The first telephones in Shrewsbury heralded a new era in communication

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The first telephones in Shrewsbury heralded a new era in communication
The first telephones installed in Shrewsbury in 1881 were a far cry from the mobile smartphones of today.

SHREWSBURY – With very few exceptions, people today live in a world filled with smart phones and televisions, tablets, computers, and other electronic devices used to complete all kinds of tasks. Most young people don’t even recall wall-mounted or dial-type desk telephones. Only a few older residents even have any recollection of “party” lines being in use.

What we are forgetting is that the telephone itself is a fairly recent invention. Brief notices appeared in the Worcester Evening Gazette during December 1881 detailing the progress of the installation of telephone lines in the town. On December 5, we find the following article: “The telephone line to Shrewsbury is built and the instruments will be put in and the line opened for business this week. It is expected that a line will be built this month to West Boylston and Oakdale, where there are at least a dozen ready to become subscribers.”

By December 15, the phones were up and running, with the Gazette reporting: “The telephone line connecting this town with Worcester, is up and in working order. Instruments are put in by Dr. F. W. Brigham, Mr. S. I. Howe, and Thomas Rice & Co.” What a changed world of communication Shrewsbury has undergone in 140 years!

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