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Toronto's humble (and now almost obsolete) telephone directory turned 134 years old this spring. The company headquarters and 24-hour exchange was located at 10 King Street East, a few buildings west of Potter's opticians.
By April 1879 the company boasted 40 miles of wire and was offering handsets to "any part of the city or suburbs." Not bad when you consider Alexander Graham Bell's invention had only been patented three years earlier. Bell also held the Canadian patent for the telephone, which he partially transferred to his father, Alexander Melville Bell. Making a simple call outside the local party line was ludicrously complicated by today's standards. A red light on the side of the device glowed when the shared line was already in use and presumably hinted at a good time to eavesdrop.
Making a connection within the same line was easier: callers had to simply lift the receiver and signal the person with which they wished to speak. According to Toronto Sun historian Mike Filey, the first commercial enterprise to purchase a telephone hook-up was the Queen's Hotel on Front Street, a predecessor to the Royal York. The company's first private line was installed at Oliver Mowat's office in the old parliament buildings on Front Street. The 1879 directory lists 56 private residences and businesses that were available by phone, including the Eye and Ear Infirmary, the Empress Hotel, the Globe newspaper, Union Pacific railway, and the Toronto Evening Telegram. Notable among the early adopters was John Ross Robertson, the newspaper editor, historian, and later MP mentioned earlier, who listed a connection at his Evening Telegram office at King and Bay streets and home at 72 Bay Street.

Ambrose Small, the theatre tycoon at the centre of Toronto's most sensational unsolved mystery, may also have been available by phone: the Grand Opera House he worked at as a boy ripping tickets and serving drinks is also listed as one of the available businesses in the 1879 directory. As printers of the book, Bingham & Taylor, an outfit located on Leader Lane, seem to have been given free ad space.
When this year's local Yellow Pages lands on your doorstep remember its lengthy pedigree before you put it in the junk drawer and forget about it. The brothers who started Toronto's first telephone company were actually Rosebrugh, without the second 'o' in the article.
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Les images presentees sur ce site appartiennent a leurs auteurs respectifs, et peuvent etre enlevees sur simple demande de leur part.
The first ever book printed in Toronto to contain a list of people reachable by phone was printed on April 1 1879 on behalf of the Telephone Despatch Company Limited - the city's first phone company.
The book, a small pamphlet really, was published before dialing, combined ear and mouth pieces, and the widespread adoption of residential phone lines. The pair developed a technique for photographing the fundus of the eye in 1864 and had the city's first private phone line between their homes.
According to historian and newspaper editor John Ross Robertson, the building was previously home to Thomas Haworth and Co., a wholesale hardware merchants.

The senior Bell leased the patent with his business partner Thomas Henderson to companies like the Toronto Telephone Despatch Company and the District Telegraph Company in Hamilton.
Since there was no direct dialing, users had to call the central office, tell the operator which person they wanted to reach, and wait for the wires to be connected. The top and bottom of all but one page carries their name and promotes samples, estimates, "unique and desirable" typefaces, and high quality of their work. Rosebrugh was a very kind-hearted MD (he got the Toronto Free Dispensary running again to provide healthcare for those who couldn't afford it) and he was also quite technologically savvy.
Can you tell me where you found that second image, the one with the box telephone and the two men talking on the telephone? He began his political career as a city alderman and was the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario when he died in 1903. Mike Filey reports Hugh Neilson took over as manager at this point and Bell remained at 10 King East for a few years longer.
At just four pages long, the "list of subscribers" is really a list of early adopters of a radical new technology.

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