HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – One of the first telephone books in the United States, published in Connecticut in 1878, is expected to fetch between $30,000 and $40,000 at an auction Tuesday.

New Haven’s early phone book, published by the Connecticut District Telephone Co., is the earliest to come on the auction market, said Tom Lecky, head of books and manuscripts at Christie’s, the New York auction house that is selling the small piece of history.

The November 1878 directory is valuable because it is rare, the result of how customers treated it no differently than telephone users handle directories now.

“Once it was updated, they threw it away,” Lecky said.

The earliest phone book was no thicker than a junk mail flyer, but it offered more than telephone numbers. It advised callers to speak slowly and distinctly, greet the person on the other line with “Hulloa!” and end the conversation with “That is All.”

The phone book also urged callers to keep conversations to three minutes and immediately report anyone using profane language.

The early directory, printed on a sheet of cardboard, listed 50 subscribers, which soon grew to nearly 400. And it offers a portrait of 19th-century New Haven where horses pulled wooden carriages, women wore corsets, men walked to the “tonsorial,” or barber shop, and grocers, fish mongers and blacksmiths sold their wares from storefronts.

Inventor Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated his new telephone in New Haven in 1877. A local telegraph operator, George Coy, seized on Bell’s idea to connect multiple callers to a central hub by fashioning a switchboard with carriage bolts, teapot lids and wire.

He opened a Bell franchise in January 1878 with $600 he borrowed.

New Haven became the site of the world’s first commercial telephone exchange. The Rev. John Todd, pastor at New Haven’s Church of the Redeemer, was the first to sign up for the $18-a-year telephone service. Lawyers, doctors and merchants followed.

Their names, and those of the telephone company’s investors and legal advisers, are printed in the white booklet now on sale at Christie’s.

Its link to the first commercial switchboard makes it a “very special item,” Lecky said.

On the Net: Christie’s, http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot-details.aspx?fromsearchresul ts&intObjectID5084352



Information from: The Hartford Courant, http://www.courant.com

AP-ES-06-15-08 1704EDT


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.