Early Phone calls

Making a phone call in the early 1900s was not as easy as it is today.

When telephones started being installed in 1897, they were going into the courthouse, several businesses and a few residences. But by 1899, the list of people having a line jumped to 110 and by 1900, what was seen as a luxury item became a necessity.

To handle the phone lines, switchboards were installed. When a person initiated a call, they would pick up his or her phone which would drop a disk on the switchboard. The operator, usually women, would then plug in one end of a drop cord, flip a switch and ask the number to connected to. She would then connect the other end of the cord to the number requested and ring the person on the other end. Each number would have its own ring switch combination. For example, a typical farm telephone number, like 12-F-21, meant a combination of two long rings and one short one on the farm line twelve.

pennell switchboard

This 1905 photo from the J.J. Pennell collection shows two switchboard operators hard at work connecting calls all over Junction City.