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Shattuck, S. F., et. al (ed.) / A history of Neenah

Communications,   pp. 222-226 PDF (1.4 MB)

Page 222

To OUR forebears the word co)mm1unications had a very different mean-
ing than it does to us. To them it meant either one of two things. The
first was to personally talk to the other person, and the second was to
write a letter and wait for an answer that was carried over rather un-
certain mails. To us it means the high speed interchange of thoughts
and ideas that the use of electricity permits. It is communications in
this latter sense that we will discuss in this chapter.
  The earliest electrical communication system placed in general use
was the telegraph. It was only a few short years after Samuel Morse
first demonstrated a practical telegraph system in 1837 that the tele-
graph came to Neenah. The first office was opened here in i852.
Neenah was one link of a line that connected Chicago and Green Bay.
This line was operated by the Northwestern Telegraph Company.
This company operated the line until 188I, at which time it was
leased to the Western Union Telegraph Company. This is the period
that saw an additional miracle of electrical communications. In 1877
Sam Henry, of the Kimberly & Henry Drug House (now Elwer's) in-
stalled a device, new to these parts, called a telephone. A wire was
strung from the drug store to the home of Dr. J. R. Barnett, on the
corner of Church Street and West Doty Avenue, also to the residence
of Dr. N. S. Robinson (now the home of the YWCA). This installa-
tion was what we would now call a party line. Soon there formed a
waiting line of would-be customers, and the system became so un-
wieldy that an exchange was started, and thereby became the first
telephone exchange in Wisconsin.
  Twenty customers made up the first clientele of the first telephone
company in Neenah. The first manager was, of course, Sam Henry,
who pioneered the telephone in Neenah, and the first operator was
Charles Nielson. Only a year after the exchange was started, the Wis-
consin Telephone Company was incorporated. This new organization
took over the exchange in M. E. Barnett's drug store.
  The coming of the telephone did nothing to dampen the spirits and
progress of the telegraph. The telegraph office in the Wells Fargo

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