Washington & Boston. 1877-1882. Approximately 150 documents comprising 250pp., plus one CARTE DE VISITE. Mostly quarto and octavo sheets. Some light wear. Near fine. Item #WRCAM46505
A remarkable archive of service reports and other documents related to the Bell Telephone Company, from the papers of George C. Maynard (1839-1918), related to his time as the Washington, D.C. agent for Bell Telephone Company. The archive contains the service reports, estimates, lease agreements, telephone line diagrams, and business reports and other ephemera. A handbill advertising Maynard's services, dated April 28, 1881, reads: "Geo. C. Maynard, Electrician, Agent American Bell Telephone Co. (for everything except the Telephonic Exchange business,) 1413 G Street. Telephones and telegraph lines constructed, equipped, and leased. Electrical work of all description attended to." A quote by Theodore N. Vail, General Manager for the company reads: "'Geo. C. Maynard is the only person authorized by us to supply telephone lines for Private Lines, Club Lines, and Speaking Tube Lines within the District of Columbia.'" Alexander Graham Bell is considered to be the father of the telephone and was the first to be granted a patent for a device that electronically transmitted vocal or other sounds telegraphically. Thomas Edison and Elisha Gray, among others, were also experimenting with similar technology at the same time. Bell registered his patent on Feb. 14, 1876, the same day as Elisha Gray, who submitted a patent for a similar device, mere hours apart. Bell was granted the patent, no. 174,465. After significant experimentation, on March 10, 1876, Bell and his assistant, Thomas Watson, succeeded in transmitting clear vocalization across the lines. Sitting in his laboratory, with Watson on the other end of a line in the basement, Bell said, "Watson, come here! I want to see you!" and Watson replied, thus successfully transmitting and receiving voice transmissions. The Bell Telephone Company was founded in July 1877, and the first commercial telephone exchange opened in New Haven, Connecticut in January 1878. This archive, then, contains extraordinarily early material relating to the operation and installation of the telephone system, and the second urban network in the country (although the Washington exchange quickly surpassed the small New Haven operation in size and sophistication). The bulk of the archive contains 137 service reports and estimates for the installation of telephones in and around Washington, D.C., and includes prices for pole wire, house-top wire, length of line, cable conductors, the rent of the phone and bells, office wires, labor, etc. connecting residential, commercial, and government establishments such as railroad depots, stables, newspaper offices, et al. One such estimate, for Commissioner of Agriculture William LeDuc, dated Feb. 1, 1878, is for the running of a telephone line connecting the Department of Agriculture with "...Dept No. 3..." via the White House and State Department. Other documents of note include two telephone line diagrams: the first, in pencil, shows a private line connecting a residential dwelling to the army signal office via a church and the Corcoran Gallery and completely circumventing the White House and the Treasury Department. The second diagram, in pen, shows the connection of Washington Bell agent George C. Maynard's private line connecting his home and his office via seven connections, including a congregational church and the orphan asylum. A printed proclamation by Bell Telephone General Manager Theodore N. Vail concerns the infringement of rival phones. Dated at Boston, May 23, 1879, this three-page address to the public claims that "...under patents granted to Alexander Graham Bell..." Bell Telephone "...claims the exclusive right to use, or to license others to use, speaking telephones....Suits are pending...in which the claims of the owners of the Bell patents and the owners of the inventions of Gray, Edison, Dolbear, and others will be legally determined." Vail presents a short history of the invention of the telephone and "Proof of Prof. Bell's Priority." Of significant note is a cache of reports relating to the installation of Alexander Graham Bell's personal telephone line. This material consists of sixteen service reports, dated Jan. 10, 1881 to Dec. 31, 1882, for the installation of telephone wires, putting up telephones in his house, extending his line from his residence at 1302 Connecticut Avenue to 2023 Massachusetts Avenue, connecting his home line to his laboratory, looping his private line to Bell Telephone Company President (also his father-in-law) Gardiner G. Hubbard's house, etc. Each report contains information on the work done and by whom, what materials were used in the process, and the condition of the work when the technician left. Also included is a manuscript diagram, in pen, showing the extension of Alexander Graham Bell's personal telephone line to Georgetown. A report accompanying the diagram, written by W.H. Newhall, who has examined the personal line of Alexander Graham Bell at four points (his laboratory, Massachusetts Avenue, Georgetown, and Connecticut Avenue), reports that he has "...Examined line and found it in good order. Examined Bells & Tels. at all places, cleaned & renewed 3 Bat[teries]...brought in Bell from Laboratory [sic]...and put up one from Conn Ave house. The bell at Mass Ave rings weak there when you call from there, but rings strong when called from other stations. Brought in Tels from Conn Ave house and closed line on roof." In addition, this segment of the archive contains three handwritten reports detailing the route the telephone line follows and each of the connection points, with three invoices of materials and their cost used in the project. A wonderful archive of material relating to the early development of the telephone system in Washington, D.C.