Although the telephone was used mainly for personal communication, it was also sometimes employed for collecting and distributing information, such as election results.
Telephony, November 9, 1912, page 720:
The Telephone and Election Returns.
Within the memory of the youngest voter in the United States is the time when the results of a presidential election were not known until a late hour of the election day and, in some cases, until early the following day. In those days the men folks usually went downtown to the headquarters of their political parties and there, amid the dense smoke of many campaign cigars passed many long hours awaiting the returns. The news was slow in coming in and but few returns were received before midnight.
The women folks and children, although just as interested as the men in learning the name of the successful candidate, were, as a rule, obliged to retire for the night with their curiosity unsatisfied. Frequently they did not receive the news until the next morning, although sometimes the lady of the house awaited her husband's, more or less cheerful, return in the wee, small hours.
The slowness in gathering the returns was due in a great degree to lack of facilities in getting the counts to the various telegraph offices. With the introduction of the telephone, the election officials recognized a means for facilitating the gathering of the returns, especially in the large cities having many precincts. It rapidly became an indispensable adjunct in the collection of the election results, both in cities and rural districts.
The result of the extensive use of telephone facilities has been to eliminate many hours of impatient waiting by a great number of people in all parts of the country. But the speeding up in the gathering of returns was not the only thing accomplished. The telephone was put to work to disseminate the information which it was so instrumental in collecting. As early as 1896, some provision was made for giving out election news by companies in several cities.
Since then the methods and equipment for gathering and distributing election results to the public have been gradually improved. The use of the telegraph on composited toll circuits, as told on other pages, enable the Chicago Telephone Co. to obtain reports from every political center of the country and to distribute them to thousands of its interested subscribers. No longer have the men folks a valid excuse for going downtown alone on election night. They can now stay at home with their families and receive the bulletins from the telephone company which give them all the news, national, state and local.
Distributing National Election Returns by Telephone
How the Chicago Telephone Company Furnished News Bulletins of the Presidential Election to Its Subscribers in and Around Chicago--Service Given Two Hundred People at a Time--Description of the Method, and Arrangement of Equipment
By M. D. Atwater
Last Tuesday witnessed the close of the presidential campaign and on that day it was decided who would occupy the White House at Washington for the next four years. Young and old were interested in the election and anxious to obtain information regarding the result at the earliest moment. In the gathering and dissemination of the election figures, the telephone took a prominent part. The arrangements by the Chicago Telephone Co. to furnish the public the news, were probably the most extensive and efficient of any which have been used.
National returns were distributed by telephone on the evening of November 5 from the new headquarters building of the Chicago Telephone Co., in a most systematic and satisfactory manner.
The news was collected by telegraph over composited toll lines from all political centers of the country. It was then distributed by local telephone circuits to 27 Chicago city exchanges, by long distance telephone to 55 towns in northern Illinois, and by telegraph to five other distributing centers in the state.
On the twelfth floor of the newly completed building in Chicago, a large private office was reserved for the corps of bulletin editors. Several of the telephone company's ablest and most experienced officials undertook the task under the supervision of Commercial Superintendent W. R. Abbott. Just outside this room were located the instruments of the incoming telegraph circuits which brought the national returns, and the incoming telephone circuits from local and state headquarters. All the data received was summarized and digested into a series of ten-minute bulletins, which were written in triplicate and carried by messengers to readers, who dictated to groups of manifolding clerks. In this manner, 48 copies were quickly prepared for distributing the news to the public.
The long, open, adjoining room in the north wing of the building had been filled with over fifty desks arranged in two rows, as shown in the illustration, and every desk was equipped with a telephone on each side. At these instruments were seated the men who read the manifolded bulletins to groups of local or suburban exchanges, as listed on the cards suspended over the desks.
There were 14 city distributing telephones, reaching 27 city offices, and 20 suburban and toll circuits, reaching 55 towns in northern Illinois and forwarding Chicago bulletins direct as far as Danville, Kankakee and Rockford. Beyond this radius, the news was distributed by telegraph to Davenport, Peoria, Springfield, Murphysboro and Cairo, each of which centers had made provision for distribution by telephone.
Perhaps no other building in the world is so well prepared as the Telephone Building to take care of an emergency telephone installation on a large scale. Although so many telephone lines were desired in one room on short notice, the house wiring system was of such capacity, that not a single exposed wire was necessary. Five 600-pair lead covered cables are in stalled in the vertical cable shaft which passes, at each floor, through a large closet with double doors opening into the hall and exposing its entire interior. In these closets distributing frames are mounted, each of sufficient capacity for a rural exchange. One hundred pairs of cable conductors terminate on each of these racks and also five 40-pair cables from the floor conduits. These floor conduits have openings so arranged that any desk in the building is within six feet of a telephone circuit. In consequence of this liberal allowance of conductors, it was possible to make the installation of this elaborate bulletin system, without drawing in any additional wire.
By display newspaper advertising, the general public had been notified to call for "Election News", if information was desired regarding the election. On calls from public pay stations or nickel telephones, the regular charge was made. The "A" operator receiving such a request, would pass the number over an order wire to a special "B" operator. The latter's position was equipped with two special groups, one red, the other white, of cords hung from a board mounted temporarily over the top of the switchboard. Each of these two groups of cords was associated with a signal lamp of the same color. Sixty-eight such sets were made up in the shop, as shown by the illustration, requiring 4,500 six-foot steel cords in addition to 1,600 shelf cords rewired for the occasion.
