Western Union demonstrates Seattle's first telephone in 1878.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 11/05/1998
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 229
During 1878, the Western Union Telegraph Company demonstrates the first telephone in Seattle. The telephone line runs eight miles from Pioneer Square in Seattle to Milton (renamed West Seattle).

The demonstrator "told Seattle to go ahead and talk. And Seattle talked! Leading citizens gathered around; Colonel C. H. Larabee sang 'Suwanee River' here and every word of it was heard across the bay. The telephone was a success ..."(Sayre).

This was Seattle's first real telephone. A previous telephone was tried two months earlier, but it did not quite come up to par. Sayre writes:

"Seattle's first telephone ... was a strange affair. Down in Occidental Square ... two tin cups were connected by a silk thread forty feet long. Many of the words spoken back and forth could scarcely be heard, but everyone decided that the line had 'worked.' "

Sources: Thomas Prosch, "A Chronological History of Seattle from 1850 to 1897" (Typescript, dated 1900-1901, Special Collections, University of Washington Library), 251; J. W. Sayre, This City of Ours, (Seattle: Seattle School District No. 1, 1936), 114.

Related Topics:   Firsts | Science & Technology

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