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1915 - January 25 - First United States coast-to-coast long-distance telephone call,



facilitated by a newly invented vacuum tube amplifier, ceremonially inaugurated by Alexander Graham Bell in New York City and his former assistant Thomas A. Watson, in San Francisco, California. (Wikipedia)

TELEPHONING FROM SHORE UNTO SHORE
A.G. Bell, Original Inventor, Talks from New York to San Francisco
ACROSS THE CONTINENT
Thomas A. Watson, His Early Assistant, at the Other End of the Long Line
MARKS EPOCH IN PHONE HISTORY

NEW YORK, January 25., - Late yesterday afternoon in an office within sight of the Statue of Liberty, Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, talked over a line, the route of which is 3,400 miles long to Thomas A. Watson in San Francisco: This is the first time in history that the voice of a man has leaped in a single bound from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and yesterday's conversation between Dr. Bell and Mr. Watson repeats one of the most thrilling incidents of scientific history.

Mr. Watson was Bell's assistant during the long, trying months of his early experiments, and he it was who first heard the sound of a human voice over a wire when, in the basement of a machine shop in Boston, forty years ago, he heard the first crude instrument shape the words, "Mr. Watson, come here. I want you," spoken by Bell from a room above.

"Ahoy! Ahoy! Can you hear me?" asked Dr. Bell, to-day, and instantly there was a murmur in the receiver audible to everyone in the room. Out in San Francisco in the offices of the Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company, Thomas A. Watson had heard the voice of his old-time associate signalling in the manner they had employed in their earliest experiments, and had answered: "I can hear you perfectly."

Conversation between Dr. Bell in New York and Mr. Watson in San Francisco.

Dr. Bell, "in New York," "Ahoy! Ahoy! Mr. Watson, are you there? Do you hear me?"

Mr. Watson, "in San Francisco," "Yes, Dr. Bell, I hear you perfectly. Do you hear me well?"

Dr. Bell - "Yes, your voice is perfectly distinct. It is as clear as if you were here in New York instead of being more than three thousand miles away. Do you remember, Mr. Watson, that evening thirty-eight years ago, when we conversed through the telephone on a real line for the first time?"

Mr. Watson - "Yes, indeed, that line was two miles long running from Boston to Cambridge. You were overjoyed at the success of the experiment."

Dr. Bell - "We are talking over 3,400 miles as easily and clearly as we talked over two miles thirty-eight years ago."

Mr. Watson - "The telephone men have certainly done wonderful things with your invention since that first out-door test. We must not forget that the circuit we are talking over is really 6,800 miles long, as, of course, the earth cannot be used for the return now as we used it then."

Dr. Bell - "I want to switch in another telephone and talk to you through that."
"Bell switches in the first telephone."

Dr. Bell - "I am now talking through an exact duplicate of the first telephone which was made in June 1875. Can you hear me?"

Mr. Watson - "I hear it perfectly, no less distinctly than the other, of course."
"Now switching back to the standard transmitter."

Dr. Bell - "What wonderful progress has been made by the Bell system since then, to enable our voices to be transmitted over a circuit 6,800 miles without the least apparent distortion or weakening."

Mr. Watson - "Their work has been superb, and superb also is the discipline of the organization that watches every inch of this long circuit to safeguard those feeble vibrations from the many things that might interfere with them."

Dr. Bell - "All honor to the men who have rendered this great achievement possible and they have brought all the people of the United States within sound of one another's voices and have united them into one great brotherhood."

Colonel Goethals has made it possible for a ship to pass from the Atlantic to the Pacific in eight hours. Dr. Bell's voice yesterday leaped across the wires from New York to San Francisco in 1-15th of a second. In these days of Zeppelins and aeroplanes and 42-centimeter guns and submarines, the average American has come to accept each new wonder as a matter of course. It is the American way of doing things. We have used the telephone for forty years, and the average American says: "If I can talk a hundred miles over a telephone, why not a thousand?" And so, for years a corps of more than 550 engineers and scientists in the Bell Organization have spent every energy toward the means of protecting and helping onward the tiny voice impulses as they have reached out, mile after mile, to greater and greater distances.

