Just a few months ago, most of the remaining phone booths were removed from the streets of New York City, 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.
FEATURING The story of Antonio Meucci, the Italian immigrant who invented a version of the telephone …. before Bell.
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.
LISTEN NOW: NEW YORK CALLING
The Museum of the City of New York has graciously provided an offer code for Bowery Boys listeners and readers to visit their newest exhibition Analog City. For a 2-for-1 admission, use the discount code is ANALOGCITYBB when you buy your tickets online here. Offer good through December 31, 2022.
Some vintage educational films about ‘new’ telephone technology:
After listening to New York Calling: A History of the Telephone, go back to these prior Bowery Boys podcast with similar themes
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