Lost Butte, Montana, a book by Richard I. Gibson, is in stores and museum gift shops around Butte. Or order from the publisher. It's also in E-book formats at all the usual places. And read an interview with Gibson, here, and on KXLF here. The Facebook page has many historic photos of Butte, and the Butte-Anaconda NHLD project showcases many historic buildings. Location-oriented posts can be found on HistoryPin. On Mondays beginning in January 2016, look for Gibson's "Mining City History" column in the Montana Standard.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Phone rates

by Richard I. Gibson

This is a follow-up to this post about the early telephone systems in Butte. I happened on rate information from 1882, when the rates in Butte were “less than Omaha” or any place in the east. Remember that the telephone was invented in 1876.

The central office was in Owsley Hall (Main Street north of Park) in 1884, and if it was elsewhere in 1882, it was certainly somewhere in the central business district. In 1882, customers paid $24 per quarter (3 months) if they were within a mile of Central, with a surcharge of $3 per quarter mile beyond the first mile. Two miles beyond the exchange office cost you $36 a quarter, or $144 per year. Right – no discount.

At the time miners earned $3.50 a day, so I’d speculate that $8 per month was not out of their reach, although it would likely have been seen as a luxury. As indicated in the previous post, the number of customers soared quickly as Butte grew.

1 comment:

  1. The early phone systems relied on a messy network of copper cables that cluttered the streets with overhead wires, and that was certainly the case in Butte from early photos. I could understand that the cost would be less in Butte than other cities to the east if Butte was a producer of copper wire then, but 1882 would have been before Butte's copper bonanza. Perhaps, higher costs in bigger cities were more a factor of supply and demand; limited wire supplies and high customer demand for lines.