Alex Taylor (1853-1916)
This Ottawa-born entrepreneur and inventor was Edmontons first telegrapher, meteorologist,
lightning manipulator and timekeeper. Mostly, though, he is known as the father of Edmontons telephone system.
In 1883, an Edmonton committee had asked the Bell Telephone Company to provide service. When
the eastern-based company agreed only to install a few phones, but no telephone exchange, at what was considered
an exorbitant cost, Alex Taylor proposed a better idea.
While working for the Winnipeg-based Dominion Telegraph and Signal Service, Taylor proposed
running a telephone line from his Edmonton telegraph office to St. Albert, 14 kilometres away. He purchased two
English-made telephones 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, at 4:00 p.m., the pair tested Northern Albertas first telephone line. This
"triumph of telephony" would be followed in 1887 by what is considered to be the first long-distance call in the
province: a 15-minute call via telegraph wires to Battleford, 490 kilometres from Edmonton.
By 1891, Taylors entrepreneurial interests had grown to electricity, and he co-founded Edmontons
first electric company, the Edmonton Electric Light Company. Two years later, he incorporated Edmontons first telephone
company, securing a 10-year telephone franchise with the town of Edmonton.
From 1887 until 1904 when illness forced him to sell his company, Taylor amassed 400 subscribers.
Edmonton was a town on the cusp of becoming a city, and in 1904 Taylor accepted the offer of $17,000 for his system.
The new company, City Telephoneslater, to be known as Edmonton Telephoneswas taken over on 1 January 1905.
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