WINFIELD TELEPHONE SERVICE.
Note: I could not read the xerox copy given to me relative to an article and photographs that appeared in the Monday, May 10, 1976, issue of the Winfield Courier relative to the telephone system in use at Winfield.
Bruce Hetrick was able to get microfilm and xerox it, but it is tiny, tiny, tiny.
Will try to type up what I can from data gathered by Bruce. MAW October 2000
PHOTOGRAPH WITH CAPTION:
WINFIELD OPERATORS, 1921—Long distance traffic began increasing greatly during the early 1900s. More circuits had to be added in Winfield in 1917. This was the toll end of the switchboard in 1921.
PHOTOGRAPH WITH CAPTION:
CURRENT SCENE—On an average business day, operators in Winfield handle more than 4,200 long distance and nearly 39,000 local telephone calls. More than 10,000 telephones are in service in Winfield today.
ARTICLE [May 10, 1976.]
Winfield Got First Phones in 1881.
The telephone has been in Kansas almost since its invention by Alexander Graham Bell, 100 years ago. In fact, the first instruments arrived in Kansas in 1877, just one year after Bell patented his “talking machines.” Experimental phones were introduced in Lawrence, Leavenworth, Manhattan, and Topeka that year.
Winfield’s first telephone exchange was built in 1881 by the Merchants Telephone and Telegraph Company. Two years later, the exchange was sold to the United Telephone Company. Forty-three stations were in service.
The Missouri and Kansas Telephone Company, a subsidiary of the Bell Telephone Company of Boston, purchased the entire property of the United Telephone Company in 1887. The Winfield exchange had grown to 71 stations.
The Bell Company had been organized in 1878, with Theodore Newton Vail as the first general manager. Vail’s vision of the future equaled that of Alexander Graham Bell. His goal was “one policy, one system, universal service.”
Vail believed telephone companies should be recognized as public utilities and granted exclusive franchises for geographical areas as waterworks and similar companies were. He realized early the detrimental effects of competition on the telephone companies.
But Bell’s original patents on his telephonic instruments expired in 1893. Anyone and everyone wanted to get into the telephone business.
Competition reached Winfield in 1901. The Winfield Telephone Company opened an exchange and charged lower rates than the Missouri and Kansas Company was offering. But the Missouri and Kansas Company reduced its rates, and took 90 subscribers from the opposition in one day.
Wires of the competing companies did not interconnect. Residents subscribing to one system could not call those connected to the other system. To obtain full service, it was necessary to have two telephones and pay two bills.
Severe competition produced extremely low rates. Neither company was earning a fair return on its investment. But the number of telephones in Winfield increased materially.
In 1906, the Winfield Company sold its exchange to the Missouri and Kansas Company. The two exchanges were consolidated, and residents were provided universal service. The merger resulted in considerable savings to the public. Better service was available, and the demand for service grew. By 1910 there were 1,700 telephones in Winfield.
The Missouri and Kansas Company was reorganized and its name changed to Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in 1917. Toll traffic was constantly increasing, and it was necessary to add more circuits that year.
Disaster struck Winfield in 1923, when the city was hit by a big flood. Every available telephone operator went to work on the switchboard as soon as the flood struck the city. The Southwestern Telephone News of August, 1923, reported:
“Ordinarily about 8,000 connections are handled on Sunday at Winfield, but on June 10, when that city was visited by the worst flood in history, there were between 35,000 and 40,000 calls. The toll board was overloaded beyond estimate, due to the many lines washing out and the tremendous number of people calling relatives or friends in other cities.”
An even more destructive flood hit the city in 1928. The basement of the telephone building was completely filled with water, and levels rose to within six inches of the first floor. Again, the operators were at their post. The Winfield Courier of Nov. 17, 1928, reported: “The Winfield telephone operators did splendid work during the flood. The Saturday day shift was trapped in the Bell Building by the water and most of the girls worked on through the night. Some of the girls spent more than 24 hours on duty while the waters were up. The water was so deep at the building, cars could not approach. After the city lights went off, the switchboards were a mass of lights, almost every phone in town showing a desire for a connection.”
Telephone service has continuously improved over the years. Winfield was converted to dial in 1961, and Direct Distance Dialing of Long Distance calls became available at the same time. Touch-Tone service was introduced in 1971. In 1975, an extensive rural improvement project was completed.
Today, more than 10,000 telephones are in service in Winfield. On an average business day, more than 4,200 long distance and nearly 39,000 local calls are put through.
Alexander Graham Bell’s “toy” has come a long way in 100 years. It’s no longer a luxury; it’s an integral part of our daily lives. And Vail’s dream of universal service is now a reality.
