Comparing Times

timeKQIf you could not tell teaching students and talking about the concept of time, as it relates to history, has always been interesting to me. I think it all comes from watching Back to the Future when I was five years old, the concept found a spot in my head and never left. So when it comes to teaching kids about the past I have always tried to find a way to make it simple, addressing the details about objects, and working off even the smallest thing. Continue reading

Who ya gonna call?

Today I found an account book from the Essex Central office of Southern New England Telephone Company. SNET was founded in New Haven, Connecticut in 1878, and this account book demonstrates that by 1890, telephones were still not found in every home and office. Phones were rented to customers for at least $5 a quarter, with most subscribers paying $10 a quarter.

So, who had a phone in 1890? Father Peter Skelley, pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Chester, Connecticut, paid for two quarters that are listed in the volume, August (below) and November.

SNET August 1890

SNET Account Book (page 28), 1890-1891, MS 84670. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Several other individuals, the Griswold Inn, and Deep River Savings Bank were also listed more than once.  Unfortunately, the beginning pages of the volume have been removed and by early 1891 very little information was being recorded.  Regardless, it is still interesting to see the charges for Western Union telegraphs and inter-town calls, and the phone company’s expenses. The last expense listed on the page above is for lunch. I wonder how many people were served for 35 cents!

Though the number of subscribers was low, it is obvious that residents and visitors to the area were making use of all available phones. As demonstrated below, the amount of money collected for inter-town calls was significantly higher from the Pay Stations than from individuals and businesses.

SNET - Essex Central Office

SNET Account Book (page 36), 1890-1891, MS 84670. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Compared with some of our other account books, this volume contains a small amount of information. However,  it is a unique glimpse of life in Essex and the surrounding area in 1890. Come visit and take a look!