America Calling: A Social History of the Telephone to 1940 by Claude S. Fischer

By Claude S. Fischer

The phone looms huge in our lives, as ever found in sleek societies as automobiles and tv. Claude Fischer provides the 1st social historical past of this important yet little-studied technology--how we encountered, demonstrated, and finally embraced it with enthusiasm. utilizing phone advertisements, oral histories, phone correspondence, and statistical facts, Fischer's paintings is a colourful exploration of ways, while, and why american citizens all started speaking during this notably new manner.Studying 3 California groups, Fischer uncovers how the phone grew to become built-in into the personal worlds and group actions of ordinary americans within the first a long time of this century. girls have been in particular avid of their use, a phenomenon which the first vigorously discouraged after which later wholeheartedly promoted. many times Fischer unearths that the phone supported a wide-ranging community of social relatives and performed a very important position in neighborhood lifestyles, particularly for ladies, from organizing kid's relationships and church actions to assuaging the loneliness and tedium of rural life.Deftly written and meticulously researched, the US Calling provides an enormous new bankruptcy to the social heritage of our kingdom and illuminates a basic element of cultural modernism that's fundamental to modern existence.

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Additional resources for America Calling: A Social History of the Telephone to 1940

Sample text

Except for its early years as a marvel and rare periods of controversy around rates and regulation, there was little public debate about the telephone. The melodramatic reconstructions by later essayists aside (see Chapter 1), Americans, at least after the turn of the century, took this wonder of modern science in stride. Unlike the automobile, which generated fierce disputes, even after almost everyone admitted that it "was here to stay," the telephone engendered only occasional argument. The Bell companies helped still the political controversies and, for the most part, avoided aggressive sales campaigns that might have made telephones newsworthy (see Chapter 3).

Rio Baker later to become a banker and city councilman installed Antioch's first telephone instrument in his drug store cum post and telegraph office (much like John F. Parkinson in Palo Alto). Within five years, the Antioch Drug Store, the Empire Mine, and Dr. Wemple also had telephones, all connected to a switchboard in the county seat, Martinez, about 20 miles away. In 1892 the Sunset Telephone Company established the first exchange in Antioch, with six subscribers. The next year, Dr. George brought the telephone its first recorded notoriety in town with his church concert.

Use of the automobile entailed dramaspeed, contest, romance, danger, and death. Finally, its use raised a profusion of policy issues, such as road building, policing, taxation, and urban planning, that kept the automobile near the top of the political agenda. In contrast to all this, the diffusion of the telephone, once it passed the technical marvel stage in the nineteenth century, proceeded with little visibility. This distinction places the telephone among the technologies of modern life that are taken for granted, along with technologies of food preservation and personal hygiene, for example.

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