TELEPHONE HISTORY OF WINFIELD, KANSAS.
BY E. C. KUHLMAN
Winfield, Kansas, the county seat of Cowley County, is located in the southern part of the state about 15 miles from the Oklahoma state line and 49 miles southeast of Wichita via highway. It was founded in 1870. The 1930 United States census shows a population of 9,598; see Exhibit A for population and station statistics. The Santa Fe, Missouri Pacific and Frisco Railroads, together with several truck and bus lines, serve this community.
1881 to 1900
The first telephone exchange in Winfield was built by the Merchants Telephone and Telegraph Company in 1881. This exchange with its 43 stations was sold to the United Telephone Company of Kansas City, Missouri, in 1883. Then, as today, the desire to talk long distance was present and in 1885 the first toll line was built from Wichita to Winfield via Wellington. Iron pipe poles supported the grounded #12 copper wire circuit. Iron pipe poles were used because they withstood the prairie fires.
The Missouri and Kansas Telephone Company of Kansas City, Missouri, purchased the entire property of the United Telephone Company, consisting of 18 exchanges in Missouri and Kansas, February 25, 1887. The Winfield property with 71 stations was among this group.
During the early period of the telephone business, boys were employed as operators. Mr. L. F. Duggan, a widely known telephone man today, started his telephone career as an operator in 1889 at Winfield. Telephone development during the nineties was very slow due perhaps to the depression and the severe drought experienced in this territory.
1901 to 1905
A competing company, known as the Winfield Telephone Company, was organized in 1901 by O. H. Montague, who was connected with the Erickson Telephone Manufacturing Company. The Missouri and Kansas Telephone Company’s franchise had expired. The new company secured a franchise to operate the “Opposition Company.” They installed a new 4 position Erickson magneto switchboard equipped for 640 lines. The “Opposition’s” franchise authorized rates of $18 per annum for residence and $30 per annum for business; however, they charged only $12 and $24 respectively. After the “Opposition” had secured 300 subscribers, the Missouri and Kansas Telephone Company reduced its rates to $6 per annum for residence and $26 per annum for business. The reduction resulted in taking 90 subscribers from the “Opposition” in one day. While the severe competition produced extremely low rates and allowed neither company to earn a fair return on its investment, it did stimulate business and the number of telephones connected increased very materially.
The city council notified the Missouri and Kansas Telephone Company in 1903 not to install any more plant on the streets or alleys until it had obtained a franchise. A similar condition existed at Wichita where the legality of installing poles without a franchise was being tried in the courts. A decision favorable to the Company was finally made after which the Winfield City Council discontinued its protest. The Winfield City Council granted the Missouri and Kansas Telephone Company a franchise in June 1905 for a ten-year period, which authorized maximum rates of $18 per annum for residence and $30 per annum for business and demanded that the aerial plant in the business district be converted to underground by the time the franchise expired.
The rural lines were built in 1904, one east of town 3 miles long and one south of town 4 miles long. They were built of 25 foot northern cedar poles, spaced 30 to the mile, and #12 iron wire.
1906 to 1919
In April 1906 the Missouri and Kansas Telephone Company purchased the property of the Winfield Telephone Company, which included exchanges at Winfield, Dexter, Burden, Oxford, and some toll lines. The Winfield exchange served 705 stations, contained 28,500 feet of aerial cable and 821 city poles. The two central offices were temporarily tied together with trunks until such time as the plants could be rebuilt. So far as the public was concerned, the consolidation resulted in a saving to the parties formerly subscribing to the service of both companies as only one charge was made for universal service after the consolidation.
Neither of the central offices was of adequate size to handle the entire business so the plants were consolidated in 1907. A new #8 Western Electric common battery switchboard, with 7 local and 3 toll positions was installed in a new office location in rented quarters located on the west side of Main Street south of 9th Street. The aerial plant in the business district was converted to underground as requested by the city council at the time the franchise was granted. Only the minimum amount of outside plant work necessary to facilitate the cut over was done.
To avoid a wholesale replacement of telephones before cut over to common battery service, condensers were placed in series with the bell circuit and after the cut over the telephones were replaced on a piecemeal basis.
The consolidation of the two telephone companies resulted in better service to the public and the demand for service grew so rapidly that it was necessary to make additions to the outside plant and to the switchboard in 1909. A large reconstruction project rebuilding practically the entire outside plant required an expenditure of approximately $60,000. In the central office, 200 subscribers multiple and 240 subscribers answering jacks were added.
