The New York Times, October 9, 1890, page 3:
MUSIC OVER THE WIRES
PRESENT AND COMING WONDERS OF ELECTRICITY.
NOTABLE THINGS HAVE BEEN DONE BY TELEPHONE EXPERTS, BUT STILL GREATER TRIUMPHS ARE AT HAND.
Picture to yourself a great hospital, where hundreds of patients, forced to spend weary weeks on their backs, are enabled, by touching an electric button, to listen to a comforting sermon, a bright lecture, or a popular opera. Imagine such a condition of things that, at the time forth, great inauguration ball, simultaneous balls should be held in Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Buffalo, Baltimore, and Chicago, each ballroom being filled with the enticing strains of a Strauss orchestra stationed at a telephone station in New-York. Think of Chauncey M. Depew making an after-dinner speech or delivering a political oration to the guests at banquets or to immense party gatherings in all the important cities east of the Mississippi.
Five years ago such things would have been put down as fancies, pure and simple; but now people are preparing themselves for wonders. Work is being done by thousands of experts who are devoting their energies to mastering the mysterious something called electricity. Most people will be interested to know that some great triumphs are at hand, and that in all likelihood a year from the coming Winter will see all the things above mentioned accomplished facts.
The science of the telephone is making giant strides these days. It takes a hard and faithful student to keep abreast of the progress that is being made in electrical development generally. Possibilities are rapidly developing into actualities, which are changing business methods, making neighbors of cities hundreds of miles apart, and realizing the dreams of even Edward Bellamy.
The most interesting of recent electrical incidents is the development, purely as a business project, of the facilities for the transmission of any kind of vocal or instrumental music or entertainment to any number of places at great or small distances. Yesterday Mr. H. J. McCartney, special agent for the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, invited a TIMES reporter to visit the establishment of the company, at 18 Cortlandt Street, that an idea might had of the present status of long-distance telephony and what it is fast developing into. In the course of the visit the latest experiments were tried, and a highly instructive talk was had with General Superintendent A. S. Hibbard.
In the first place, the telephones were tested. Boston, 300 miles away, was rung up, and then ensued a pleasant conversation. The operator at the other end was a young woman, who at once struck up a spirited discussion of the latest development in Theosophic Buddhism. Her voice was not raised so much as in ordinary talking, and its expressiveness was perfect. Washington, 235 miles away was also tried. Every word was heard distinctly. The operator there said he could hear about as well as usual with the President away, but that the absence of Congress made a great difference with the long-distance telephone business.
The efficiency of the metallic circuit telephone is fairly well understood. The circuit now comprises 42,000 miles of copper wire, and Boston, Providence, Worcester, Springfield, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Elmira, Wilkes-barre, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, and many other big cities are reached with ease and expedition. Business houses are rapidly learning to use the long-distance wires to the greatest advantage. The telephone no longer holds the position of messenger--it is now the confidential agent. Many big firms use it systematically. Several, for instance, engage wires for the first twenty minutes of each of ten hours in a day. The head of a firm can from a distance direct his city affairs and dictate letters exactly as if he were in his own office. Great numbers of wholesale houses are saved the expense of keeping goods in this city. All arrangements for sales and shipments can be made directly with the factory. Recently, a well-known corporation in Boston, having several members in this city, held a meeting "on the wire," as it were. The roll was called, resolutions were passed, and all business was transacted, the New-York members taking an active part, but being able to do it all in a fraction of an hour and saving the time, expense, and trouble of a journey to Boston.
These are but a few examples. Every day the use of the wires is increasing, and every day the line is being pushed nearer to Chicago. It will reach there in the course of a year, and the entrance of San Francisco is only a matter of time and capital.
Superintendent Hibbard is a young man of ability and earnestness. He is personally directing the investigations that are being carried on in the interest of further improvement.
"All the early telephoning was done with the single-wire system, known as the grounded system, because the earth served as the return wire," said he. "This system is subject to great losses in clearness and carrying power, technically known as leakage, but nothing better was devised until 200,000 telephones had come into use and the problem of improvement became momentous. The best available talent was secured and the result of its labors is shown to-day in a perfect system of long-distance telephony. The most essential requirements were found to be, a more perfect conductor, an increased volume of telephonic current, and an absolute relief from extraneous causes of disturbance.
"A superior conductor for aerial lines was found in a hard-drawn copper wire at great tensile strength and high conductivity. In the severest tests the wire has proved to be the very best ever produced for electrical purposes. Bell's receiver did not need improvement, and, as the result of the labors of Blake, Edison, Berliner, Gilliland, Hughes, Hunnings, and others, the long-distance transmitter was perfected. Then, in a series of experiments covering two years, the American Bell Telephone Company demonstrated that, by the use of two wires to metallic circuit, protected from ground connections, all inductive and disturbing influences were eliminated and a perfect telephone circuit was established. In 1884, at great expense, a test line was built and equipped, extending from Boston to New-York, and the possibility of a perfect long-distance service was established. In the following year the American Telephone and Telegraph Company was organized, and built a twenty-five-line system into Philadelphia, then to Boston, Albany, Buffalo, the coal fields of Pennsylvania, Baltimore, and Washington, and a great web is constantly gathering up intermediate points.