In 1876 the limit was two miles, from Boston to Cambridge, and one had to have pretty sharp ears and a pretty good voice at that; 1884 saw Boston and New York linked; then the 900 miles to Chicago were bridged in '95. One after the other came Omaha, Denver and Salt Lake City. Yesterday the oceans were linked by a great talk canal over whose copper strands Bell and a hundred officials and business men who attended the celebration sent their voices in electrical waves at the rate of 2,000 per second, from coast to coast.

The celebration was held in the office of Theodore N. Vail, President of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company, at the New York end, and in an office of the Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company, at San Francisco. Between these two points 130,000 special poles have been erected, carrying two complete circuits of four wires, each 3,400 miles in length. At frequent intervals along this line special coils were introduced to strengthen and hold the tiny current, and almost countless inventions and tricks of the telephone scientists' skill have been used to make the transmission perfect.

At New York, the men who witnessed the demonstration included Mayor Mitchel, other city and state officials, a number of prominent business men; J. J. Carty, the Chief Engineer of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company, who has directed the entire work of planning, building and opening the line; Thomas B. Doolittle, who first invented what is known as "hard-drawn copper wire," and many other telephone officials, while a small group gathered in San Francisco.

In New York the time was about 5 o'clock, while in San Francisco, by reason of the longitudinal difference between the two points, the time was about 2 o'clock.

Adding to the marvel of the talk itself, Theodore N. Vail, the President of the company, was connected to the line from Jekyll Island , off the coast of Florida. When it was found that Mr. Vail could not be in New York, this additional line was arranged to that both he and Dr. Bell, together with other telephone and civic officials, could talk across the country.

At the White House President Wilson spoke into the mouthpiece of his telephone and his voice was whirled across thirteen States to the shores of the Pacific.

From New York the new line sweeps down first to the outskirts of Philadelphia, leans across the Susquehanna, zig-zags up and down the Alleghenies, dips into the murk of Pittsburgh, goes straight on through Ohio and Indiana to the windy City of Chicago, then traverses the plains, crossing Missouri at Omaha, and then it runs along the very brink of the Grand Canyon and up over the snow-capped peaks of Pueblo and the lofty City of Denver; then it turns northwest to Salt Lake City and dips down through the foothills of the Rockies, past the orange orchards of California and finally crosses the Sacramento River to San Francisco. From the Statue of Liberty to the Golden Gate, at the rate of 56,000 miles a second - infinitely less than the wink of an eye.

Shortly before 5 o'clock a hush fell upon the group of about one hundred men at each end of the line and Mr. Vail, in a room on Jeckyll Island, near Jacksonville, Florida, was told that all was ready. It was Dr. Bell's hour of triumph, but it was no less a triumph for the engineers and scientists grouped around him, for it was these who have planned and experimented and built through the years for that hour and for the time to follow.

But the triumph of using the new trans-continental line with instruments as you and I know them to-day, was not enough and there was a strange, crude, box-line contrivance, the original telephone built by Mr. Watson under Dr. Bell's direction. That conversation between New York and San Francisco could be successful over these crude instruments does not mean that the telephone instrument of to-day is no better; on the contrary, the very sight of the crude first telephone showed graphically that the familiar instrument of to-day is vastly improved.

The telephone is the product of a pyramid of inventions which have come since those early telephones were made and it is far more efficient than any apparatus that has ever been produced for transmitting the human voice, but the use of the original instruments on this new trans-continental line shows better than anything else could, how wonderful are the transmission possibilities of that long line.

In addition, the telephones were connected to the line by short pieces of the original copper wire used between Boston and Cambridge for that first now-famous conversation forty years ago.

In breathless silence, Mr. Bell leaned forward to talk and his smile showed that his mind ran back and forth through the years to that first day. After he had expressed his felicitations and Mr. Watson had congratulated him in turn, the Mayor of New York, spoke greetings to the Mayor of San Francisco and one by one most of the men in the room talked over the line for a moment.

While everyone expressed surprise at the distinctness with which one may hear over this long line, it was said that it would not be thrown open for commercial use until certain further details have been completed.

 
Altoona Tribune
Altoona, Pennsylvania
January 26, 1915


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