Muscatine County, Iowa
Muscatine Journal & News-Tribune
Centennial Edition
31 May 1940

Section 7 - Page 23 & 24, Submitted by Kathy Foote, June 29, 2012

Page 23

First Telephones, Placed In Use in Muscatin in 1878 Were Objects of Interest.

The crude devices that transferred the human voice along a mile-and-a-half of wire amazed the Muscatine of 1878, but today with 4,600 telephones in use here this great invention is taken as a matter of course. The Muscatine exchange now employs 50 persons and handles an average of 23,000 local calls and 525 toll calls a day. How Muscatine telephone service grew from one makeshift line to its present efficiency is reviewed in the following article by W.A. Matthews, manager of the Muscatine exchange of the Northwestern Bell Telephone company.

(By W. A. Matthews)

The first telephones were brought to Muscatine in the year 1878. They were used in the office of Cook, Musser and company's bank, and the office of the Musser Lumber company on the island. The line was a mile and a half in length and the wire was strung over house tops with a few poles put up for its special purpose. The object of the line was to facilitate business between the two offices. When it was undertaken, it was feared it would not work, but it was undoubtedly successful. It was a source of interest and many people tested it out to see if it was really all that was claimed for it. The cost of this first line was about $85.

The City of Muscatine granted to the Hawkeye Telephone company on April 23, 1881, the privilege to erect and maintain a telephone system for private and public use in Muscatine, and the first exchange was established in the same office with the Western Union Telegraph office at 110 Iowa avenue. The exchange has been in continuous operation ever since and has been owned by the legitimate successors to the Hawkeye Telephone company. The first telephone of this company was installed on June 16, 1881, in the J. B. Dougherty Drug store at 124 East Second street. When the first switchboard was installed here it served 54 subscribers. The manager of the exchange was E. L. Spiker and the operator was Miss Margaret E. Ewing.

Long distance service was first available on June 16, 1881, about the toll service to Wilton.

    "TOLL CONNECTION: About 9 o'clock this morning in answer to a ring of the telephone bell in our office, we put our editorial ear to the tube and heard the familiar tones of Mr. Engle's voice all the way from Wilton, announcing to us that connection had just been completed. When we could hear his voice so distinctly a distance of 12 miles, he said that it was 14 miles over the route the wire is strung by actual measurement. Mr. Engle said the telephone would be operated free to Muscatine and Wilton people today. We understand that the charge hereafter will be 10 cents for a five-minute talk which is cheap enough. Soon after our talk with Mr. Engle we exchanged a friendly greeting with our friend, Ryder, of the Review. The Wilton telephone is in Dr. Cooling's office."

The exchange was moved from 110 Iowa avenue to 118 Iowa avenue, third floor, and then to 206 East Second street. A new building was erected at 410 Sycamore street and occupied in the year 1904, with a common battery exchange. An addition was built in 1911 and a larger board installed, the new addition and larger board being necessary to take care of subscribers of the Mississippi Valley Telephone company, which had been granted permission consolidate with the Iowa Telephone company. On March 29, 1898, the Mississippi Valley Telephone company was granted permission by the city to erect a telephone exchange in Muscatine in competition with the Iowa Telephone company, successor to the Hawkeye Telephone company.

It is very evident that the Iowa company resented the Mississippi Valley company's entrance into it's local territory as an effort was made to block the passage of the ordinance granting a franchise to the Mississippi Valley company. August A. Balluf, secretary of the Iowa Telephone company, addressed the city council, pointing out the disadvantage of having two companies in the local field and the advantage subscribers of the Iowa company with its toll line connections, had over all others. He also explained the new schedule of rates which were reduced to meet the rates proposed in the new franchise and offered to give the city existing telephone service free, and additional telephones at 50 per cent discount. The mayor, before putting the motion to a vote on the franchise, pointed out the disadvantage of having two companies in the community. However, the vote of the council was unanimous for the franchise. Later the Iowa company offered all patrons who were subscribers to business service, a four-party telephone free in their residence. This proposition remained in force until about 1907 when it was discontinued.

The Mississippi Valley company flourished for a few years when it began to lose its city subscribers due to the poor grade of service caused by deterioration of the plant. In January, 1911, the city granted the Iowa Telephone company permission to dismantle the exchange and remove all of the existing plant from the streets, alleys and avenues, and connect all non-duplicate subscribers to its exchange, there being only 18 in the city at this time.

In consideration of the resolution granting permission to dismantle and consolidate the two exchanges, The Iowa Telephone company agreed to furnish the city eight additional free telephones, this being the same number the Mississippi Valley company was furnishing. This now made the city 20 free telephones, as the Iowa company had previously furnished 12.

On June 21, 1898, the city council passed an ordinance regulating the excavation of streets, highways and alleys, and at the same meeting passed the ordinance providing for the trimming of shade trees.

An ordinance authorizing the Postal Telegraph and Cable company to erect and maintain a line of telegraph poles and wires in the city of Muscatine was passed June 25, 1895.

An ordinance was passed July 18, 1902, granting the American Telephone and Telegraph company the privilege to operate in Muscatine. However, there is no record whether the American Telephone and Telegraph company accepted the terms of this ordinance.

On May 21, 1903, the city council passed an underground regulatory ordinance with which the company has at all times reasonably complied. Under this ordinance the company is required to permit the use of its poles and one duct in its conduit by the city free of charge for the use of the latter's fire and police alarm wires, and further to furnish the city 12 telephones within the city as it may require at 50 per cent discount from regular rates for the service desired.

The first desk telephone in Muscatine was installed in the office of the Hershey Lumber company in the year 1893. This firm is now known as the Beach Lumber and Supply company.

