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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/54

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50
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

contracts, for which he was paid a commission of one dollar each. The first contract thus secured was that of the New Haven Flour Company for five telephones, including one in each of its stores and one in the residence of its manager, Mr. George E. Thompson.

Mr. Coy commenced installing the telephones in November and it was his intention to have had his exchange in operation early in December, 1877, but so numerous were the mechanical difficulties that had to be overcome, so many electrical problems required solving, and so slow were the shipments of telephones, that it was not until January 28, 1878, that the exchange was formally opened, the first service being given on January 21, to about thirty subscribers.

Following the formal opening, the number of subscribers increased rapidly, and on February 21, 1878, appeared the first regular list of subscribers to a commercial telephone exchange. Fifty stations were listed. The second list appeared on March 9, 1878, less than three weeks after the first, and recorded about one hundred and twenty-five stations. On April 8, 1878, came the third list with two hundred and twenty-seven subscribers, including forty-two residences. Thenceforward there was a steady growth. In all these lists names only were shown. Numbering the subscribers to facilitate rapidity in securing connections was an afterthought. Even so late as April, 1880, and in so important a city as New York, the list of subscribers contained no telephone numbers, though there were about one thousand five hundred names distributed through six exchanges.

The rates established by Mr. Coy were only eighteen dollars a year for a telephone in either the office or the house. But it should be borne in mind that the circuits were of single iron wire and grounded, and that from ten to sixteen subscribers were on a line, a number that would not be tolerated in modern business service. Like many modern telephone men, Mr. Coy did not base his rates on what he thought the service was likely to cost him, for the eighteen-dollar rate was established before a pole had been erected, but on what he thought the public would pay. In January, 1877, the American District Telegraph Company introduced a rate of eighteen dollars a year for its call-box system in New Haven and cities of similar size, while it charged thirty dollars a year in the large cities. So Mr. Coy concluded he could supply a telephone as cheaply as a district-box could be furnished; and that is how the eighteen-dollar rate came to be established. Thus, as early as February, 1878, Mr. Coy was advertising in the local papers that 'the company rents them at the extremely low price of five cents per day, thereby placing telephones within the reach of all,' And on February 14 it was stated that Mr. Coy was 'supplying telephones in any part of the city, including service to Fair Haven and Westville (separate boroughs, one four miles, the other seven miles distant) for