|Interesting story of the remarkable development of the most beneficial utility ever conceived by man. In twenty years it has saved mankind enough labor to build an empire.|
When the philosophical as well as scientific Thomas A. Edison was asked by a New York newspaper man what he considered the greatest discovery or invention since Watts gave to the world the steam engine, he answered without hesitancy: "The telephone."
And yet the telegraph, the electric cars and the electric lights, besides numerous other great achievements along electrical discoveries, have intervened.
Some may differ from the Wizard of Electricity when he puts the telephone ahead of the telegraph in usefulness to mankind, but all will admit that his is impressive expert testimony for his side of the case.
It is not easy to estimate the full value of the telephone to the enterprising business man of to-day. It has entered so widely and so intimately into his business and social life that it is difficult for him to understand how the preceding generation got along without it.
The telephone came into our lives with the noiseless unostentation of every good and perfect gift of human ingenuity and skill. The vast and multifarious development it has attained is hardly known in detail to any of those who could not to-day get along without it, and must remain so unless special inquiry is made.
The present almost astounding efficiency of the telephone was not attained by sudden flights. It was reached after great effort on the part of many thousands. The discarding of methods for better ones and the rejecting of appliances perhaps long in use just as soon as it was demonstrated that there was found a better one, are among the many evidences of the costly and laborious evolution of the most remarkable utility ever conceived by the mind of fallible man.
The Colorado Telephone company, under the management of E. B. Field, is one of the few great scientific enterprises in the West that has not only kept abreast of development within its own field of research and experience, but has also led the rapid development of this growing country.
The Colorado Telephone company does not take its steps in the tracks of scientific advancement made by Eastern telephone concerns, but leads them. Indeed, the successful experiments made by the managers of the telephone here are adopted by New York and Boston to their profit.
It has been the history of all great achievements, from Napoleon's conquests to those of less place in the world's ledger, that they have been accomplished under one great directing and supervising head. At the topmost summit of the organized energy must be a man of master mind. and one capable of infinite detail.
Thus it has been with the splendid record of twenty-one years of progressive life of the Colorado Telephone company. E. B. Field, the general manager and vice president of the company, possesses the combined talents of a quick perceptive and executive ability with a mind fertile with scientific knowledge. He not only knows that certain things are so in science, but he knows why and can give the reason for them. Thus he knows the variations and limitations which is the most valuable of all technical acquirement.
A man of perspicacity, ingenuity and resource, of a fine analytical mind and remarkable acquisitive powers, he was eminently fitted for the difficult task of guiding the affairs of the telephone concern which has so blessed this state over the dangerous places in its earlier voyages. The fact that the success of the gigantic enterprise has at length placed it out upon broad and smooth water is but an earnest that the time was when the course was narrow and fraught with places so dangerous that only the beacon light of his clear judgment could possibly avail to clear them.
Mr. Field came to Denver from Boston in November, 1879, less than one year after F. O. Vaille had made his small beginning upon a telephone system in Denver. The telephone was then in its infancy, and Mr. Vaille met with many difficulties which seem to men of less courage insuperable, but he pressed on.
Although coming from the home of the telephone, so to speak, Mr. Field, who was soon to become the directing spirit of the infant enterprise out in the "Great American Desert," had no technical knowledge of the telephone business. But he soon connected himself with the concern and by dint of study, from the primary and rudiments of the business soon rose rapidly to the front, for he had a capacity for work far beyond the average and an unequalled power to retain what he learned as well as the gift to use it practically.
It is not surprising, therefore, that in January, 1880, he became assistant to Vaille and a year later was made the company's superintendent. Then, in 1884, in addition to his duties as general manager, his duties being enlarged, Mr. Field was made vice president, and ever since has been the brains and the energy of the concern which is now one of the most powerful and useful that the state has ever had, not even excepting the great railroads.
The success of the Colorado Telephone company began with the induction of Mr. Field as general manager, and its growth has been marvelous, the system being classed as the best equipped and the most satisfactory in every way of any of the great systems of the nation.
Owing to the comparatively undeveloped condition of the country, Mr. Field had to contend with many difficulties that did not face the heads of the concerns in the East, but he has nevertheless kept pace with Easterners and has besides advanced along many lines so quickly and successfully that they have copied after him.
The complete service of the Colorado Telephone company has left nothing to be desired. So much so that the company for nearly twenty years has not been troubled with competing companies. This is a remarkable tribute when it is known that in half of the cities of the East opposition companies have sprung up and caused added expense and much confusion to the patrons. Instead of rival companies being an advantage to the people of a community, as is the case with many other public utilities, they are a positive disadvantage and an additional expense to the user. The telephone business must be conducted as a unity to produce the best results.
