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Alberta's Telephone Heritage
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Commercial Roles

The first telephones were often found in public places such as the telegraph office, the railway station or a general store.

Private lines would often link a business with the home of the owner or link several buildings belonging to the same business. This allowed the owner or manager to keep in touch with staff, rather like an intercom.

Telephones for social use in the home were installed somewhat later. For example, Edmonton’s first phone was installed in 1885 but the first residential phone was installed in 1889. Lines to offices and stores were already in place by that year.

Professionals such as lawyers and doctors advertised that they could be reached by telephone to attract clients and patients.

The Didsbury system published rules for subscribers that indicated that the telephone was for business purposes and callers should not tie up the lines with social chatter.

The Bell Telephone Company saw profitable service for business and professional subscribers as their first priority.

When the Government of Alberta purchased the telephone system in 1905, service to rural areas and farms was given high priority. The three principles of the new telephone system were:

1. to own and operate all long distance or trunk lines,

2. to own and operate exchanges where desired by the municipality, and

3. to build, own and operate rural lines where no service existed.

The government’s priorities reflected those of rural, farming residents. Providing rural telephone was part of an effort to keep young people from moving to towns and cities to escape isolation on the farm.

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