Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/232

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
226
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

NOTES ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF TELEPHONE SERVICE
By FRED DELAND

PITTSBURGH, PA.

XIV. Telephonic and Financial Conditions 1880-1883.

FOLLOWING are the Bell statistics for the four years, 1880-1883: On March 1, 1880, there were 138 Bell telephone exchanges, in operation or about to open, while a year later the number had increased to 408, a net gain of 270 exchanges, or of nearly 200 per cent. Though only three years had elapsed since the first of these pioneer exchanges was opened, on March 1, 1881, 66 exchanges were interconnected by toll lines, Boston had toll communications to seventy-five cities and towns, the total number of places for which licenses to build exchanges had been granted was 1,523, and thirty-two contracts had been given to build connecting toll lines. But, these 408* exchanges supplied telephone service to only 47,880 subscribers located in 463 cities, towns and villages, or an average of only 117 subscribers to each exchange.

At the close of the year 1881, the number of Bell exchanges had increased to 592, with a total of 70,525 subscribers, located in 1,593 cities, towns and villages, while the average number of subscribers per exchange had increased from 117 to 120.

On December 31, 1882, there were 1,070 Bell exchanges in operation, a net gain of 478 for the year, or of 81 per cent. This growth represented an average increase of two new exchanges for nearly every working day in the year. Yet the total number of subscribers was only 97,728, or an average allotment to each exchange of only 91, that is, 29 less subscribers than the average of the previous year. The handiwork of the speculative builder of small exchanges, grasping for quick profits, is here indelibly imprinted on the records. In the large exchanges the high flat rate limited the growth to the wealthy in the resident districts and to the larger business houses and professional offices where telephonic communication was an absolute necessity. This seems a reasonable conclusion to draw from a growth, of only 38 per cent, in subscribers and of 81 per cent, in exchanged.

And the record for 1883 is of the same delusive character. On December 31, there were 1,325 Bell exchanges in operation in 46 states and territories, supplying service to 123,625 subscribers, and giving employment to 4,762 persons. In other words, there was an average of nearly four employees to each exchange, though the aver-