Tag Archives: Telegraph

1910 – Long Distance Telephone Rates From New York

In 1910 A Long Distance Call From New York City to Detroit, MI Was A Pricey $4.00 for the First 3 Minutes

Today phone calls are relatively inexpensive, but in 1910 making a 6 minute long distance call within the United States could cost you a week’s salary.

Reproduced above from the New York Telephone Directory of 1910 are the long distance rates from New York City to other cities.

In 1910 there were 7,084,000 telephones in the United States.

Long distance service was limited as you can see. There were few cities west of the Mississippi that you could call from New York. You want to call Houston, Denver, Salt Lake City, Seattle or Los Angeles? You’re out of luck.

The only way to communicate with many places would be to send a telegram.

Telegram rates varied by distance sent and had day and night rates. For a typical telegram you paid a flat rate for the first ten words and were charged a per word rate for each additional word. Address and signature were free. For example to send a telegram from New York to anywhere in Georgia was sixty cents for the first ten words and each additional word was four cents.

With telephone long distance prices being so expensive, you can see why people sent telegrams to communicate something urgent when the recipient was far away.

Expensive is a relative term but let’s take into account that the average weekly salary in 1910 was anywhere from about $10 for an average worker to $50 for a university professor. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #44

Western Union Telegraph Building 1880

Broadway looking south Western Union Building 1880This view looking south on Broadway was taken from the Old Post Office in 1880 and shows a deserted stretch of the usually traffic clogged thoroughfare.

The building partially seen on the right side is the Astor House Hotel. Adjacent to the Astor with the columns is St. Paul’s Chapel. The tall structure further down Broadway is Trinity Church with its spire rising 281 feet. This was the highest point in New York until the World Building was built in 1890.

The main building dominating the photo at the corner of Broadway and Dey Street is the Western Union Telegraph Building designed by architect George B. Post. At 230 feet, it was one of the tallest commercial buildings in the city when it was built from 1872-1875. To put this tremendous height in perspective, this was four times the height of the average New York building. On top of the building’s flagstaff a time ball was perched which would drop precisely at noon, so everyone in the surrounding financial area could set their watch to the correct time.

The telegraph was still the predominant way to get a message to someone quickly. To send a telegram with the body message being ten words or less from New York to Baltimore or Boston cost 25¢; to Chicago 40¢ and to San Francisco $1.00.

Western Union Building Fire - New York Evening World

Western Union Building Fire – New York Evening World

A Fire Destroys The Building

As the night shift of telegraph operators and workers was letting out at 6:55 a.m. on Friday, July 18, 1890 the Western Union Building caught fire.

The fire broke out on the 6th floor and quickly spread to the upper floors. Firefighters arrived within six minutes of the first alarm being turned in.

The fire was far above the roof lines of the adjacent buildings and the water pressure from street level could not possibly come close to the fire. The firemen strung several hoses together and carried them up  into nearby buildings on to the roofs to fight the flames.

20,000 people watched from the surrounding streets as the firemen placed ladders from the adjacent building at 8 Dey Street to rescue people trapped in the Western Union Building and pour water on to the upper floors. Continue reading

The Strange Origin Of Modern Building Fire Laws In Britain

Why Every Employee Must Be Able To Reach A Fire Exit In Under Two And A Half Minutes

Empire Theatre Fire photo Edinburgh Libraries and Museums and Galleries

Empire Theatre Fire photo Edinburgh Libraries and Museums and Galleries

The Telegraph just featured an interesting interview with Professor of Fire and Structures at Edinburgh University, Luke Bisby.

Professor Bisby does something I also do as well, which is when I enter a building I have never visited, I check how to get out of the building and where the fire exits are. Of course he looks at other factors that the average person wouldn’t take into account such as what is hanging on the walls and what the carpeting is made of.

Among the topics discussed was: why there are such tough safety rules in place in case of a fire in office worker’s buildings in the U.K.. The answer he provides is fascinating:

It may not be a surprise to learn that there are tight regulations surrounding the positioning and width of fire exits, and their location relative to workers’ desks, in a modern office.

But the basis for the stringent rules, which state that every employee must be able to reach a fire exit within two-and-a-half minutes, and that fire doors must be wide enough for all employees to pass through within the same time frame, is scarcely to be believed.

“This two-and-a-half minutes is the fundamental basis on which the built environment can exist,” Prof Bisby said. “You would presume there must be a good reason for it.

“The reason is that two-and-a-half minutes is, I’m told, the mean length of God Save the Queen. The British national anthem, when played in full, by a concert orchestra.”

The stipulation can be traced back to a fire at Edinburgh’s Empire Palace Theatre in 1911 which broke out during a performance by a French illusionist named The Great Lafayette, he explained. Continue reading

Jimmy Savile, Long Time “Top of the Pops” Host (And Pervert) Is Dead at 84

Jimmy Savile, Zany British TV Host (and pervert – see update at end of article.)

Jimmy Savile was found dead at his home in Leeds October 29. He was just two days shy of turning 85.

In the United States Jimmy Savile is a relatively unknown name except to die-hard music fans or those who might have spent time in the United Kingdom.

In the UK you could not help but know Jimmy Savile. For twenty years, from its inception in 1964, Savile hosted Top of the Pops, a television music countdown show featuring hit singles.   Think of a British version of a cross between Casey Kasem’s radio program American Top 40 and Dick Clark’s television show American Bandstand and that was, Top of The Pops. Savile ended his reign as a regular host in 1984. Continue reading