At each local exchange the bulletin from headquarters was taken down and passed to a reader who gave it to the public through a specially equipped bulletin set connected directly to these cords. In some vacant corner of each operating room was placed a temporary bulletin reading set, also made up in the Chicago Telephone Company's shop, as were the special cords. Each of these desks carried a set of from two to eleven operator's transmitters connected by separate short tubes to a common mouthpiece made of tin.
It was found by experiment, that the tin mouthpiece improved the transmission of this compound instrument almost 50 per cent, over that of a fibre or rubber funnel. Each of the transmitters had its own induction coil and condenser mounted with it, as in the wiring of the standard Bell subscriber's circuit.
Standard repeating coils also were mounted on the set and wired to feed battery to the transmitters, but not to the line. The subscribers, therefore, while hearing election returns, were unable to interrupt. Moreover, the cut-off relays were held up by current over six- to twelve-volt taps from the office battery through the cords, so that no signaling by subscribers could interfere with the bulletin service. By using the low voltage taps for this purpose, the insertion of resistance coils was obviated. Each transmitter of the set was wired to two groups of twenty cords and gave excellent transmission. The reading set was also equipped with a set of self-restoring switches, which were operated by a common lever and threw the compound transmitter from the red to the white group of cords.
Two snap switches on the reading set controlled the signal lights before the special operator at the switchboard. In operating this system, the reader would switch on a lamp before the special "B" board operator, directing her to use one of the groups of cords, exclusively, for putting up subsequent connections, while he read to the other group.
Each bulletin, being comprehensive in its information, was about one manuscript page in length and required two minutes in the reading. At the end of a bulletin the reader would announce, "Please hang up your receivers, another bulletin will be read in ten minutes", and would signal the operator to take down all the cords of the group while he switched his transmitter to the alternate group, and repeated the bulletin.
The heart of this elaborate bulletin system was the special connecting board on which appeared all the election circuits. For this purpose, a spare section of the "A" board of the Main Exchange had been reserved. Here every bulletin distributing loop was terminated, and here battery was applied through cords to the local distributing telephones at the reading desks. As each distributing telephone was connected to two or three local exchanges, it was necessary to strap two or three jacks together and wire the cord circuits so that only one of them would furnish the battery to the reading transmitter, although battery was fed over all of them to hold up the trunk guard relays and prevent disconnects. The necessary trunk circuits had been appropriated for this exclusive purpose during the evening.
For toll service a different cord circuit lay-out was necessary, as the talking current was applied to the reading transmitter at the special connecting position in the standard manner. The battery was cut off from the toll side of the repeating coils, and the circuits were connected through straight cords at the toll board, leaving them free of all signaling equipment. Competent wire chiefs were on duty at this special position and bulletins giving all circuit features were posted for their guidance.
Thorough provision was made for testing and supervising all this bulletin service from headquarters and also from the field. Several spare desk sets were installed at one end of the distributing room with loops which terminated on answering jacks at the special connecting position. Circuits were established from this point to each of the 27 local exchanges where bulletins were being given. These circuits terminated in answering jacks with lamps at each end. The supervisor of service therefore could order up a local line to any desired exchange "A" board. He could then ask for and receive the same sort of bulletin service as was being given to the public. As these circuits had lamps at the connecting position the equipment men at the various exchanges were able to use them in reporting direct to headquarters any plant difficulties arose.
A complete system of inspectors of the toll bulletin service in the field was organized. Six men, traveling by carefully prepared railroad schedules, visited all the suburban cities during the evening, placed calls for bulletins, observed conditions, and reported by telephone over a special toll loop to traffic supervisors at headquarters. Thirteen large common battery exchanges, i. e., Oak Park, Joliet, Evanston, Elgin, Aurora, Hammond, Waukegan, Gary, La Grange, Chicago Heights, Wilmette, Maywood and Hyde Park, used the compound transmitters which alternate the groups of special cords, giving out returns by the methods used within the city.
Other suburban common battery offices equipped dead switchboard positions with cords without battery to prevent interruptions, and by throwing keys together, were prepared to read bulletins to a number of subscribers simultaneously. Even simpler methods prevailed in the rural places tributary to some of the distributing centers.
The design and installation of all this special apparatus fell to A. P. Hyatt, equipment superintendent. As the description indicates, about 90 per cent. of the preparation was shop work. Only three weeks' notice was given Mr. Hyatt to undertake this task, and as the engineering required several days, the actual labor of manufacture and installation had to be accomplished in ten days.
H. N. Foster, who was in charge of the service, issued complete instructions to his force, days ahead of time, so that each responsible employe was familiar with his duties.
H. F. Hill, general manager of the Chicago Telephone Co., for Illinois, was the high official who was responsible for the entire bulletin service of the state, and the organization, system and discipline which were so successfully developed were due to his efforts.
More than a hundred clerks and readers, including reliefs, were required to be on duty at 4 p. m. on election day, and were not dismissed until midnight. The large lunch room on the eighth floor of the toll building, which is used by the company for its Monday luncheons, was thrown open for the evening, and the bulletin force was served in relays, partly by young women from the office of the traffic department.
Among the interested visitors at the telephone bulletin department were Mr. Nakagama, of the Imperial Service of Japan, a guest of Wm. P. Sidley, vice-president and general counsel of the Western Electric Co., and also Messrs. Turner and Odell, of the telephone branch of the British Post Office.
The enormous load thrust upon the operating department by the bulletin service was not allowed to interfere with or impair the general service in the slightest. Although election night is a holiday occasion, the evening traffic was unusually heavy. However an ample force of experienced operators was kept on duty so that the regular business was handled with exceptional promptness and accuracy.