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Full text of "The history and development of the telephone system of the University of Maryland, College Park, Md. / by Joseph Hamilton."

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Presented as a Requirement for 

Initiation to 

Maryland Beta Chapter 

Tau Beta Pi Fraternity 

January 15, 1932 


The history of the University of Maryland telephone 
system began in 1878 with the establishment of a line between 
the main college building and the B„ & 0, Station. In 1901 the 
first telephone exchange system serving the University of 

land was installed in the drug store of Dr, Wells in 
Kyattsville. Several years later the University and residents 
connected with the University, installed a private line 
system which had a connection with the Hyattsville Exchange. 
When the Berwyn Exchi as opened in May, 1910', the University 
contracted for exchange service for its two "Plant A" lines and 
also rented several individual lines from that Exchange. 
In July, 1917', the "Plant A" line running through College Park 
was transferred to the College proper. Aside from surveys 
conducted by the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company, 
relative to the amount of equipment and telephone traffic 
handled from the University, nothing of importance occurred 
in the history of the system until October, 1930, when the 
Board of Regents authorised the installation of the Private 
Branch Exchange which was completed in April 1, 1931. '.Vith the 
exception of minor details this installation represents the 
latest development of the telephone system at the 
University of Maryland. 

_ 1 - 



Maryland, one of the original thirteen colonies from which the 
United States was formed, was first settled by Lord Baltimore in 1634, 
For the first 245 years of its existence as a colonial settlement and 
state, citizens used mut-h the same method of communication that had 
existed for the previous centuries. Person-to-person communications for 
distances further than the human voice could carry were undreamed of. 
Messages were delivered by bearer, or, if of a personal nature, in personi 
This condition existed until about the middle of the nineteenth century. 
Then in 1844 the teleegraph was put to practical use, the first message, 
"What hath God wrought"? was transmitted between Baltimore and Washington, 
in May 24 of that year. 

The next advance in communication was the telephone, which 
came into use in the state in 1878 with the establishment of a private 
line installed for the Maryland Agricultural College, now the University 
of Maryland. This was just two years after the telephone was invented by 
Dr. Alexander Graham Bell. This line, which connected the college build- 
ings with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Station, was installed by the late 
George C. Maynard of Washington, general manager of the National Telephonic 
Exchange, predecessor of the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company. 

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On December 1 of the same year a switchboard system was estab- 
lished in Washington and telephones serving the college were operated from 
this office. The first exchange in Maryland was placed in operation at 
Baltimore, January 1, 1879. Subsequently central offices were established 
in the larger cities and towns throughout the state. The central office 
at Cumberland was established February 8, 1881, and at Hagerstown, 
February 1, and Frederick, June 25, 18S3. Telephone service at Annapolis 
was fdrst installed in the Executive Mansion and in the State Comptroller's 
office in 1884, being operated from the Baltimore switchboard. On June 1, 
1895, a fifty line capacity switchboard was installed. Telephone service 
.at Hyattsviile and vicinity was operated f>rom Washington until December 
,28, 1901, when a switchboard system was placed in service- 1 . 





Dr. A. H. Wells 

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Dr. Albert H. Wells, a Hyattsville druggist, has the credit 
for having the first telephone connected with an exchange in this community. 
This telephone was operated from the Washington central office and was in 
service about 1895. Before the installation of this telephone, however, 
Dr. J. Harris Rogers operated a private line system between Dr. Wells' drug 
store and the office of Dr. Rogers and his brother, James C. Rogers, in 


a ■ * 







Wells' Drug Store (1901) 

Wells' Drugstore (1?02) 

Washington. In 1901 the telephone company started to work up interest in 
the establishment of a central, office and Dr. Wells was instrumental in 
having the new system of communication installed in his store. 

Early subscribers to the Hyattsville exchange included the 
president's office, Maryland Agricultural College, College Park. Others 
were: Dr. Charles A. Wells, Alfred H. Wells, R .M. Sylvester, Melrose 

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Seminary, George Tise, grocer, Joseph W. Aman, coal and wood, Duckett & 
Ford, real estate, Hyattsville, and the Palo Alto Hotel and the Pan 
Electric Restaurant of Bladensburg. 