Since January 1, 1881, when the Colorado Telephone company came into existence, there has not been an opposition company and indeed there has been no demand or even room for one. In that year, after the completion of the Tabor building at the Corner of Sixteenth and Larimer, the telephone headquarters were moved into it. Here it remained about nine years, but the business out-growing the room there, the company purchased the site of the present building and built its own home or "central energy" station, as it is technically called.
This present large and handsome building on Lawrence between Fourteenth and Fifteen was occupied in 1890. The business continued to thrive and grow, and in 1898 another building at 1463 York street was erected. From here the large residences on Capitol hill were served, which took much of the pressure from the central building. This is known as the "York-station."
In 1890 another branch exchange was erected at Broadway and First avenue to more directly serve the South Denver district and is known as the "South station." Thus again the central exchange was relieved and but few of the most sanguine dreamed that in another decade even then the present central station would become inadequate. But such is the case, and the once commodious quarters on Lawrence is now far too small.
To meet the requirements, even if another expensive expansion was to be gone into, the Colorado Telephone company began recently the erection of a magnificent new home on Champa between Fourteenth and Fifteenth. In a short while this great central energy station will be completed and occupied at great expense.
It has been one of the secrets of the success of this company that its manager has brooked no expense when he is satisfied that the improvement of the service is involved. Thus he has undertaken many expensive improvements solely because he knew that the public would be benefited and his system likewise enhanced. There are many telephones in the system to-day maintained at an actual loss to the company, but the existence of these phones makes the service as a whole more valuable.
If a subscriber down town in Denver can call up a remote part of the city, his 'phone is worth that much more to him and he knows it. The company knows it, too, and that is why they maintain so many 'phones out in the residence districts when those 'phones themselves do not pay. There is nothing shortsighted in the management of the Colorado Telephone company.
Thus it began the erection of a large new building when they owned the present crowded quarters, but which, with the branch stations, could be "made to do" for many years to come.
But when it comes to giving the people good service, Mr. Field does not suffer anything to be "made to do." He is not of the makeshift kind. All he wants to know is if an expansion will improve the service, and when that is determined in the affirmative the additional expense is authorized. The service shall not suffer one jot or tittle that a single dollar may be added to dividends, is the motto of the present management.
After the Denver exchange was firmly established the company began to branch out with its toll lines, until the state is a veritable net-work of wires and exchanges. First it went to Colorado Springs; then to Pueblo, Golden, Leadville, Cripple Creek, and so on. The expansion in this direction has been assiduous, as has been the enlargement in Denver, until there is now a toll line system from Cheyenne on the north and Farmington, N. M., on the south, of 10,000 miles of wire and exchange systems, using about 35,000 miles of wire. The magnitude of this data will impress itself upon the thoughtful person when he considers the brains and the energy required in the development.
Until recently the Denver system constituted about half of the whole, but there has been such a demand for the service outside of the city, and that demand has been met so assiduously, that the outside territory is outstripping the city. There are now about 21,000 telephones in the system, of which Denver has about 10,000.
The company receives about 85,000 calls per day, which a careful calculation shows represents a daily saving of about 50,000 miles of travel that would be necessary if the parties to the conversation footed it to colloquial meetings, when the time and energy saved by these astounding figures are considered, it may be that the statement of Edison in the outset will receive more credence.
There are 215 girls employed in receiving and answering these calls, and 75 are employed at one time, or on one shift. And every minute of the time at work is necessary to perform their duties, and they must be mechanically quick and regular at that.
If the subscriber who tries to argue with "central" could visit the central office in Denver and get an idea of the importance of prompt work on her part, he would reform, for a delay of a second in a system of such exactness and order multiplies its harmful results as a pebble cast into a calm sea carries its vibration of water from shore to shore.
When the new building in Denver is completed and occupied there will be some important changes for the better in the service, though the state of improvement has reached such a fastidious stage and the betterments are so acute that the subscriber, unless he is unusually observant, can hardly detect it except by computation at the end of the month, which would show a substantial saving of time. The new headquarters will be just what it is to be called, a "Central Energy System." This building will contain everything, even the facilities for signaling. The two branches, York and South, will be included in the new building, and will enable the operators to give prompter attention. The batteries that operate the transmitters, as well as the battery for signaling, will be located here. The improvement will enable the company to do away with ringing for signaling entirely. When the receiver is taken from the hook, that in itself will be the signal, for the mere act will light a lamp in the central office, and the operator will thus be informed that the user wants a number.
