This Day in History… March 27, 1884

Rise of Long-Distance Telephones

US #1683 was issued for the 100th anniversary of Bell’s first phone call on March 10, 1876. Click image to order.

On March 27, 1884, the first long-distance phone call between New York and Boston was made.

In March 1876, Alexander Graham Bell received the patent for his telephone and made his first phone call just three days later.  That June, he presented his invention at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia which gained the attention of the press, who in turn shared news of the telephone with the public. 

US #1683 – Fleetwood Plate Block First Day Cover. Click image to order.

In August, Bell made the first two-way long-distance call between Brantford and Paris, Ontario, Canada, a distance of about six miles.  In the early years of the telephone, it was mostly seen as a means of local communication.  Telephone lines connected people within cities, or to neighboring cities.  But few recognized the possibility that people could communicate with each other across hundreds of miles.

US #893 from the American Inventors Series. Click image to order.

However, the Bell Company recognized the possibilities and began working on a New York to Boston line, which would stretch 235 miles.  In addition to the long distance, the line would use copper wire instead of iron.  At a cost of $70,000, it was a large gamble with its share of detractors.  One Bell Company official claimed, “I wouldn’t take that line as a gift.” 

On March 27, 1884, the final coil of copper wire was stretched into place and the first phone call was made between New York and Boston.  The success of that first phone call opened the eyes of many to the idea that the telephone was more than a form of local communication – it could connect people across the country.  In 1892, the first line was strung between New York and Chicago (950 miles) and in 1915, lines stretched from San Francisco to New York (3,600 miles), inaugurating transcontinental telephone service.  Later that same year, radiotelephone transmitted a call across the Atlantic, from Virginia to Paris. 

Liberia #C212 was also issued for the 100th anniversary of Bell’s first phone call.  Click image to order.

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