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Pay Phone? What’s That?

Photo by: Siede Preis

Last Friday marked a huge anniversary of a devise used in our country. It was an anniversary that very few recognized and a devise that is little by little going away. Friday marked the 132nd anniversary of the first public pay phone booth. That booth was built in 1880 in New Haven, Connecticut. Payphones were actually preceded by pay stations, manned by telephone company attendants who would collect payment for calls placed. In 1889, the first public coin telephone was invented by William Gray and installed at a bank in Hartford, Connecticut. The invention quickly caught on, and by 1902, there were 81,000 payphones in the United States. By 1905, the first outdoor payphones with booths were installed. In 1960, the Bell System installed its one millionth telephone booth. In 2000, there were over 2 million payphones in the United States, although today that number is around 700,000. Between 2007 and 2008 the number of payphones in the United States in operation had declined by 58 percent. That led me to thinking about the locations of pay phones in the Quincy-Hannibal area. I know of only one of them. There is one at 24th and State, but I can’t think of another location. It’s been so long since I used one, I couldn’t even tell you what it cost to make a call today. Thanks to cell phones the pay phone is becoming a thing of the past.


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