Happy Birthday Phone Book! - NBC Connecticut

Happy Birthday Phone Book!

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    How to Control Your Devices (So They Don't Control You)
    New Haven Colony Historical Society
    This was the first telephone directory in the United States.

    Presidents Abraham Lincoln and George Washington get their day in February. What about the phone book? It has a birthday too. It’s Feb. 21.

    New Haven is credited with publishing the first phone directory.

    New Haven District Telephone published that first list on Feb. 21, 1878, about two years after the telephone was invented.

    It didn’t have a huge list of numbers, just 50 subscribers in the city. The list was broken up into residential listings, physicians, dentists, miscellaneous, stores, meat and fish markers and stables. And it has no phone numbers, just names.

    Phones apparently caught on pretty quickly because by November, the book was 20-pages long.

    In 2008, the book sold at auction for $170,500, according to oldtelephonebooks.com.

    Tom Lecky, head of books and manuscripts at Christie's auction house, which handed the sale, told Discovery News that the book had some instructions that would seem pretty funny to a modern user.

    The directions start off: “Never take the telephone off the hook unless you wish to use it. When you are done talking say, 'That is all,' and the person spoken to should say, 'O.K.,'"according to the Discovery Channel.

    It also gave gabbers the constructive advice of never “use the wire more than three minutes at a time, or more than twice an hour" without first "obtaining permission from the main office," Lecky told the Discovery Channel

    That would never happen today. You cannot even check voicemail in three minutes.

    The phone book was created because in the early days of the telephone, knowing who had them and what their numbers were quickly became a problem.

    Today, 131 years later, the U.S. Census Bureau says it’s facing a growing problem, keeping track of phone numbers of the more than 255 million cell phone users.

    Cell phones, iPhone, Blackberrys, landlines, who can keep up?

    Now, there are 270 million phone lines in the nation, about a third of them are residential and listed in phone books or in directory assistance.

    New Haven is also the home of the first switchboard, James Campbell, of the New Haven Colony Historical Society.