Wednesday, December 16, 2015

28 Amazing Vintage Photographs That Capture Telephone Switchboard Operators at Work from the Past

Following the invention of the telephone in 1876, the first telephones were rented in pairs which were limited to conversation between the parties operating those two instruments. The use of a central exchange was soon found to be even more advantageous than in telegraphy. In January 1878 the Boston Telephone Dispatch company had started hiring boys as telephone operators. Boys had been very successful as telegraphy operators, but their attitude, lack of patience, and behavior was unacceptable for live telephone contact, so the company began hiring women operators instead.

These operators were almost always women until the early 1970s, when men were once again hired. In many cases, customers came to know their operator by name.

As telephone exchanges converted to automatic (dial) service, switchboards continued to serve specialized purposes. Before the advent of direct-dialed long distance calls, a subscriber would need to contact the long-distance operator in order to place a toll call.

Check out these 28 amazing vintage photos below which showing women who worked as telephone switchboard operators from the past.

A typical telephone exchange switchboard, 1943

Army WAC phone operator, ca. 1940s

Bell System telephone operators, 1950

Canadian Women's Army Corps operating the telephone switchboard at Canadian Military Headquarters, London, 1945

Chesapeake and Potomac telephone operators, Washington D.C, 1919

Early switchboard operator, ca. 1880s

Operator at a switchboard, ca.1900

Southwestern Bell Telephone switchboard operators, ca. 1960s

Switchboard operator, 1948

Switchboard operator, Amsterdam, ca. 1940s

Switchboard operators at the Bell Telephone head office, 1912

Switchboard operators at the sole Milwaukee telephone exchange, 1883

Switchboard operators at the Sydney GPO Switchboard, 1913

Switchboard operators, 1922

Telephone operator, 1898

Telephone operator, 1929

Telephone operator, 1969

Telephone operator, ca. 1900s

Telephone operators in Seattle, Washington, 1952

Telephone operators, ca. 1910s

Telephone operators, ca. 1950s

Telephone switchboard operator on Washington Island, 1915

Telephone switchboard operators in the 1960s

Telephone switchboard operators, ca. 1900s

Telephone twitchboard operators, 1914

The early switchboard operator, ca. 1880s

WAC telephone operators operate the Victory switchboard during the Potsdam Conference in their headquarters in Babelsburg, Germany, 17 July 1945

Women operators in Richmond, Virginia, 1884

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