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LeMert Telephone

This 1910 photograph shows workers installing utility poles for telephone lines near Walkerton. The horse-drawn wagons are carrying tools, equipment and telephones. Printed on one of the vehicle’s umbrella are the words H. B. Worster & Sons. By the 1890s, telephone usage was becoming relatively common in businesses and even some residences. On the dirt road by the wagon’s rear wheel is a new telephone. Another can be seen by the front tire of the Ford automobile. The area’s first private, direct-dial telephone, installed in 1895 at the main office of the Oliver Chilled Plow Works, connected the Oliver factory with the South Bend Tribune. Most telephones had party lines, in which two or more locations shared a common line, and required the assistance of an operator to place calls. Both James Oliver and his son, J.D., owners of the Oliver company, had telephones in their homes. The 1896 South Bend telephone directory gives James’ telephone number as 141; J.D.’s was 145. Special notations by their listings indicated their equipment had the capability to make long-distance calls—not a standard feature on all telephones. (Donated by Jane McCombs)

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