Demand for telephone service continued to increase and in 1910 it was necessary to add 100 subscribers multiple, 120 answering jacks, and 10 rural answering jacks. Also, 11,300 feet of aerial cable and 3,000 feet of underground cable were required to replace the overloaded open wire leads and provide additional facilities for growth.
The number of stations in service increased very rapidly from 1902 (at which time there were 130 stations in service) until 1910, when the exchange had 1,760 stations in service.
An inventory of the plant dated January 1911 shows the following items: vacant lot; #8 Western Electric common battery switchboard, consisting of 5 local and 1-1/2 toll sections; 1,199 common battery and 562 magneto telephones; 1,456 poles; 190 miles of line wire; 69,460 feet of aerial cable; 11,300 feet of underground cable; 3,950 trench feet of underground conduit.
A large gain in rural subscribers and an increase in toll business was being realized; and in 1913 it was found necessary to add one toll position and one rural position.
Very little cable was added to the plant from 1910 to 1916, the growth being cared for by the addition of wire. By 1916 many of the open wire leads had become so heavily loaded that it was difficult to take additional business except at excessive costs. Trees grew rapidly and maintaining adequate clearance with open wire leads presented a difficult problem. The outside plant reconstruction and relief project of 1916 provided facilities, principally to the College Hill section of the city, and required installing 94 poles, 11,400 feet of aerial cable, and 125 feet of underground cable.
The storage battery in the central office (which was beginning to give trouble) was replaced in 1916 with an Exide battery. Toll traffic was constantly increasing and in order to improve the service, 40 toll line monitoring circuits were installed in 1917.
The name of the Missouri and Kansas Telephone Company was changed to the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in 1917.
Four composite ringers were installed in 1919 to facilitate using telephone circuits for the transmission of telephone and telegraph messages simultaneously.
1920 to 1924
In 1920 several of the outside feeder and distributing cables were approaching congestion, which made it difficult to furnish service in some sections of the city. A large reconstruction and relief project was planned for that year. Due to the general shortage of cable (caused by excessive demands for cable on the Western Electric Company), the large project was postponed; however, sufficient cable was obtained to take care of the offered business. Cable relief was secured by placing 705 feet of underground and block cable.
The cost of operating a telephone exchange during and following the World War increased so much that it was impossible to earn a fair return on the investment in the property at the existing rates. The telephone company requested an increase in rates, which was granted by the decision of the “Kansas Six Cases” and became effective May 1921.
An inventory of the exchange plant shows the following quantities as of August 1921: vacant lot, #8 Western Electric common battery switchboard with 9 local and 6 toll positions; 1,795 common battery and 406 magneto telephones and 13 pay stations; 4 private branch exchanges; 18 booths; 1,374 poles; 167 miles of line wire; 82,860 feet of aerial cable; 10,250 feet of underground cable; 4,280 trench feet of underground conduit.
1923 Flood in Winfield.
A description of the flood which occurred at Winfield in 1923 as told in the Southwestern Telephone News in the August 1923 issue follows.
THE WINFIELD PEAK
“Motor cars could not operate through the flood, buggies and horses proved to be inadequate and heavy wagons and teams finally were secured and served the purpose. A motor boat belonging to Alfred Waters of the Plant Department was brought into play and did great service.
“At Winfield too, there is a beautiful story of how every available operator went to work on the board as soon as the flood struck that city and by giving every ounce of energy and putting behind it the Bell Spirit kept the service almost normal. Ordinarily about 8,000 connections are handled on Sunday at Winfield, but on June 10th, when that city was visited by the worst flood in its history there were between 35,000 and 40,000 calls. The toll board was overloaded beyond estimate, due to the many lines washing out and the tremendous number of people calling relatives or friends in other cities. One-third of the city of Winfield was completely inundated and the water of the Walnut River rushed down Main Street, going above the historical high water mark of 1904 by forty-two inches. The disastrous effects of high water were only too plain: people homeless, property ruined, washed out railway tracks, overturned barns, no water or electricity, and demoralized train service. Did the operators and Plant men do their duty! In the language of Shakespeare, ‘We’ll say they did.’ Knowing they were needed they went to their posts of duty. The service scarcely slacked up. Due to the foresight of the Plant Department, a charging machine was shipped into Winfield on Saturday evening, and as a result current was available when the city power plant went out of service the next day.”
In 1924 a reconstruction project replaced many of the heavy open wire leads with cable, replaced worn out and inadequate cables and extended cable into growing areas to handle new business. To improve the appearance of the high school grounds, the aerial cable in the alley between 8th and 9th Street east of Andrews was removed by rerouting it to the street and placing it underground. Some joint use of pole plant was employed with the local municipally owned power company. The following plant was added on the project: 172 poles; 25,590 feet of aerial cable; 1,220 feet of underground cable; 350 trench feet of underground conduit. The first 24 gauge cable was installed on this project.
