After Bell Telephone’s patents on telephone technology expired in 1893 and 1894, thousands of new companies established telephone systems in the United States. By 1904, the number of telephones in use nationwide soared from from 285,000 to 3,317,000. By 1930, almost 41% of American housing units featured a telephone. But the Depression undid many of these gains. By 1933, more than 2.5 million households had cancelled their service and fewer than a third of American homes were reachable by phone.
Which perhaps explains why corporations like American Telephone & Telegraph (At&T) and Southwestern Bell spent so much of the first half of the twentieth century trying to teach us how to use the things. Remember, folks, your conversation will be more personal if you speak TO the person at the other end of the line rather than AT the telephone. And hang up gently, already!
For these and other helpful telephone tips, check out How to Make Friends by Telephone (Pam 96.184) published in 1950 by the Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania, and only one of the many telephone etiquette guides housed here at the Hagley Library. You can also click here to view the guide online in our Digital Archive.