Shattuck, S. F., et. al (ed.) / A history of Neenah
Communications, pp. 222-226 PDF (1.4 MB)
COMMUNICATIONS 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 222
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