Productive oil fields were discovered in the Winfield area about 1924 which stimulated business activity. This was reflected in the telephone business by a rapid station gain and an increased number of toll calls.
1925 to 1934
The existing central office equipment had become inadequate to handle the anticipated line growth. In order to provide adequate telephone service of a high quality, a Kellogg common battery switchboard was installed in 1925 in a newly constructed two story brick building at 810 Millington Street. The switchboard was part of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, manual equipment which was replaced with machine switching equipment and consisted of 7 sections with 8 toll and 12 local positions and 2,400 subscribers multiple and 2,400 answering jacks.
In addition to concentrating the outside feeder cables in the new central office, cable extensions were made into growing areas and some open wire leads were replaced with cable where permission could not be secured to trim trees. The following plant was added: 61 poles, 9,870 feet of aerial cable, and 2,210 feet underground cable.
The following story concerning the “cut over” appeared in the January 1926 issue of the Southwestern Telephone News.
“Smooth progress was made when Winfield’s new telephone switchboard, in its new telephone building, was cut into service the night of November 21st. With the announcement that the board was clear at the old plant, D. E. Carter, District Plant Chief, gave the signal at 11:09 p.m. and Mayor L. P. Ravenscroft pulled the string which cut over his own telephone. Immediately, six employees of the company performed the remainder of the cut. The first call through the new board was put in by Major Ravenscroft, who called his own home, and who complimented the Western Electric men who installed the new system, and the managers of the Winfield District, Mr. Carter, Mr. Cowan and Mr. Porter.
“The formal opening of the Winfield exchange took place the night of December 12th, at which time 1,200 visitors were entertained. Huge baskets of chrysanthemums, roses, and carnations, gifts of business concerns, adorned tables in all the rooms. Favors were given to both the men and women visitors and an orchestra was provided.
“Among the guests at the reception were four of the first operators on the Winfield board in 1888 and 1889. They were Mrs. F. O. Thomas, now of Arkansas City, who was Miss Mattie Hawkins; Mrs. W. E. Abrams, also of Arkansas City, who was Miss Sadie Hawkins; J. B. Miller, now cashier of the Cedarvale National Bank of Cedarvale, Kansas; and L. F. Duggan, now District Commercial Superintendent of the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company with headquarters at Topeka. . . . .”
In 1927 one section was added to the switchboard, one subscribers position converted to toll, adding two outward and through positions, adding one outward and recording position.
The outside plant cables became congested again in 1928 and it was necessary to provide cable relief to the east section of the city. The worn out cables causing excessive trouble were replaced. The flood of 1928 came while the work was in progress and caused a loss of material and labor. The following plant was placed on this project: 80 poles; 4,400 feet of aerial cable; 4,110 feet of underground cable; and 775 trench feet of underground conduit.
The first “buried cable” installed by the Bell Company in Kansas was placed at Winfield in 1928. Additional feeder cable was required on 4th Street from Harter Street to Massachusetts Street. Heavy tree foliage on both sides of the street along certain sections of this route made aerial construction undesirable as it would have been very difficult to secure permission to trim the trees. The cost of ordinary conduit construction was prohibitive, so the cable was buried without conduit protection. The lead sheath was painted with a tar compound to retard chemical action. While the cost of installing buried cable is usually greater than aerial construction, the public likes to see the plant placed underground.
The most destructive flood in the history of Winfield descended on it in November 1928. One man was drowned. The property damage was enormous. The flood water came within 6 inches of the first floor of the telephone building, the basement was completely filled with water, submerging the heating plant, making it necessary to heat the building with oil stoves. The city’s electric power plant failed and was out of service for three days. The telephone company had to rely on its emergency Delco electric generating unit to supply energy until the electric power company restored service. It was necessary to replace 226 damaged telephones, inside wires, protectors, and a private branch exchange in the Lagonda Hotel. The cross connecting terminal in the basement of the Winfield State Bank was submerged in water and had to be replaced on the first floor. Cable failures caused about 1,000 stations to be out of service, but the construction forces from distant towns came to the rescue and together with the local maintenance forces soon restored telephone service.
The Winfield Daily Courier dated November 17, 1928, carried the following item on its front page.
“The Winfield telephone operators did splendid work during the flood. The Saturday day shift was trapped in the Bell Building by the water and most of the girls worked on through the night. Some of the girls spent more than 24 hours on duty while the waters were up. The water was so deep at the building cars could not approach. After the city lights went off the switchboards were a mass of lights, almost every phone in town showing a desire for a connection. . . .”
