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Cartwright, Carol Lohry; Shaffer, Scott; Waller, Randal / City on the Rock River : chapters in Janesville's history
(1998)

5. Commerce,   pp. 95-117


Page 113

Telephone Service
On March 1, 1878, only two years after the invention of the telephone, Dr. Henry Palmer
installed a private telephone line between his home and office. This was the city's
introduction to the telephone. In December 1879, the National Bell Telephone Company sent a
representative to the city to establish a local telephone exchange, and the Janesville
Telephone Company was born. The first exchange was located in the Smith Block (not extant).
J. W. Bates, a local attorney, was the exchange's first manager and his daughter, Iva, the first
operator. ("Janesville Exchange to Observe 50th Year" 1926:1; Wisconsin Telephone Company,
RCHS files)
After the Wisconsin Telephone Company incorporated in 1882, it assumed operation of the
Janesville exchange. The first long distance lines to Beloit and Johnstown were installed in
1883. In 1912, the Wisconsin Telephone Company built a Georgian Revival-style office building
at 301 E. Milwaukee St., which, with additions, still serves the company today. The additions
to the building compromise the building's integrity, making it not potentially eligible for the
National Register. ("First Phone Here in 1878" 1937:2)
Other telephone companies competed to serve the communication needs of Janesville. Several
prominent Janesville businessmen incorporated the Rock County Telephone Company in 1898.
This company built up a thriving business and, for a few years, had the largest share of
telephone customers in the city. The company established its exchange in the Jackman Block,
but moved into a building at 51 S. Jackson St. around 1915. In December 1921, the company
merged with the Wisconsin Telephone Company. The Rock County Telephone Company
building at 51 S. Jackson St. is historically significant for its association with early telephone
service in Janesville. It is a contributing resource in the West Milwaukee Street Historic
District. (City Directories; Wisconsin Telephone Company, RCHS files)
The Badger Telegraph and Telephone Company operated briefly in Janesville during the early
twentieth century. It was incorporated in 1909 and furnished long distance service to small
surrounding communities. In 1920, it was acquired by the Rock River Telephone Company. Its
offices were located in the Jackman Building, which is no longer a historic structure due to loss
of integrity. (City Directories; "First Phone Here in 1878" 1937:2)
CREEN, DRIED,
PRESERVED FRUITS,
Cigars, Tobacco, &c.
Cor. Main & Mil. sts, Janesrle, Wis.
Wholesale Trade
Groceries
The Janesville Wholesale Grocery Company was the city's longest-lived wholesale business.
Incorporated in 1900, the business was originally located at North Franklin and Wall streets
(not extant). In 1914, the company moved into the former Sylvester Tobacco Warehouse (not
Commerce
113


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