We know exactly when the now-defunct phrase “I’m in the book” became a saying: 1878.

Since the advent of the Internet, the printed telephone book has largely become an artifact of a bygone age. At least one city has attempted to to forbid yellow pages of the telephone book for environmental reasons. But in February 1878, the telephone directory was at the cutting edge of technology.

First published on that day in 1878, the phone book widely regarded as the absolute first phone book was nothing but a sheet of cardboard with the names of individuals and businesses that had telephones.

The fact that there were 50 people to call in New Haven, Connecticut in 1878 certainly has something to do with the fact that the telephone was invented near there less than two years ago and was first shown. times by inventor Alexander Graham Bell in New Haven.

George Coy, who founded the New Haven Telephone Network, attended a Graham Bell protest in April 1877. Writing for the University of Connecticut archival blog, Laura Smith tell the story how Coy, employed by a local telegraph company, turned this demonstration into first telephone exchange in the world.

In November 1877 he obtained a telephone franchise from Bell for New Haven and Middlesex counties and spent the next two months finding partners and financial support. On January 28, 1878, the New Haven District Telephone Company, in a rented office in the Boardman Building at the corner of Chapel and State Street, opened with 21 subscribers, each paying $ 1.50 per month for the service.

This number had swelled by the time the directory was released. Coy’s network was made possible by the switchboard, which he invented to accommodate multiple call locations. Before that, Smith writes, early telephones were used privately over direct lines.

The header of the very first phone book.

(Archives and special collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries)

Phones – and phone books – quickly caught on, and New Haven’s first phone book that was more than just a sheet of cardboard was published in November 1878. In 2008, a copy of this book hit the spotlight. one of the newspapers when he was auctioned for $ 170,500.

As author Ammon Shea Recount Jason Zasky for Failure Magazine, the earliest phone books seemed a bit different from those published today (although you are unlikely to have regular contact with any of them either.) On the one hand, they often had instructions explaining how a telephone was used. “When people first started using the phone, they were often yelling in the wrong place,” Shea said. And when they got on the phone, they had to figure out what to say to start a conversation: “Ahoy” was Alexander Graham Bell’s favorite option.

It’s not that strange that the first phone book only has the name of the person whose phone it was, Shea said. People resisted the idea of ​​dialing their own numbers for much of the twentieth century, preferring to talk to the switchboard operator and have that person lead their call.

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