Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/525

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
521
THE DEVELOPMENT OF TELEPHONE SYSTEM
sulators, they being the best as well as the cheapest. Trees, house-tops and poles can be used in the construction of a line. When fastening a line to a tree, let your wire slack enough to swing to and fro with the tree, otherwise your line will be broken during a windstorm. Tree limbs or branches touching the wire have no bad effect on the telephone, but should be avoided if easily possible. A pole should be set no less than three feet in the earth and eighteen to thirty to the mile. Always try and keep your poles in a straight line.

The flimsy character of such cheap and improper telephone line construction is readily apparent, and we now wonder why the local owners should have been led into such expensive errors. Yet the waste of thousands of dollars in construction of the cheapest character is readily explainable on the ground that few had any faith in the future of telephone service; it was an experiment that might require years to demonstrate its value; thus capitalists refused to countenance the large initial expenditures required in constructing pole lines possessing qualities of permanency and stability.

Again, this kind of line construction was just as good, and in some cases far superior, to that adopted by several telegraph companies during the decade preceding the invention of the telephone. This is shown in the report rendered in 1868, by C. F. Varley, a well-known electrician of the English telegraph companies, who made a thorough inspection of telegraph lines in the United States. Mr. Reid states that this report,

which was very minute and exhaustive, was a startling revelation of the condition of the American wires. The obstruction by imperfect joints, by relay magnets of all grades of resistance, by impure wire, by contact, by defective and neglected insulation was more or less universal. Many of the original wires were small, naked, full of joints made in all conceivable ways, into which the detained moisture ate a path of rust and ruin.

Eight years later, that is, in 1875, David Brooks wrote:

The rates of telegraphing in this country have always been high, yet but few of the stockholders or those who furnish the money to construct the lines have ever received any return for their investments. In most cases the Morse patent was sold to individuals who organized companies, received subscriptions to stock, and constructed the lines, deriving personally large profits thereby. Usually, about three times the amount of money necessary to build the lines was subscribed by the stockholders, and an equal amount of stock was issued for the patent; so that those organizing the companies not only derived large profits from the construction of the lines, but also held the controlling interest in the stock. By this mode of procedure a few individual speculators have each succeeded in realizing far greater profits from the Morse patent than were ever realized by its inventor.

In 1880, the parent Bell company issued further instructions that it believed would be of service to the operating telephone companies, stating:

It is advisable, where there are numerous wires, to have a cupola erected on the roof of the building where the central office is located, and through it the line wires are conducted to the operating-room. . . . The cupola is about six feet