THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY
The parent Bell company perceived the wisdom of standardizing its equipment long before it decided on uniformity in line construction. With that end in view, as well as 'to obtain a permanent interest in the manufacture of telephones and switchboards,' in 1881, it purchased the factory and business of Charles Williams, Jr., of Boston, where Graham Bell had carried on his early experiments, and where the first several thousand telephones were made. It also bought an interest in the Western Electric Manufacturing Company of Chicago and merged the two into one organization, which, under the later name of Western Electric Company, has grown to be the largest industrial plant of its kind in the world, occupying more than seventy acres of floor space, employing more than twenty-five thousand persons, and with sales exceeding $70,000,000 annually.
In connection with the early selection of a permanent manufacturer, Mr. T. B. Doolittle, formerly an experienced manufacturer of metal goods, makes the following statement that indicates how easily the city of Bridgeport, Connecticut, might possibly have had a manufacturing establishment similar to the Western Electric Company:
My interest in mechanics and manufacture led me to spend much time in the factory of Mr. Charles Williams, Jr., in 1877-78, and to offer suggestions regarding the details of construction. For example, I substituted the bell 'struck up' from sheet metal in place of the cast and turned bell, thus reducing the cost from about fifty cents to about five cents. I also brought about a large reduction in the cost of the cabinet work used in the manufacture of switchboards and telephone apparatus. These large savings attracted the attention of the management of the parent company, and I was authorized to find a manufacturer having a" factory properly equipped and enter into negotiations for the manufacture of telephone equipment. I visited several factories in Connecticut, among others the Wheeler & Wilson Sewing Machine Company, at Bridgeport, but found none who were willing to enter into such a hazardous undertaking and one that promised so little future growth. I endeavored to convince Mr. Wheeler that the future was rich in promise, and that his company would not only become a licensed manufacturer, but, in all probability the permanent manufacturer. But though trade was slack, he would not entertain my proposition.