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Old 03-07-2019, 10:21 AM
 
Location: Oregon Coast
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Which did most cities and towns get first, electric power or telephones?

I have always thought that electric power came before telephones. But I have been reading some history of my hometown, and I have started to wonder if that was true in all places.

First a little background. My great-grandfather founded the small midwestern town that I was born in. In 1901 he got a homestead next to a train station. In 1902 he incorporated the land as a town. In 1904 he build a small brick building on what would become the Main Street, and operated a newspaper and land office out of it. In 1908 when he got clear title to the land, he started selling land plots in the town. At that time he build a large concrete building a half a block from his newspaper/land office building, and opened a hotel in it. He sold land pretty quickly, and by 1910 the town had a population of over 500. At that time, he started the town's first telephone exchange in the basement of the hotel. Years later, long after he sold the telephone exchange, that space became the basement apartment that I grew up in, when my dad operated the hotel.

Now this is where I'm confused. I always thought the hotel building had running water and electricity from the time it was built. After all, it was built in 1908. Power and water utilities were not exactly new at that time. But reading the town's history, I see that the first electric utility company was formed by a group of the town's business owners in 1915, and water and sewer lines were installed by the town government a year after that. So I guess that means that my great-grandfather was operating the hotel and telephone exchange with no electricity or running water in the building for at least seven years after he built it. Which is kind of hard for me to imagine. But I guess not entirely surprising, since even when I lived there, there weren't many bathrooms in the building and only a few of the guest rooms had private bathrooms, and I believe those were installed by my dad during his time managing the hotel.

So does anybody have any thoughts on this? Was this town an unusual case, or are there a lot of places that had telephone service even before electricity and running water? Just a question that I have been pondering.
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Old 03-07-2019, 12:30 PM
 
Location: Glasgow Scotland
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IN Glasgow it was the St Enoch Hotel in 1876 to have electricity...
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Old 03-07-2019, 02:59 PM
 
Location: Oregon Coast
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dizzybint View Post
IN Glasgow it was the St Enoch Hotel in 1876 to have electricity...
So when did that hotel get telephone service? Was that the first electrical service in the UK? That is very early for electrical service. The first commercial central power plant in the US was started by Thomas Edison in 1882 in New York City. The first telephone exchange was started in Hartford, Connecticut in 1877. Which I guess kind of answers my question which came first. But I'm still interested to know which came first in most places. The whole idea of having telephone service before electric lights seems kind of weird to me, and counter to how I have understood history.
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Old 03-07-2019, 03:05 PM
 
Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama
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Excellent question.

The railroads were early adopters of the telegraph, so most U.S. towns with a rail connection would have had that as a given. Bell didn't steal the patent for the telephone until later.

In Vermont, the first public service commission report was for 1908-1910. Before that it was the railroad commissioners report. In that 1908 report, the total number of telephone subscribers i the entire state was about 2200, with many of the exchanges having been formed only in 1909. In the same report, the data on power generation shows that many of the generators were put into service in the early 1890s, usually 3 phase with a voltage around 2,000 volts, which was about the limit of insulation at the time. Coal or water gas plants were also listed.

To answer your question, for Vermont at least, power came first, by as much as twenty years. It was generally used only for lighting for a number of years. I was just watching a documentary on the TVA, which was built in the 1930s, and a power bill was shown for a residence in Athens Alabama that used less than 200 KWH of power per month.

My guess is that your grandfather had or had access to a small generator to power the charging of the batteries for the exchange. Hit and miss engines were available.
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Old 03-07-2019, 05:01 PM
 
19 posts, read 2,787 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dizzybint View Post
IN Glasgow it was the St Enoch Hotel in 1876 to have electricity...
Notice in the 1881 census the St Enoch Hotel seems to be owned and staffed by Germans.
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Old 03-07-2019, 07:20 PM
 
Location: Cebu, Philippines
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Electrification was pretty gradual. The first household electrical system was 1882, but it took 50 years for it to reach 70% of US homes. So no doubt there were towns that had phones before lights, and vice versa.
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Old 03-08-2019, 01:07 AM
 
Location: Glasgow Scotland
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mons Meg View Post
Notice in the 1881 census the St Enoch Hotel seems to be owned and staffed by Germans.
wow no I didnt know that but seems they were everywhere in hositality at that time, wonder why................

German migrants were to be found in significant numbers in the British hospitality industry
during the period 1880 to 1920. They worked as waiters, chefs, and managers of restaurants
and hotels. This article has three main sections. It begins with a brief outline of the rise of
restaurants and hotels in late nineteenth-century Britain and the role of migrants in this
process. It then analyses the Germans in the British hospitality industry in the decades
leading up to the First World War. The article then focuses upon the rise of hostility towards
Germans with the approach of the Great War, which led to dismissal, internment and
repatriation during the conflict..
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Old 03-08-2019, 01:11 AM
 
Location: Glasgow Scotland
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This comes from the Glasgow University site. Lord Kelvin’s House (11 The Square), was the home of the renowned physicist Sir William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, from 1870 until his retirement in 1899. It was one of the first houses in the world to be lit entirely by electricity.
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Old 03-08-2019, 06:04 AM
 
Location: StlNoco Mo
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cebuan View Post
Electrification was pretty gradual. The first household electrical system was 1882, but it took 50 years for it to reach 70% of US homes. So no doubt there were towns that had phones before lights, and vice versa.
That's the way it was in my state. Some folks got phones but didn't have electricity while others had electric but no phone. I would occasionally see old newspaper headlines that read " ELECTRIC COMING NEXT YEAR." I guess the first ones in a town to get electricity were the ones that had phones so they could call the electric company for a hook-up. Those that didn't have a phone remained in the dark.
I can just picture people when they first got a phone, they probably sat next to it all night waiting for it to ring so they could find out what it sounds like, or even if it worked, then realized they didn't have any friends so they went to bed.
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Old 03-08-2019, 06:30 AM
 
Location: (six-cent-dix-sept)
4,304 posts, read 2,152,126 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cloudy Dayz View Post
So when did that hotel get telephone service? Was that the first electrical service in the UK? That is very early for electrical service. The first commercial central power plant in the US was started by Thomas Edison in 1882 in New York City. The first telephone exchange was started in Hartford, Connecticut in 1877. Which I guess kind of answers my question which came first. But I'm still interested to know which came first in most places. The whole idea of having telephone service before electric lights seems kind of weird to me, and counter to how I have understood history.
correction:
Quote:
The Telephone Network Is Born
Bell patented his device on March 7, 1876, and the device quickly began to spread. By 1877, construction of the first regular telephone line from Boston to Somerville, Massachusetts, had been completed. By the end of 1880, there were 47,900 telephones in the United States. The following year, telephone service between Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, had been established. Service between New York and Chicago started in 1892, and between New York and Boston in 1894. Transcontinental service began in 1915.
https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of...m-bell-1991380
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