Old time telphony: cable crazy
June 11, 2018 9:07 PM Subscribe
In the early days of the telephone, about a decade after Alexander Graham Bell's telephone (patented in 1876), telephone poles were the skyscrapers of their day. Hundreds of lines could be strung from a single pole or structure, often collapsing each winter under the burden of snow. The era of these many-tiered poles lasted only about ten years, with the development of telephone cables. Many telephone wires were contained in one telephone cable, and with better insulation, employed for aerial, underwater and underground use starting around 1879. Meanwhile, barbed wire was used by Great Plains farmers to transmit telephone calls.
Left to telephone companies and their bottom lines, farm people would not have had telecommunications at all. Building lines was expensive, and hardly worth the effort in sparsely populated areas. But, according to historian Ronald R. Kline, manufacturers underestimated the entrepreneurial, innovative spirit of these men and women. “Ranchers and farm men built many of the early systems as private lines to hook up the neighbors,” writes Kline, “often using the ubiquitous barbed-wire fences that divided much of the land west of the Mississippi.”Barbed wire telephone lines brought isolated homesteaders together -- and then let them snoop on each other.