The switchboard was operated by J. D. Ervin and W. Hampton 
Hickey, clerks in Dr. Wells' drug store, which was then located at the 
corner of Maryland and Wells Avenues South, the operation of the telephone 
system being a side issue when the clerks were not busy at other duties. 
After the central offices had been in operation about six months, David 
Cumberland, a schoolboy, was employed to take care of the switchboard after 
school hours and on Saturdays and Sundays, The exchange was not in 
operation at night, according to Dr. Wells. 

When Dr. Wells relocated his drug store in 1902 at the corner 
of Maryland and Johnson Avenues, the telephone central office was moved 
along at the same time. In the new loc ation the exchange was first Installed 
on the ground floor next to the prescription department. Soon after the, 
switchboard was operated at this location, arrangements were made to give 
twenty-four hour telephone service. As a result of this move, Mrs. John 
F. Lat timer became chief operator with Harry McCormick and Charles 
Fenwick as assistants. 

Within a few months the company's records show that the number 
of telephones began to increase rapidly and it was necessary to relocate 
the switchboard in larger quarters in the second story of the drug store 
building. This larger and improved switchboard system required the services 
of six operators. The office was supervised by Miss Haael Hanna. The 
operators included Misses Madeline Wiseman, Fanny Casey, Annie Lehman, and 

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Katie Wetael. Allan Frost, Albert Hickey and George McCormick were the 
night operators. 

The University of Maryland maintained this line until the 
opening of the Berwyn Exchange in May, 1910, Khen they severed connections 
with the Hyattsville Exchange until ths installation of the P-B-X twenty 
years later. 


A few years after the installation of the Hyattsville Exchange, 
the University authorized the installation of a private telephone system, 
which employed a three-point switching apparatus. This system consisted of 
one line which was operated by the University and ran through a number of the 
College buildings, and two others, which were extensions -of the first and 
operated by the residents of College Park, who were connected with the 
University* The three-point switching apparatus was connected on the side 
of each receiver (shown in the following pictures) and each point was con- 
nected to one of the three parallel lines which were single iron conductors 
with a ground return. There were approximately 27 subscribers in the com- 
plete system, 9 on each line. Thus when not making a call the subscriber^ 
set their instruments on the point corresponding to the number of their line. 
Each station on each of the three lines had a different code signal, but when 
any call was made on any line, all subscribers connected at that time on that 
line heard the call signal. The various code signals were worked out on the 
basis of. long and short rings. If some one person had a station on the 
University line and one on one of the residential lines, he was given the same 
call signal on both lines. 

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3i r 

J lL 

Telephone Set used on the University "Plant A" Lines 

The installation of this system was started by members of the 
University and residential subscribers But due to the lack of equipment to 
erect the large poles, the installation was turned over to the National 
Electric Supply Co., who previously had furnished the electrical material 
for the system, but who also were electrical contractors. Although the 
University supported the cost of the line which ran through the College 
proper, the subscribers of the residential lines had to pay for their exten- 
sions and their instruments. The latter, which are shown in the above 
diagrams, cost about $10.00 each. This instrument, a National Electric 
Supply Co. product, was of the magneto type and contained the necessary 

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batteries in the set. These lines, according to Dr. McDonald, former Head 
of the Chemistry Department, had a method of connection with the Hyatts- 

ville Exchange. 

The Berv/yn Exchange 

As a result of numerous complaints about the ringing of all calls 
on every instrument on the line, and the annoyance caused to subscribers, Prof. 
J. Hansom Mitchell, Head of the Mechanical Engineering Department, designed 
an automatic system, in which each party heard only his own call. With the 
authorisation of President Patterson, Prof. Mitchell installed this system. 
The single station ringing was accomplished by a clicking system in the 
transmitter which operated in conjunction with a click selector in the 

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receiver. However, this system did not prove satisfactory and was removed 
a short time after installation. 

