telephone calls.  She was one of several operators that were involved in setting up the connection that took only 18 minutes start to finish to make, over various land-lines and a radio link.  Unheard of speed at the time.  Once my mother gave me the picture, I had to go to the library to confirm that it did happen, and Yes, it most certainly did.  In fact, the news article ran in the Oregonian and the Oregon Journal newspapers from Friday of that week–end, announcing that it was going to happen, all the way through Sunday, complete with a chart showing the wire route over the US and the radio link over the ocean to England.  They also ran a transcript of the conversation that happened between the high mucky-mucks at the phone company as they made their historic call.

Here is a photo of my grandmother (standing behind the operator seated at the switchboard)  This happened at the end of February, so everyone is in heavy clothing.

Added info to the site :) Dad's was HOpkins 6-5633


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