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Alex Taylor

This entrepreneur and inventor was Edmonton’s first telegrapher, meteorologist and timekeeper. Mostly, though, he is known as the grandfather of the Edmonton’s first telephone system.

In 1883, an Edmonton committee had asked the Bell Telephone Company to provide service, but the Eastern-based company would agree to install a few phones, but no telephone exchange, at what was considered an exorbitant cost.

One Edmontonian suggested a better idea. While working for the Winnipeg-based Dominion Telegraph and Signal Service, Taylor proposed running a telephone line from his telegraph office to St. Albert. He purchased two English-made telephones phones of Spanish mahogany and asked storeowner H.W. McKenney to be the keeper of the device at the St. Albert end of the connection. On 3 January 1885, the pair tested Northern Alberta’s first "long-distance" telephone line.

The Alex Taylor residence on 104 St between 99 and 100 Ave.Taylor would co-found Edmonton’s first electric company in 1891 (the Edmonton Electric Light Company) and in 1893 its first telephone company (the Edmonton & District Telephone Company). He secured a 10-year telephone franchise with the town of Edmonton, and illness would force him to sell the company in 1904.

In 1908, Alex Taylor School was named in his honour, and in 2004—a century after he sold his 400-subscriber telephone company to Edmonton for $17,000—he would be named one of the 100 Edmontonians of the Century to celebrate the city’s centennial.

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