The Berwyn Central Office from which the individual line tele- 
phones serving Maryland University were located, was placed in operation on 
May 14, 1910, by the Chesapeake and Fotomac Telephone Company of Baltimore 
City. These individual stations had no connection with the two "Plant A™ 
lines then established at the University, but were operated separately as 
four-party, two-party, and single party lines. With the installation of 
this exchange the University also contracted with the Telephone Company to 
obtain exchange service for these two lines at a definite rental. This 
meant that the operator also had a call number as did the rural line sub- 
scribers. The only change in the University telephone system in the fol- 
lowing few years was the addition of individual line stations by the 
University and private individuals. 

The idea of xhe installation of a centralized switchboard on the 
University of Maryland campus was first introduced in September, 1913, when 
at the request of the University officials the Western Electric Company of 
Philadelphia, Pa., gave an estimate for the installation of a common battery 
switchboard of 30 lines with six wall and eighteen desk telephone sets which 
not only offered a more centralised system but also served to eliminate 
the present magneto system which was used on both the "Two Plant A" lines 
and the individual lines to the Bervjyn Exchange. However, the matter was 
dropped for a period of three years and it was not renewed until November 
7, 1918, when Frof . M. Creese, Head of the Electrical Engineering Depart- 

_ 9 - 

ment, proposed a system to the above company which included a central 
switchboard with 11 lines running to the various buildings on the campus 
and connecting 3 wall and 24 desk telephone sets. This suggestion was 
immediately taken up by the Western Electric Company of Philadelphia, Pa., 
who through Mr. George Walthers, Electrical Contractor of Baltimore, gave 
an estimate for the equipment and installation, which was considered by the 
University officials to be more than they could afford at that time. 

Having set aside the switchboard proposition, the University 
set out to repair the local University equipment. Early in 1917 the Berwyn 
27-line, which ran along the back road, was reconditioned^ using doubled 
paired wire instead of a single iron conductor mounted on Pierce brackets, 
placing this line in fairly good condition. However, the 19-line, which 
ran down through the residential section ofi College Park, was in a much 
worse condition than the S7--lin© had been* The poles on this line were in poor 
condition as also were the conductors. The owners of the line; who were 
all in some way connected with the University, then inquired of the Potomac 
Power Company of Washington and the American Telephone and Telegraph Com- 
pany, the rental cost for the use of their poles, instead cf replacing the 
old ones. The former approved the use of their poles at $1.00 per pole per 
annum, while the latter approved theirs at 25c per pcle per annum. A survey 
was then conducted by members of the electrical engineering department to 
determine the cost of repairing the present line. With this information 
the owners compiled the following comparison; 

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Using C. & P. Poles. Using Own Poles. C. & P. System. 

First Cost. First Cost. Annual Rate 4-Farty Line. 

Thirty (30), $3.00 per yr, 60 @ $6.00 per yr. (Each party hears 
Rental, 19.00 per yr. 60 @ $6.00 per yr. only his own 
Maintenance, 512.00 per yr. 60 @ $3.00 per yr. rings) 

$14.00 per yr. $15.00 per yr. $18.00 per yr, 

It may also be noted that with the C. & P. System the Telephone 
Company furnishes all telephones and keeps them in order. 

With this data a meeting of the owners was held early in June, 
1917, and it was the unanimous opinion for them to give up the present 
system July 1st and for each to contract privately with the Chesapeake 
and Potomac Telephone Company for a 4-party line system. 

President Pearson acting in accordance with this decision, 
ordered that the 19-line, which had been under discussion,, should be trans- 
ferred to operate on the University proper as did the 27-line, which 
operation was to start July 1st, 1917. This order was carried out and the 
following is the directory of this two-line system. 

BERWYN LINE 27 — H, J. Patterson, Agent. 


Director's Office H. J. Patterson 27 F 11 

Farm Superintendent E. H. Brinkley 27 F 12 

Horticultural Department Thos. H, White - 27 P 13 

Agronomy Department _ J. F. Metzger 27 F 4 

Biological Laboratory _ _ 27 F 21 

Poultry Department Roy H. Waite 27 F 22 

Soil Laboratory A. G. McCall 27 F 2 


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BERWYN LINE 19 — H. T. Harrison, Agent. 


