Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/33

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27
THE DEVELOPMENT OF TELEPHONE SERVICE

dustry. One cause was the rapid introduction of electric-light circuits, so poorly insulated as to sadly interfere with good telephone service and necessitating the rearrangement or reconstruction of many telephone circuits. As already stated, the first street lighting occurred in Cleveland in April, 1879, with Brush arc lamps. In San Francisco the Western Electric Light Company was organized by G. S. Ladd, and on February 6, 1879, was supplying current for private service according to The Bulletin, which said:

Yesterday the Western Electric Light Company made connection with the Gold & Stock Telegraph Company, and now all the electricity used in running their stock indicators throughout the city is supplied from the Gramme machines, thus doing away with five hundred cups, which heretofore composed their battery.

It is stated that arc lamps were in service in San Francisco in October, 1879, the rate then charged being $10 a week when burning from dark till midnight.

It was fortunate for the continued broadening of the telephone industry that it got a strong foothold before the parent electric-light companies began to devote their energies to belittling each others machinery and motives, or to determine whether it was wiser "to advocate the use of sixteen small single light arc machines, with their costly system of conductors, or one sixteen-light arc dynamo," instead of perfecting the insulation on pole line circuits, even if they did not increase the efficiency of their apparatus. Otherwise the electric transmission of speech might have had a different growth recorded. For the character of the crude and cheap telephone construction prevalent in 1878-80 would not have been tolerated by the public in 1882-3, by reason of the number of violent deaths resulting from accidental contact with live wires, deplorable accidents that started a rabid agitation in favor of placing all wires underground. No underground system suitable for telephone circuits was then in existence, and had one been available, the heavy initial cost of installation would probably have deterred many investors from entering the telephone field under such unpromising conditions.

In New York state alone more than a hundred electric-lighting companies, having an average authorized capitalization exceeding a million dollars each, were incorporated before the close of 1883. And as the electric lighting industry was raw and untried, as suitable or even satisfactory line insulation had yet to be devised and tested, and as competition among electric-light companies in many sections was destructively fierce, it is needless to say that the unsafe construction of the average competing electric-light company was such a menace to the satisfactory continuity of telephone service that telephone managers were compelled to forego making verbal or written indignant protests, and to devote every moment of time to devising methods and means for protecting their equipment from the