February 14, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell filed for a patent on the
telephone two hours before a rival inventor, Elisha Gray.
The new instrument was soon incorporated into the rapidly
expanding world of American business, where the telephone eased
distant communication by connecting offices throughout a building
and with the outside world. That
change made it profitable to locate a business on the upper floors
of the ever-taller skyscrapers of large cities.
At the same time, the invention necessitated additional
space to house telephone switchboards and their operators, an
occupation soon dominated by women.
By 1900, there were 1.3 million telephones in the United
States; by 1920, the figure had risen to 13.3 million.
Pousen successfully applied recording technology to the telephone
when he invented the first telephone answering machine in 1900.
A photograph and discussion of Pousen’s Telegraphone
appeared in the July 1, 1905 issue of Harper’s Weekly.
(See the introduction
of the article.) The answering machine recorded the varying
magnetic fields of the sound on a wire, and the sounds could then
be played back on the magnetized wire.
Other models were designed over the ensuing decades, the
most notable being the Dictaphone in 1926, and were used primarily
by physicians and salespeople.
The price tag remained high until the 1980s, when telephone
answering machines first gained widespread popularity in the
1, 1905, pp. 944-945
illustrated article, telautograph and telegraphone
1, 1905, p. 957, col. 1
continuation of illustrated article, telautograph