32¢ First Transcontinental Telephone Line
Celebrate the Century – 1910s
Issue Date: February 3, 1998
City: Washington, DC
Printed By: Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method: Lithographed
The word telephone comes from two Greek words meaning far and sound. In the mid-1800s, many inventors were working to develop a practical telephone, but Alexander Graham Bell was the first to design, patent, and use such a device for sending human speech along wires using an electric current.
An educator and inventor, Bell taught speech to the deaf and pursued studies and experiments in the transmission of sound. He was working on ways to improve the telegraph when he developed his idea for the telephone. In 1876, Bell was working with his assistant, Thomas A. Watson, to set up his newly patented telephone when they succeeded in transmitting spoken words for the first time.
The Bell Telephone Company was established in 1877. By 1890, the Bell telephone had spread to most major cities in the United States. A year later, the first commercial long distance line extended 45 miles. Phone service between New York City and Chicago began in 1892.
With phone lines extended across the continent and the help of new inventions – switchboards and amplifiers, telephone service between New York City and San Francisco began in 1915. The first phone call spanning the nation was made by Alexander Graham Bell to Thomas Watson.