The Northwestern Bell Telephone company has operated continuously and exclusively in Muscatine since January, 1921, and under successorship since April 23, 1881.

Following are some interesting news stories regarding the early telephone history in Muscatine which have been taken from the Muscatine Daily Journal:

    May 4, 1881--The rooms adjoining the Western Union Telegraph office have been set up for the telephone exhange. The call board and other apparatus is now being put in and as soon as the poles arrive the wires will be strung and be in operation. It does begin to look like Muscatine will have the telephone after all.

    May 11, 1881--The work of putting up poles for the telephone office began this afternoon, but several property owners along Second street refused to allow the poles to be placed on the front of their premises. It is claimed that the wires ought to go in the alleys and not in front of the business houses. What the result of the dispute will be, we are unable to say.

    June 1, 1881--The telephones are being put up as rapidly as possible and a number of them already are in operation.

    July 14, 1881--Muscatine thinks that a telephone wire between that place and Wilton would be a good thing--Davenport Gazette. You had better wake up. Muscatine not only thinks so, but knows it. Telephone messages have been flying between here and Wilton for nearly a month.

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Came In 1844

Photo ~ Gen. John G. Gordon, shown above, was a member of the Iowa militia, coming here in 1844. He was born Feb. 16, 1810 at Baltimore, Md., and married here in the year 1856. His death is recorded as Jan. 4, 1877.

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NOTICE--A raft of hewed oak timber, and a large raft of sawed lumber, jus received and for sale, in parcels to suit purchasers, at Clarks Commission House.--April 21, 1841.

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Page 24

City Went Into Mourning as Journal Reported Pres. McKinley's Death

The fatal wounding of President William McKinley by an assassin on Sept. 6, 1901, at the Pan-American exposition in Buffalo, N. Y., stirred Muscatine residents deeply, and when the president died as a result of the attack eight days later, the Jounal issued a special edition.

J. M. Beck, managing editor of the Journal at that time, enroute on a trip through the east, reached Buffalo on the morning that McKinley died and consequently was in the midst of the tragic events on which were centered the eyes of the whole nation.

Citizens of Muscatine gave evidence of their grief over the tragic death of the president at special religious services that were held in the First Congregational church at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 19. Memorial exercises for the president were held in all of the school buildings on the same morning. The following account of the manner in which the city received the news of President MdKinley's death is taken from an edition of the Journal printed on Sept. 14, 1901:

    While the people of Muscatine were wrapped in deepest slumber and the silence of the night was upon the city the telegraph wires flashed that President McKinley was dead. In the ealry part of last evening crowds were seen at the bulletin boards and as each message came, bearing its tale of sorrow and no hope whatever, the patient watchers turned away with sorrowful faces and expressions of sadness. Up to a late hour the telephone at the Journal offices rang, as people from over the city would want to know the latest regarding his condition. Finally the telephone rang no more, the tramp of feet and the occasional clatter of horse's hoofs on the pavement ceased and the city was wrapped in the quiet slumber of the early morning hours, then it was that the sad, heart-rending news of the president's passing away came to Muscatine. On awakening this morning the news will be no surprise to many of the people who watched the bulletins of last evening, as it was evident that he could not survive the night.

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In The Journal office all was activity. The office force, ever on the alert to know the condition of the president, were summoned to the office and preparations began for the issuing of this extra edition. The bulletins were watched with the greatest of interest and when the sad missive finally did come it was plain to be seen that all were moved with sorrow and compassion.

While all express sorrow and a feeling of personal loss come to nearly everyone, there is extended throughout this city an intense feeling of pity and condolence for Mrs. McKinley. She has indeed lost one whose constant thought was her welfare and comfort. That she may be given strength and power to withstand the terrible ordeal is the prayer of the Muscatine people.

A Journal man in conversation with a prominent physician at an early hour this morning received some of his opinions of what caused the immediate death of the president. He stated that it was probable that the ball, which was not found, lodged somewhere in the close proximity to the spine and thus caused a weakening of the heart action and was also a dangerous locality. In regard to the administering of the solid food of which so much has been said, the doctor stated that this would only tend to produce a weakness of the entire system and would not of necessity prove fatal, although would work against the vitality of the patient.

Today will be one of mourning in Muscatine. At no time has such universal sorrow come to this city, where nearly every man, woman and child feels keenly the loss to the nation and the world.

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Ye Early Editors

Photo ~ Here's what the staff of a newspaper plant looked like 78 yeas ago. The picture shows a group of employees of the old Muscatine Tribune which was taken in 1872. In the front row from left to right are John Hine, Ed Betts, George Cloud, Raoul Hill, Will Betts, and Tom Grant: back row, John Dobbs, John Christman and Ed cunningham.

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Dental Society Celebrates 100 Year Record
One hundred years of service to mankind!

That's the epochal record which members of the dental profession in Muscatine, throughout the state of Iowa and in the world in general is commemorating in the fiscal year--1940.

The records of service and attainments of the profession through the century of skilled service is outstanding. From the first small schools established in the city of Baltimore, Md., in the year 1830, has grown the organization of the American Dental Association with a membership of more than 45,000. Closely associated with the national organization are the various state bodies, the district associations and equally important the county groups which meet regularly to discuss and to seek to improve in every way possible the work of this profession.

Centennial dinners held during the month of March fittingly commemorated the jubilee occasion. Special tribute was paid to Drs. Horace A. Hayden and Chapin A. Harris who founded the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery -- the first organization of its kind in existence -- and who were also guiding forces in the establishment of the first dental journal, forerunners of the American Dental association and the A. D. A. Journal.

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