On April 27, 1877, Alexander Graham Bell
gave a demonstration of his new invention, the telephone, at Skiff's Opera House in New Haven, Connecticut. This presentation piqued the interest and ingenuity of George Coy, a civil war veteran and manager for the Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Company. On November 3, 1877, George Coy was awarded a Bell telephone franchise for New Haven and Middlesex counties. This franchise stipulated that the Bell Company would own thirty-five percent of Coy's enterprise. This relationship was maintained for most of the history of the company.
Using carriage bolts, teapot lids and wire, Coy improvised a crude switchboard with 8 lines, each of which could serve up to 8 customers. Coy enlisted the financial backing of Herrick Frost, a prominent businessman, and Walter Lewis, superintendent of the New Haven Clock Company. On January 15, 1878, with the help of a young lawyer, Morris Tyler (who has signed this piece as the company Secretary
), the New Haven District Telephone Company was incorporated. On January 28th of that same year, the first commercial exchange was opened in New Haven with 21 customers. On February 11th the new company published the world's first classified telephone directory. The directory listed 50 customers.
The company reorganized several times over the next few years, seeking to raise money with larger capitalization to expand its territory and broaden franchise rights with the Bell Company in Boston. During this time, the company took over the pioneering exchanges in Hartford, Meriden and Bridgeport and began to build and promote toll lines. It is also of note that during this period the first woman operator in Connecticut, Marjorie Gray, was hired in Bridgeport. Despite this expansion, competition was so fierce Coy and Frost were compelled to sell controlling interest in the company to financier Jay Gould
who in turn, used the company in a bid to gain control of Western Union
. By the end of 1879, Western Union had conceded the telephone business to Bell in exchange for an agreement that the Bell companies would stay out of the telegraph business. Because of this settlement, Gould lost interest in the fledgling Telephone Company. In the meantime, Coy and Frost had approached Marshall Jewell
, a former state governor, Postmaster General, ambassador, and chairman of the Republican National Committee to help raise money to, once again, raise capitol by reorganizing the company. In 1880, the company was reorganized as the Connecticut Telephone Company with Marshall Jewell as its president (Jewell’s signature also appears on this piece
). A portion of the funds raised were used to buy out Gould's share, thus making the company wholly controlled by Connecticut investors again.
Within the next two years, the company was running twenty-four exchanges connected by toll lines and had over 3500 customers. A subsidiary company, the Inter State Telephone Company, had begun construction of a line between Boston and New York. And in 1882, the company was reorganized, yet again, as the Southern New England Telephone Company. Much expansion was envisioned for the company.
Two developments soon put a damper on the intended growth. The widespread introduction of electricity caused interference on the telephone lines. The problem necessitated a costly solution - the connection of every customer with “metallic circuits”: two copper wires rather then a single iron one. This also required the replacement of every switchboard. The second development was the failure of the New York-Boston line. The line was sold to the newly incorporated long-distance company, American Telephone & Telegraph
. SNET also sold off its Massachusetts holdings for much needed capitol and made the decision to limit its operations to Connecticut. Certificate:
Capital Stock, issued in the 1880’sPrinter:
Not indicated Dimensions:
5 3/4” (h) x 12” (w)State: CT-Connecticut Subject Matter: Telephone and Telegraph Companies
| Autographed Pieces Vignette Topic(s): Telephone Featured Condition:
Vertical and horizontal fold lines, pen and cut cancels in the signature areas and body, receipt adhered at left side, toning and edge faults from age.