Since the flood water filled the basement, it was clear that another location was necessary to house the emergency electric power generating unit. To meet this need a one story brick garage and storeroom was built on the rear of the central office lot the latter part of 1928. The storage battery in the central office was replaced in 1932.
Much of the old and deteriorated aerial cable was causing an excessive amount of cable trouble. Many of the cedar poles were in a deteriorated condition. In 1934, two projects were approved for plant betterment work which involved placing 264 poles and 14,100 feet of aerial cable.
The following plant was in service at Winfield in December 1934: a lot at 810 Millington Street, on which is located a one story brick garage and storeroom building, and a two story brick building, housing the central office equipment; Kellogg common battery switchboard consisting of 8 sections, with 10 local and 11 toll positions; 2,115 common battery and 211 magneto and 24 pay stations; 10 private branch exchanges; 14 booths; 1,516 poles; 72 miles of line wire; 147,970 feet of aerial cable; 17,690 feet of underground cable; 6,900 trench feet of underground conduit.
There are 15 exchanges serving 12,517 company owned stations and 668 miles of toll pole line in the Winfield district.
Merchants Telephone and Telegraph Company
United Telephone Company
Missouri and Kansas Telephone Company
Business Stations: $50.00 per annum
Residence Stations: $36.00 per annum
Missouri and Kansas Telephone Company
Business Stations: $36.00 per annum
Residence Stations: $24.00 per annum
Winfield Telephone Company.
Business Stations: $30.00 per annum
Residence Stations: $18.00 per annum
Business Stations: $24.00 per annum
Residence Stations: $12.00 per annum
Winfield Telephone Company & “Opposition” Company.
Rates Per Month.
Business [1 Party]. $2.50. Extension: $.75
Residence [1 Party]. $1.25. [4 Party]. $1.00. Extension $.75
Rural [Party Line] $1.50.
Missouri and Kansas Telephone Company. Rates Per Month.
Business Stations: $2.50
Residence Stations: $1.50
Missouri and Kansas Telephone Company. Rates Per Month.
Business [1 Party]. $2.50. Extension $1.00.
Residence [1 Party]. $1.50. [4 Party]. $1.00.
Rural Party Line $2.00.
Southwestern Bell Telephone Company. Rates Per Month.
Business [1 Party]. $2.50. [2 Party]. $2.00. Extension $1.00.
Residence [1 Party]. Extension $.75.
Southwestern Bell Telephone Company. Rates Per Month.
Business [1 Party]. $3.00. Extension $1.00.
Residence [1 Party]. $2.00. [2 Party]. $1.75. Extension $.50.
Southwestern Bell Telephone Company. Rates Per Month.
Business [1 Party]. $4.50. Extension $1.00.
Residence [1 Party]. $2.50. [2 Party]. $2.25. Extension $.75.
Business: $3.00. *$3.50.
Residence: $2.00. *$2.25.
Residence: $ .50.
*A higher grade of rural service was offered in 1929 which limited the number of subscribers to eight parties, used an improved type of semi-selective ringing and operated on a metallic circuit.
J. B. Miller Local Manager 1910
J. S. Martin District Manager 1916
J. A. Lowery Manager 1917-1918
Ben H. Bear District Manager 1919-1921
H. M. Cowan District Manager 1921-1926
G. W. Cline District Manager 1926-1928
H. Chase District Manager 1928-1934
F. X. Moore District Manager 1935-present
O. H. Schmidt Traffic Chief 1918
S. E. French
C. H. Kessler
O. H. Schmidt District Traffic Chief 1921-1924
S. J. Porter District Traffic Chief 1924-1926
G. F. Thomas District Traffic Chief 1926-1929
O. H. Morris District Traffic Chief 1929-present
Mary Tichenor Chief Operator 1906-1912
Myrtle Veail Chief Operator 1912-1915
Lula Boynton Chief Operator 1915-1918
Emma Pugh Chief Operator 1918-1919
Odessa Kropp Chief Operator 1919-1933
Mrs. Lena Vulgamore Chief Operator 1933-present
Sam Jones Plant Chief 1912
Ray Pitman Wire Chief 1918
H. E. Solsky Wire Chief 1919-1924
H. J. Thorpe Wire Chief 1925-1926
James Griffith Wire Chief 1926-1929
J. M. Baxter Wire Chief 1929-present
C. W. Lowther District Plant Chief 1927-present
D. E. Carter District Plant Chief 1923-1927
Note: The personal record is incomplete because it is so difficult to obtain this information.