Early Telephone Service – 1908 Phone Book

1908 Trenton Phone Directory

Can you imagine what it would be like in the late 1890s to have local telephone service become available in your town?

Now you could call around town to chat with friends or for shopping, and in emergencies you could summon a doctor or report a fire. And soon thereafter you could call to farms in outlying areas, or even reach all the way to Trenton.

Telephone service also provided us a great aid in researching history in the form of phone books, with names and addresses and businesses that were active at the time. Other information here comes from the Hopewell Herald and the Trenton Evening Times.

Thanks to the kindness of Ric Weidel, we now have been able to scan a 1908 Trenton District telephone directory, with listings of Hopewell Valley villages, including Hopewell, Pennington, Titusville, and more from the surrounding area.

By 1908 the Bell directory promised 6500 local Trenton connections, and 173,000 Near-by long distance connections.

In 1908, an extension line was only 50 cents a month. Toll rates from Hopewell were 10 cents to Princeton, 15 to Trenton, and 25 to Bristol. Pennington was less, at 10, 10, and 20 cents, and Titusville was even less, at 15, 10, and 15 cents. (These initial minimum amounts are for three minutes for rates of 20 cents or more, five minutes for 15 cents or less.)

Long distance rates from Trenton included 35 cents to New Brunswick, 40 cents to New York and Bethlehem, 75 cents to Baltimore, 90 cents to Harrisburg, $1 to Washington, D. C., $1.50 to Boston, $2.50 to Pittsburg, and $5 to Chicago.

== View the 1908 Hopewell Area Bell Telephone Directory (PDF) ==

1908 Phone Directory – Local Connections

The message was clear:

“Use the Bell to All Points”
“Don’t Write, Telephone.”
“Cheaper to Talk than Travel.”

Telephone Service

Phone number for Oyster saloon [HH 12/13/1899]

Telegraph service through Western Union had come to Pennington and Hopewell by 1875, with lines running along the railroad tracks.

Telephones then were introduced in Pennington in 1897, and installed in a few local business places and residences. [See earlier post on Pennington Profile book.]

In Hopewell, the townspeople organized the Hopewell Telephone and Construction Company in early 1899, and began service in May.

The central office was located in Puglia’s barber shop, located in Cook’s Block at what is now 2 East Broad at the corner of Greenwood (later replaced by the the National Bank / Dana Building).

By December, Jacob Hann’s Oyster saloon was running ads in the Hopewell Herald with the phone number (“No. 23”) and promising that “Telephone orders will receive prompt attention.”

In 1900, the Hopewell Company began extending its service, first to Harlingen and Glen Moore. At the time a local call was 5 cents.

In 1901, service was extended to Woodsville (using 85 telephone poles) and Mount Rose (30 pole extending on from St. Michael’s Orphan Asylum), and then from Woodsville to Harbourton (78 poles).

The company ran newspaper ads soliciting bids for providing poles and digging the holes, specifying 25-foot chestnut poles, placed 175 feet apart.

Then in 1904, the Hopewell Telephone and Construction Co. was acquired by the Delaware and Atlantic Telegraph & Telephone Co., part of the Bell System. By then, Hopewell had 60 subscribers, and connections to Pennington and Skillman. The rates were to stay the same, and the existing telephone equipment was to be replaced with new, modern, standard Bell instruments. This would then allow Trenton to interconnect with the Hopewell area, and beyond to Skillman, Hillsboro, and Montgomery.

One article presciently concluded:

“Eventually it is expected that the whole State will be covered with telephone lines.”

Telephone Listings

1908 Phone Directory – Titusville Listings

The scanned extract of the 1908 Phone Book covers the Hopewell Valley and beyond, but omits the full Trenton city listings (so including 33 of the 84 pages). There also is a separate scan from the 1910 Phone Book with just the Hopewell listings.

With the help of Carol Errickson, we also have created an index for the Hopewell listings, combining the information for 1908 through 1910, using separate notes for 1909. The index has phone numbers, names, occupations, addresses, and towns (as listed or presumed), with 101 listings for 1908 and 125 for 1910, with a total of 157 combined over the three years.

One third of the listings are clearly in what is now Hopewell Boro. More than half the identified listings are for businesses, with a large number of residential listings. And of the identified businesses, half are farms.

In comparison, the 1932 (Lindbergh) Hopewell Phone Directory was compiled by the New Jersey State Police, who tracked toll calls made from the Hopewell area around the date of the kidnapping (see earlier post). This has 528 entries, some 314 in Hopewell Borough, and 214 in the surrounding area, including Blawenburg, Glen Moore, Linvale, Marshall’s Corner, Mt. Rose, Rocktown, Skillman, Stoutsburg, Wertsville, and Woodsville. The list includes 69 local businesses and independents and 23 farmers.

1910s Telephone Instructions

The phone books also kindly provided clear instructions for new subscribers on how to use the instrument:

1908 Phone Directory – Saving


1. Lift the telephone from the hook. When the operator asks, “number, please?” give the number of the line desired.
2 . Speak close to the mouth-piece in a firm tone of voice.


3 . Hang up the telephone.
4. To attract the operator’s attention, move the telephone hook up and down two or three times; then listen .
5. Hold the telephone lo the ear until a reply is received from the number called for.
6. Do not replace the telephone on the hook until the conversation is finished. To do so is to signal the operator for disconnection.

All calls went through the operator:

8. Operators are required to be courteous in their dealings with all subscribers, but are forbidden to hold conversation with them beyond that necessary in receiving calls and making connections.

The phone companies also offered Messenger service to arrange an appointment for a call in cases when there was no direct connection available:

1908 Phone Directory – Savings


11. To arrange for the sending of a Messenger for the purpose of summoning a person to the telephone, ask the operator for the “Information Clerk.”
12. Give to the Information Clerk the name and address of the person to be sent for and the time at which it is desired lo talk.
13. Messenger service is arranged only for the purpose of summoning a person to a telephone. Charge for Messenger service to cover actual disbursement is made in addition to the regularly established tariff, and is made against the station originating the call.

These phone directories are wonderfully useful – but we only have a handful of them in local collections. Please contact us if you have, or know of, more such directories that we can share – or other Hopewell area history materials in general.

More on Hopewell Phone Directories

Phone service in Hopewell started in 1899 with the Hopewell Telephone and Construction Company, which was acquired in 1904 by the Delaware and Atlantic Telephone Co., part of the Bell System. We have early phone directories from c1910. We also have the 1932 (Lindbergh) Hopewell Phone Directory that was compiled by the New Jersey State Police, who tracked toll calls made from the Hopewell area around the date of the kidnapping.

c1910 Phone Directories

1932 (Lindbergh) Phone Directory

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