State Chemist's Office H. B. McDonnell - .. 19 F 2 

Library (Miss) L. E. Conner 19 F 11 

Horticultural Department E. F, Stoddard 19 F 3 

Engineering Department Thos. H. Taliaferro 19 F 5 

Science Hall - 19 F 12 

Central Power Plant V. L. Lake 19 F 4 

Matron (Mrs.) M .T- Moore 19 F 13 

With the organisation of the Signal Corp Officers' Training 
School, in the summer of 1917, at the University of Maryland, slight 
changes were brought about in the system. For some reason, of which the 
author cannot ascertain, the Berwyn 19-line was changed to the Berv/yn 49 line 
and the number Berv/yn 19 was given to the Radio Training School line 
which operated only one station. However, with the closing of the school 
in the fall of 1913 the Berwyn 19 line was discontinued. 

From this time, aside from the addition of individual lines to 
the Berwyn Exchange, there was little change in the University telephone 
system. However, in February, 1924, the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone 
Company of Baltimore renewed their efforts to install a Private Branch 
Exchange at the University of Maryland and made a study of the conditions 
of the telephone system on the campus, finding that the College had the 
following telephone equipment: 

Agricultural Building had 14 stations for business and 1 public telephone. 
(S were 4-party lines, remainder v,ore single party lines.) 

- 12 - 

Chemistry Building had 1 line with 1 extension. 

Morill Hall had 6 stations. 

Sylvester Hall had 2 business stations and 1 public station. 

Experiment Station had 3 stations (t-party lines). 

Southern Immigration Commission Office in Agricultural Building had 
1 station. 

One in Horticultural Building — ■ Berwyn 27 — 6 stations. 

One in Engineering Building — Berwyn 49 — 6 stations* 

In October, 1926, .Mr. C. T. Clagett, Division Manager of the 
Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company, informed President Pearson of 
the numerous complaints of customers regarding the telephone system at the 
University of Maryland, citing one case in particular. The Vice President 
of a Boston Manufacturing Concern had, In attempting to communicate with a 
professor at the University, made four different calls through the Berwyn 
Exchange, on four different lines in order to reach him. He later sent a 
complaint to Mr. Clagett who relayed it to the University president, adding 
that it was not only a reflection on the University but also on the 
telephone company of that district. 

The Chesapeake and Potomac Company then conducted an investiga- 
tion, which revealed that on three consecutive normal days, December 16, 17, 
18, of 1S26, the number of calls through the Berwyn Exchange between stations 
on the campus were 50C, 410 and 491, respectively. 

With this information, Mr. Clagett later in December of that 
year, renewed his attack on the University system and contrasted the above 

- 13 - 

conditions to the successful operation of Private Branch Exchanges at 
Catholic University, Georgetown University and George Washington University 
of Washington, D. C. 

It was estimated, by the C. k P. Company, that over a period of 
two months, starting on December, 1926, that the number of toll calls over 
said period of two months was 520 to Hyatt sville and 1676 to Washington from 
the University of Maryland through the Berwyn Exchange . Since the installa- 
tion of a P-B-X would eliminate the 5c toll to Hyatt sville and reduce the 
Washington toll from 10c to 5o, the saving involved was of considerable 

Reminding the University of the above incident and of these two 
surveys, Mr, Clagett proposed two plans, both involving a Private Branch 
Exchange and differing only in the number of Hyatt sville and Berwyn Trunks. 
Dec rite Mr. Clagett* s efforts, President Pearson refused the offer on the 
grounds of high cost. 

The telephone system in August, 1928, had grown to the point, 
where the University of Maryland had 25 lines running from the Berwyn Exchange 
to 61 stations on the University grounds. 

In June, 1929 the Berwyn 62- line was replaced by a 7-line, 3-trunk 
monitor box, which was placed in the Agricaltral Building and was operated 
by one of the secretaries of the offiice. The box resembled a small P-B-X with 
seven lines running to the several field houses of the Agricultural 
Department on the campus. 

