#394 New York Calling: A History of the Telephone

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Just a few months ago, New York City removed most of the remaining phone booths from the streets, oft neglected, a nostalgic victim of our increasing use of cellphones.

For almost a century public phones have connected regular New Yorkers with the world. Who doesn’t have fond memories of using a payphone with gum on the earpiece and extremely vulgar messages written on the box? Putting in quarters!

Well this news got us thinking about how the telephone has helped change New York overall.

Ever since Alexander Graham Bell brought his first model telephone to Manhattan 145 years ago, the telephone has helped us make plans, share urgent news, and has even allowed people to move away from each other – but still feel close.

This is a national story of course, one of patents and mergers, of Bell Telephone’s monopoly over the business for over 100 years. But it's local too; the tales of sassy operators, big shiny Art Deco towers and the ever-changing New York phone number.

PLUS: We let you in on a little secret. The classic New York City phone booth is not quite gone. We'll tell you where to find one.

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