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W. R. Griffith

Edmonton Telephones’ superintendent from 1909-13, W.R. Griffith oversaw the amalgamation of the telephone systems of Edmonton and Strathcona. During the four years of his appointment, he witnessed the increase of subscribers and demands on Edmonton’s ever-congested telephone lines. Compounding the domestic pressures on the system was a planned telephone linkage with Spokane, Washington in 1911.

W.R. GriffithIn early 1912, discussions began between the city of Edmonton and the provincial government on the sale of the Strathcona phone system to Edmonton began. On 9 September 1912, Edmonton took control of the southside system at a cost of $153,000. By the spring of 1913, it became crucial for Griffith to request help to handling the increasing number of installations. "He was granted permission to buy a third horse and wagon," writes Margaret Stinson in The Wired City: A History of the Telephone in Edmonton.

Despite the growth in construction and installations, the installation of two new branch exchanges, the purchase of an automobile and horse-and-buggy, and the necessary additions of several kilometres of aerial and underground wire, by the end of the 1912 fiscal year, Griffith was able to show a surplus for his department of $5,000, an astounding amount given the demands on the system.

Griffith resigned his post under clouded circumstances. At the behest of the newly elected mayor William Short, three American engineers had been secretly engaged to study the Edmonton system and recommend improvements. Griffith was about to take a two-month leave of absence when announcements appeared in newspapers about his successor, F.T. Caldwell. With no indication of the duration of Caldwell’s appointment—Griffith had not discussed the issue with city officials—Griffith resigned in April 1913.

Writes Stinson: "Later, some of the department’s employees were reported to have said that the contents of the reports of [the engineers] were worthless and unreliable as to the statements contained in them."


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