"Ahoy! Ahoy! Mr. Watson, are you there? Do you hear me?" With these words, Alexander Graham Bell, in New York City, greeted his assistant Thomas Watson, who was over 3,400 miles away in San Francisco. The date was January 25, 1915 and the occasion was the 1915 World's Fair and Panama Pacific International Exposition - a celebration of technology and progress. Bell and Watson were joined on the line by Theodore Vail, president of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (now AT&T) in Georgia and United States President Woodrow Wilson in the White House.
In San Francisco, Thomas Watson replies, "Yes, Mr. Bell, I hear you perfectly." Photo courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center.
An AT&T advertisement from February 1915 proclaims transcontinental telephone service 'a New Art'.
Photo courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center.
Of course, all the pomp and circumstance was really possible because of the hard work of workers across the continent. As Bell said, "All honor to the men who have rendered this great achievement possible. They have brought all the people of the United States within sound of one another's voices, and united them into one great brotherhood."
The last telephone pole goes up on the first transcontinental telephone network, June 17, 1914.
Setting up telephone poles across Humboldt Lake, March 19, 1914.
After greeting each other on that first transcontinental call, Bell and Watson remarked on the progress made with the new communications technology. "You remember, Mr. Watson, that evening, thirty-eight years ago, when we conversed through the telephone on a real line for the first time?" asked Bell. Watson responded, "Yes, indeed, that line was two miles long, running from Boston to Cambridge. You were overjoyed at the success of the experiment." Imagine what they would think today!