Telephone Development Aided by the Undertaker

Smart's Shoe Phone Never Really Took Off

Smart's Shoe Phone Never Really Took Off

On This Date In History:  We’ve come a long way with telephone technology in a relatively short period of time, but the shoe phone didn’t really catch on.  Nevertheless, the genesis of the modern telephone system has an unlikely twist.  Almon Brown Strowger was a late 19th Century undertaker in Kansas City. For some reason, his business was in decline. People were still dying but somehow he missed out on much of the action. Then one day, a good friend passed away. Either through sloppy work or skulduggery, the operator of the local phone exchange failed to notify him and his competitor got the work. Convinced that the operator was in cahoots with the guy across the street, Strowger set out to invent an automatic exchange so that people could contact him directly and avoid operators on the take. Up until the late 19th Century, if one wanted to call someone, they had to crank up the phone for power to talk to an operator. The caller would tell the operator to whom they wished to speak and the operator connected the call. Strowger eliminated that. After filing several patents, Strowger first introduced his Automatic Telephone Exchange in 1892 in La Porte, Indiana. By then he was out of the mortuary business and declared that the “telephone girl would have to go, but she would only be following in the footsteps of the messenger boy whose services were dispensed with by the invention of the telephone.” Strowger wasn’t finished.


Obnoxious Operator Ernestine

Obnoxious Operator Ernestine

In 1896, the Bell System, which until 1894 had a monopoly on all phone systems, came out with a battery at the central exchange that eliminated the need for at-home hand cranking. Around the same time, on this date in 1896, Strowger came out with the first rotary dial phone that was installed in the Milwaukee city hall. It didn’t have holes but instead had what amounted to the sprockets of a half exposed gear. More like a rotary disk. The photo to the above left is the 1897 version. Strowger went on to be a big competitor of the Bell System, until his patents expired in 1914. From that point, his company and Strowger disappeared from history. I suppose he took the money and ran…or rather died. Strowger passed away in 1902. No word on

Almon Brown Stowger

whether his former competitor in Kansas City got his final bit of business. But, without a competitor, the Bell System didn’t come out with a rotary phone until 1919 and it had the holes with the disc that went all the way around the dial.

Two things. First off, competition inspires invention…Bell had no more competition after Strowger’s death and so dragged its feet on developing a better phone. Second thing…don’t ever make the undertaker mad. His revenge can kill you.

Friday Evening, secondary Push still lagging behind

Friday Evening, secondary Push still lagging behind

Weather Bottom Line:  A strong cold front is on its way.  We may even get cooler than the last one with afternoon highs possibly only in the mid 70’s early next week…maybe even low 70’s for some.  The long wave trof is consistently showing up on the models but will be a bit slow to get here.  There is a boundary out to the west that will be sagging our way but really doesn’t get here until early Saturday or late Friday as it awaits for the big kick from the main trof digging down.  So, look for fairly humid conditions and seasonally hot temperatures for this afternoon and Friday.  Wouldn’t be surprised to see some scattered activity late Friday.  The front will slowly move through on Saturday so rain chances will be the highest on Friday night and Saturday with pops tapering off by late Saturday.  The real push of cooler air does not get here until Sunday.  I could forsee a number of clouds holding temperatures down on Sunday as a shortwave rotates around the base of the trof…kinda like last Saturday.  A light shower might show up here and there but it wouldn’t last.  Then it would be Monday that we really back down to the low to mid 70’s in spite of some sunshine.  Sunday may not get out of the 70’s either due to colder air filtering in and clouds.  The 850’s are showing up below 10 C.  Very odd for this time of year and the trof set up with the long wave pattern suggests that it may stick around for much of the week with a warm up not going on until the second half.  My sunflowers need water so I hope we can get some decent rain.  The SPC is not too enthused concerning severe weather as we just haven’t had time to destablize as per the latest data, but with afternoon heating, late t’storms Friday would not be surprising.


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