Public Telephone History

Retro Staff |  2 Comments

Most people know that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876. But did you know that the first public phone was installed in 1878? And it came with a little something extra—an attendant! This was necessary because early pay telephones were not able to accept coins. How it worked was the attendant initiated the call for the customer and accepted the customer’s money after the call was completed. This type of public phone would have been located in hotel lobbies, train stations and other public places. This must have made having a private phone conversation very difficult!

Crosley Retro Telephone the Dial Telephone

The first coin-operated public payphone that no longer needed an attendant was installed in Hartford, Connecticut in 1889 in the Hartford Bank. Early payphones were designed as “post pay” phones, meaning you deposited the coins once the call was completed. A prepay telephone, known as the Western Electric “No. 5 Coin Collector” was first installed in Chicago in 1898. The use of payphones spread, and by 1902 they totaled 81,000 payphones across the U.S. And up until 1905, all payphones were placed indoors in buildings where the public could access them.

Vintage Wall Phone Retro Telephone

In 1905 the first street payphone was installed on a thoroughfare in Cincinnati, Ohio. People did not take very well to the lack of privacy and this setup was slow to catch on. But outdoor payphones certainly became not only accepted, but a necessity. And because of this, telephone booths made improvements as well, starting out as wooden booths and later being updated to metal. By 1960, the Bell System had installed their millionth payphone.

 Vintage Telephone 3 Slot Wall Phone

The 3-slot dial payphone was introduced in the 1950s when a phone cost a nickel, and then increased to a dime for local calls. This 3-slot phone allowed the caller to insert dimes, nickels and quarters and was the inspiration for the Black Crosley 50’s Payphone. Looking like an old phone, with classic 50s styling with modern day push-button convenience, it will add a retro look wherever you decide to mount it. This wall phone is perfect for your man cave, gameroom, garage, or retro style kitchen. This phone does not require coins to operate it, but you may choose to utilize it as a bank and enjoy the sound as you hear the coins fall as they are being collected. This retro telephone makes an amazing gift for any lover of the 50s look and a great finishing touch to your vintage kitchen.