The World's First Long Distance Telephone Line
Charleston, South Carolina January 2015 to April 30 2015

(1878)

 


Long distance telegraph lines had been constructed in California as early as the mid-1850's.  Shown on the left is the contract for the formation of the Northern California Telegraph Company for a line to reach 300 miles between Marysville and Yreka. Founded by Justin E. Strong and J. M. Hubbard,  the Northern California Telegraph Company was the first substantial telegraph line built in California and one of the first three long distance telegraph lines build west of the Mississippi up to this date.  (See Exhibit 1 [left side])

By 1878  some gold fields of California had evolved so that the extraction of gold was possible only by hydraulic blasting. Three companies, with a total of four reservoirs & 323 miles of ditches, constructed a new telegraph line in order to effectively manage these operations. (See ex. 1 [right side])

This new Telegraph Line Was to become the Predecessor To  The World's First  Long Distance Telephone Line.

The total distance of the line was 61 miles.  The estimated cost was $4880.00. 

The three companies, Milton Co.,  Eureka Lake Co.,  and Bloomfield Co. shared the cost relative to the portion of the line from which they benefited. (Exhibit  1)

In 1876  Alexander Graham Bell had obtained a patent for his new invention, "The Telephone".   

By 1878,  pairs of telephones were being rented to individuals by the Bell Telephone Company.  It is possible some pairs were also sold  (instead of rented)  as could be implied by the communication between the State of California and the Bell Telephone Company. 

The State of California examined the possibility of the installation of telephones only 2 years after its invention. (Exhibit  2)

On learning of the new possibility of verbal communication,  the three mining companies completed their telegraph system by installing Bell's telephones.

A breakdown into shares and costs for the various sections for each company was determined and the work was completed over the sixty-one mile course.  The new system was called the Ridge Telephone Company.  

This was the World's First Long Distance Telephone Line. (Exhibit  3).

Within only a few months of the operation of the new telephone line,  on May 21, 1879,  an article  (see Exhibit 4)  appeared in the San Francisco Evening Bulletin:  Elisha Gray,  who had filed a patent for the telephone a few hours after Bell,  was filing suits against those who had rented or purchased Bell's equipment.   In fact,  one user mentioned in the article was the same company which Bell's agent had used as a reference in his communication to the State of California (Exhibit 2). Gray's suit would eventually fail but not before 600 prolonged additional suits.

The new Ridge Telephone Company was operating without permission! Their comment below the article states;

"Does this cover our telephone? ... I will see." In the meantime the use of the system continued.

To insure legal use of the new telephone system,  the Ridge Telephone Company signed a contract with R.S. Lisson, who would in turn maintain the line and lease the telephones from Bell Telephone Co. (Exhibit 5) The first nine months' operation under this contract shows the rent paid to Pacific Bell and the payment to Lisson. (Exhibit 9)

After the first year, instead of an 'intermediate contractor', a formal contract was signed directly between the Ridge Telephone Co. and the Pacific Bell Telephone Company,  effectively reducing the Ridge Telephone Co. to a part of the future Bell Telephone System.

The first "telephone repair men"  were electrical contractors. Instructions for repair would be given to the user,  however if not sucessful a professional repair man could be sent out to train the user. (Exhibit 7)  Also on exhibit is a letter from a company in Sacramento who has offered to communicate with their New York agents to obtain necessary telephone equiptment supplies.

Finally on exhibit is an example of an order to send a telephone message.  Evidently the operator would do the talking in this case!!! ... perhaps due to the time it would take to locate the party to whom the message was directed.