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An event which later affected the College Telephone Systems was 
the cut over of the Hyattsvillo Exchange to the present district head- 
quarters building and telephone plant (shown in accompanying picture) 
on March, 29, 1930. 

District Headquarters and Telephone Plant at liyattsville 

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The Installation of central telephone exchange at the University 
of Maryland was authorised at the meeting of the Board of Regents on October 
9, 1930. The contract called for an 80-line cord Private Branch Exchange with 
58 line stations and 20 extension stations, totaling 78 instruments. 
The system was to include three Hyattsville Trunks and two Berwyn Trunks, 

Source of Ringing Power for the Berwyn Trunks 

with special equipment to give ringing power for calls to the Berwyn 
Exchange v,hich, unlike the Hyattsville Exchange, still employs the magneto 
system of ringing instead of the common battery system. This equipment is 
a small motor-magneto generator set (shown in the above picture) which 
motor has 1-10 h.p. rating while the generator has a 15-watt rating. The 

tallation proceeded under the direction of H. L. Crisp, superintendent of 
grounds, in a small room en the first floor of the library. The P-B-X 

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University" of Maryland Library — Location of P-B-X 
switchboard, with the accompanying equipment, the condenser board, 
distributing frames and fuse panel {all shown in the pictures) was placed 
in operation April 1, 1931. 

Private Branch Exchange Switchboard 

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a r 

Distributing Frames and Fuse Panel Condenser Panel 

Minor changes made in 1931 vere the addition of two Hyattsville 

Trunks and the addition of ringing equipment at two stations for night 

service to Berwyn. 

The rates per month, in Deconb&r, 1931, according to Miss 

Johnson, secretary to H. L, Crisp, were as follows: 

Per Month 

Switchboard and Operators Set.. $12.00 

Rental in Hyattsville 'Crunks 7.13 

Mileage Charge, Hyattsville Trunks 3.00 

Rental in Berwyn Trunks - 5.63 

Mileage Charge, Berwyn Trunks 0.75 

Special Battery Equipment 2.00 

Rate per Individual Station 1.00 

Mileage Charge ('/, mile) Individual Station 0,75 

Extensions on Switchboard Stations 1.00 

TOTAL $33.26 


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It might be interesting at this time to note the amount of 
telephone traffic handled by the F-B-X. An investigation, conducted by 
Mrs. Merickel, head operator of the switchboard, shows that in five normal 
days, December 8, 9, 10, 11 anti 12, 1931, that more than twice the number of 
calls were completed through the Berwyn Exchange than through the Hyatt s- 
ville Exchange, despite the fact that the latter had five trunks to the two 
trunks of the former. The result of the summary was; 



December 8 


" 9 










Total 334 168 

In comparison to those who utilised the first line constructed 
at the Maryland College, which only had two stations, telephone users at the 

•sity of Maryland may now converse with about 92% of the 35,700,000 
telephones in the world. So rapidly has telephone communication been 
extended during the past few years that the service is now available 

to about 40 countri 

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University of Maryland Cfficials: 

Dr. Patterson, former President and Dean of Agriculture. 
Dr. H. ^. McDon&li-. ) ffe-^ ^ CVe*\\$W\ 
^Br. L,]Hodgins, Electrical Engineering Department. 
Frof . H. L. Crisp, Superintendent oft Grounds. 


Miss Johnson, Secretary to Prof. H. 1. Crisp. 

Chesapeake and Potomac Officials: 

Mr. Oliver Martin, Editor of the "Transmitter." 
Mr. Frank Little, Head of Baltimore Commercial Division. 
Mr. E. F. Hill, Information Department, Washington. 
Mr. Banner, Manager of Hyattsville Exchange. 

Dr. Alfred H. Wells. 
^Br. Hampton Hie key. 

Hyattsville "Independent", April 3, 1931; February 17, 1927. 
"The Diaraondbaek" , October 21, 1930.