"In building these lines twice as many poles to the wire were used as had been called for in the old system. Permanent routes were bought up in order to get the most direct lines possible. In the blizzard of 1888 these long-distance wires were the only ones into New-York, and were the sole communication with New-England. The company has an instantaneous photograph of the bulletin board of the Boston Globe surrounded by an eager crowd. It reads: 'The Blizzard--News Only by Long-Distance Telephone!--New-York all Snowed Up--Communication with the World Cut off Altogether--Railroads Blocked in all Parts of the Country.' It was an interesting witness of the efficiency of the system.
"Now the laying out of plants with such ease makes possible the transmission of music. It has been only within a year that this has been seriously contemplated as a practical feature of telephony. Lillian Russell played an important part in giving this movement a distinct impetus. At the time of the electrical exhibition of the Lenox Lyceum last April receivers were put up in the Casino, and Lillian Russell's popular songs were transmitted in the Lyceum. There a loud-speaking transmitter (an important device which magnifies the sound) was set up and the songs rang out in the room through a big tin funnel. People were so taken with the experiment that a possible commercial future for this kind of thing was seen, and since then constant experiments have been carried on to perfect it. These experiments are becoming distinctly successful. A device is now being perfected which will increase several times the loudness of the sounds transmitted to it.
"In the month following the exhibition many Congressmen and politicians assembled in Washington and listened to the Casino's opera. In case the large funnel or loud speaker is not used a series of transmitters are attached to the wires, and by putting a pair of these to the ears the sounds are heard to still better advantage. Sept. 4, when the annual convention of the National Bankers' Association, 800 strong, was in session at the Grand Union Hotel at Saratoga, receivers were placed in the Madison Square Garden and the music at Strauss's orchestra was sent to Saratoga, and with eighty pairs of transmitters the bankers enjoyed the recital and heartily joined in the applause which rang over the wires from appreciative New-Yorkers in the Garden. Then a string quintet was stationed before a huge funnel leading to a telephone, in one of the offices in Cortlandt Street, and the music was distinctly heard all over the room at the Saratoga Hotel by means of a loud speaker. At the same time a loop was connected with my house in Morristown, N. J., thirty miles from here, and a large party danced there during the evening to music played in New-York.
"At the recent banquet at the Electrical Club in this city a loud-speaking transmitter was placed in the electrolier over the boards, and an orchestra playing into the funnel at the Cortlandt Street office flooded the room with delightful, softened music. The effect is at first very curious. The sounds fill the room and seem to come from nowhere. This same orchestra could just as readily have been furnishing music at the same time as the 600 stations in this city and in all the other cities mentioned before.
"The company is going right ahead perfecting the details of transmission, and the results are coming nearer and nearer perfection. With a little more improvement the transmission will be perfect. Then the lines used in the daytime for business affairs will at night carry music, lectures, and various oral entertainments to all the cities of the East."
Mr. Hibbard says that one of the chief aims he has in view in the perfection of this discovery is the furnishing, after a while, of all the great asylums, prisons, hospitals, and even tenements with these telephones, by which the highest forms of musical and literary entertainment can be easily within the reach of thousands. Thus the discovery, or application of the discovery, presents the great philanthropic possibilities. While the expense for a time be heavy, perhaps, it will not be many years before the advantages will be within reach of all.
The reporter had a practical proof of the advanced stage of the experiments last night. A loud speaker was set up in Mr. McCartney's office and connected with receivers at the Madison Square Amphitheater. A half hour of the Seidl concert was thoroughly enjoyed by all present. The high notes were clearest, and some difficulty was experienced with the bass tones, but this is not usually the case, and the trouble was thought to be in the receivers at the theatre. The company had been obliged to move them to a greater distance from the orchestra than was the case at the Strauss recitals, and this made a difference. But had the music been collected in a funnel, as will always be done when the real tests are made, the concert would have been perfectly audible at any place on the line. Some time this week, the Seidl concert will be switched off to the Masonic Fair at Baltimore.
Ithaca and New-Haven are now connected, and Mr. Hibbard has in mind a novel test exhibit for this Winter. He will try to have the Cornell and Yale Glee Clubs give simultaneous concerts in Ithaca and New-Haven. The two concert halls will be connected by telephone and then the Yale Club will sing, and both the Ithaca and New-Haven audiences will hear the music simultaneously. Then the Cornell Club will sing in Ithaca and the New-Haven audiences will hear it as well as the one 400 miles away when the singing is taking place. Spice would be added to the entertainment if a joint debate between the Yale and Cornell navies could be arranged on the Yale-Cornell boating difficulties.
Mr. Hubbard, at his home in Morristown, received reports by telephone from New-London during the last Yale-Harvard race. For the benefit of his guests he rigged up a couple of tin shells, each with its eight oarsmen, and by changing the relative positions of the boats at each report he kept his friends in high excitement for twenty-three minutes. At the end of the race the cheers for Yale from the spectators on the banks of the Thames could be distinctly heard in Morristown.
The phonograph will play an important part in the scheme of transmission or music, &c. When the multiple resonator is perfected, it can be attached to a phonograph and connected with the wires, taking the place of orchestra or lecturer, and the death of great musicians will not by any means neccessiate a cessation of the enjoyment of their renderings of music.
The reporter was shown over the entire building occupied by the company in Cortlandt Street. The experimenting rooms are filled with experts, and every year the force is strengthened by the brightest graduates of the technical schools. To the uninitiated there is an atmosphere of mystery and wonderment throughout the building. Nearly everything seems to be able to be accomplished by touching a button or turning a switch.