Site of World’s First Pay Phone

I’m Writing This on my Phone
Site of First Pay Phone in US, Hartford

Southeast Corner of Main and State Streets

I’m at a payphone trying to call home
All of my change I spent on you
Where have the times gone
Baby it’s all wrong, where are the plans we made for two?

payphonReally Maroon 5? You’re at a pay phone? In 2012? Where?

Perhaps Hartford. The hyperlocal bloggers over at Sad City Hartford have found 40 payphones in our fair capital city. I’m not confident there are many more.

Every state and city has some weird claims of being first with something. Connecticut has a ton, of course, being an old state and all. I have become rather enamored with our Yankee penchant to commemorate these firsts with signage. I’m not sure, but I think my favorite will always be the Site of the world’s first condensed milk factory in the woods of Torrington. Yeah, I’ve been there.

But back to Hartford, where the very first public pay phone was installed. The blue sign marking the point is the blue dot to the right of the yellow sign that wraps around the corner in the picture here. Pay phones were preceded by pay stations, manned by telephone company attendants who would collect payment for calls placed. But in 1889, the first public coin telephone was invented by William Gray and installed at a bank in Hartford. The invention quickly caught on, and by 1902, there were 81,000 payphones in the United States.

Probably more than exist today. The first phone was a “postpay” machine (coins were deposited after the call was placed). Gray’s previous claim to fame was inventing the inflatable chest protector for baseball – which you can pay homage to every summer a mile south at Coltsville when the vintage baseballers take the field. Yup, done that.

phone sing
World’s First Pay Telephone
Invented by William Gray
And developed by George A. Long,
Was installed on this corner in 1889

Nine years later, a prepay telephone, known as the Western Electric “No. 5 Coin Collector” was first installed in Chicago in 1898. Which proves once and for all that Hartford is cooler than Chicago. After all, Stephen Douglas gave a speech here according to another plaque across the street. No WAY he did that in his home state.

Back to Cemeteries, Monuments, Unique Statuary and Greens

5 responses to “Site of World’s First Pay Phone”

  1. Helder says:

    I walk past there at least twice a week and I never noticed that! Great find, Steven.

  2. Eric says:

    Is that the building that is a CVS now?

  3. Steve says:

    Yes, it’s the CT Trust Building that houses a CVS (and used to have my lunchbreak staple, Buck A Book.)

  4. Eric says:

    I drive by that building on the way to and from work every day. When I was parking at the Constitution Plaza garage, I would stop at the CVS on the way home (for shaving needs, etc.). I remember seeing that sign but never read it. Thanks for sharing!

  5. A.G. says:

    The actual FIRST payphone, at least in the U.S. was actually in service just 4 years after the official invention of the telephone, in 1880. You’d pay an attendant (yep, an actual person. Remember them?) 5c for the call instead of depositing it in a coin collector. Imagine what a pain in the ass THAT must have been!

Leave a Comment

The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism