Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Calling Naperville-1913

In celebration of the Chamber’s 100th anniversary, let’s take another look at Naperville in 1913. Or rather, let’s listen!

Chicago’s first telephone company was founded in 1878 and the use of the telephone grew tremendously during the last decades of the 19th century.

Originally telephones connected one-to-one. For instance, Naperville’s first private telephone connected Philip Beckman’s home to his harness shop at Chicago and Washington. Eventually switchboards made it practical to connect with anyone.

Early in 1913, the City of Naperville Council resolved that the Inter-State Telephone and Telegraph company be required to furnish seven free telephones per their franchise agreement for the residences of council members Givler, Hiltenbrand, Bowman, Schwartz, Luebcke and Palm.

The meeting minutes don’t say what kind of phone, but both wall units and candlestick units were in vogue then.

The telephone directory gave instructions for use in the front of the book:

“To call the Exchange Office, take the hand telephone from the hook and place at the ear. (If the telephone has a crank attachment for signaling Central, give two quick turns of the crank before removing the hand telephone from the hook.)

The Operator will say ‘Number please?’ Give the exchange name and number of the subscriber wanted...Remain with the telephone at the ear until an answer is received.”

The directory also begs to “call attention to the fact that we maintain a messenger service at each exchange and will call any party with who you wish to talk, even though he has no telephone.”

A little over 350 telephone numbers were listed in the directory from that era, including North-Western College (now North Central), the Naperville Lounge Company (later Kroehler) and W.W. Wickel Drugs (now Oswald’s Pharmacy.)

In February of 1913 the council granted the Chicago Telephone company permission to trim five elm trees on High Street west of Main Street and moved to pay the city’s telephone bill of $13.36.

How the times have changed!