The work of putting the wires underground is another expensive improvement which is going on with rapidity. In Denver the company now has underground cables all the way to York and Colfax—from below the depot to York street and from Thirteenth to Twenty-eighth. The main cables run up Fifteenth street and are distributed each way.
The toll line extensions are a feature of the series of expansions and enlargements going on in the system. There are toll lines from Las Animas to Holly, Walsenburg to Alamosa; a through line of copper wires from Denver to Grand Junction, for the San Juan business; a new line, built during the past year, from Denver to Glenwood. The company has purchased the Salida exchange, and has in course of construction a line from Cripple Creek to Salida.
The present line from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek is the best line in the country, being 40 copper wires on 35-foot cedar poles, and the best constructed in any system. The toll lines run from Hahn's Peak on the northwest to Crook on the northeast; from Farmington and Raton, N. M., on the south to Las Vegas.
A line is under construction to go via Maxwell City, Springer, Wagon Mound, Watrous to Las Vegas, with a branch to the coal camp of Dawson. There is also a branch in New Mexico to Cimarron, N. M.
The line from Walsenburg to Alamosa is the first aluminum line wire used in the state. This may prove an experiment of great importance, for if it is successful it will enable the company to improve on copper wiring. With aluminum the company can get the same conductivity with almost half of the weight. No. 9 copper weighs 330 pounds to the mile, while No. 5 aluminum weighs only about 150 pounds to the mile, while the conductivity is exactly the same. This is the first thorough test given to the use of aluminum, and if it proves successful the telephone business will receive quite a great benefit thereby.
The Colorado Telephone Company owns its own buildings wherever practicable, and is therefore one of the best property-owning agencies in the state. Besides the buildings in Denver that it occupies and which have been mentioned above, it owns a very large warehouse. It occupies a half block on West Seventh and South Eleventh, and is a three-story building.
A good deal of manufacturing is done here, the smaller switchboards in use being turned out, while other creations of lesser note are made, such as special apparatus which the company use exclusively. About fifty men are employed in the warehouse, and there all of the supplies, of which the company needs a great quantity, are stored. It is also the headquarters of the construction department and the purchasing agent.
While the company does not do a public or commercial telegraph business, it often uses the telegraph to facilitate its own business. For instance, if all of the lines between Denver and Colorado Springs are in use, and some one in Denver wants Pueblo, the request will be sent over by telegraph to Colorado Springs or Pueblo, so that the Pueblo office can send out and get the party wanted there and have him ready by the time the Denver man gets the use of a wire from Denver to Colorado Springs.
The hackneyed name for the telephone, "Hello," is no longer appropriate, because the use of the word "hello" is positively forbidden by the Colorado company. "Number, please," has been substituted when the "central" first answers your signal. If she breaks in to see if you have finished your conversation, she inquires "waiting?" "waiting?" So the old, popular term "hello" is dead, so far as the company is concerned. The object of this is to avoid confusion.
The subscriber uses the word "hello," and if he were talking to a lady and the central office broke in with "hello" he would not know whether the lady to whom he was talking was using the term or the central girl. But when the man hears the word "waiting?" he knows at once that it is central who wants to know if the line is out of use.
Denver enjoys the present distinction of being the third exchange in the world to get started for business. Boston was the first and Chicago the second.
The great use of the telephone is exemplified in the fact that in the prosperous farming communities all of the successful farmers have a telephone. For instance, around Greeley, Colo., and in other sections, the company does a paying business. The up-to-date farmer can not afford now not to have a telephone, and he knows it.
For instance, if he wants to ship a carload of potatoes, he orders the car and then telephones to the station to know if his car has arrived. If it has not arrived he will devote the days to something else until it does. Otherwise, when he supposed the car was there, he might journey all the way to the station, only to find the day lost, as the car would not be on hand. Then he can telephone to the chief city and ascertain the price of potatoes, and he can decide whether he wishes to market at that time.
A clever farmer can save hundreds of dollars during the year by the judicious use of his telephone.
The same thing applies to the big gold mines scattered over a mining district. It would be well nigh impossible for the miner to run his mine successfully without this important commodity.
The executive officers of the Colorado Telephone Company are:
HENRY R. WOLCOTT...President
E. B. FIELD................Vice-President and General Manager
ROBT. D. HALL...........Secretary and Auditor
E. M. BURGESS...........General Superintendent
EDW. B. FIELD, JR......Treasurer
J. E. MACDONALD.......Assistant Superintendent