Southern New England Telephone (SNET) Collection
Scope and Contents
This collection is composed of memorabilia and realia from the collections of people who were employed by the company. The collection includes antique telephones and telephone equipment, include a climbing belt and lanyard of a lineman, an employee service pin and memorabilia of the Telephone Pioneers, a volunteer organization and service club made up of U.S. and Canadian telecommunications industry employees and retirees, a telephone operator's dial pencil, a commemorative telephone directory, the cellphone used to make the first cellphone call in Connecticut, and a dress and a shirt made of pages from the SNET Yellow Pages. Also includes a printing plate of the first telephone directory created in February 1878, of subscribers to the New Haven District Telephone Company, the predecessor of SNET.
- Creation: undated, 1920s-1980s
The collection is open and available for research.
Restrictions on Use and Copyright Information
Permission to publish from this collection must be obtained in writing from both the University of Connecticut Libraries and the owner(s) of the copyright.
History of the company
On January 28, 1878, George Coy and Morris Tyler opened the New Haven District Telephone Company, which is now known as the world's first commercial exchange. It had 21 customers in New Haven, Connecticut. On February 21 the new company published the world's first classified telephone directory. The directory listed 50 customers.
The company reorganized several times over the next few years, seeking to raise money with larger capitalization to expand its territory and broaden franchise rights with the Bell Company in Boston. During this time, the company took over the pioneering exchanges in Hartford, Meriden and Bridgeport and began to build and promote toll lines. It is also of note that during this period the first woman operator in Connecticut, Marjorie Gray, was hired in Bridgeport. In 1880, the company was reorganized as the Connecticut Telephone Company with Marshall Jewell as its president.
Within the next two years, the company was running 24 exchanges connected by toll lines and had over 3500 customers. A subsidiary company, the Inter State Telephone Company, had begun construction of a line between Boston and New York. And in 1882, the company was reorganized, yet again, as the Southern New England Telephone Company.
SNET sold off its Massachusetts holdings in the 1880s for much needed capitol and made the decision to limit its operations to Connecticut.
The remainder of the 1880s was a period of very little growth and expensive equipment upgrades resulting in a period of severely limited company earnings. In 1899, the Connecticut Legislature recognized the monopolistic nature of the telephone business and passed laws creating barriers to the entrance of new companies. In 1911, this law was replaced by a Public Utilities Commission, which had the power to regulate rates and services for SNET and other utilities. With this help the company grew rapidly throughout the first years of the twentieth century.
During World War I, SNET suffered shortages of material and employees as resources were diverted to the war effort. In 1918, the federal government assumed control of all telephone and telegraph companies. Before the companies were returned a year later, the government had instituted the first nationwide rate increase in an effort to cover costs of operation. SNET was left with a large backlog of service requests at the war's end.
Business picked up again in the 1920s as the conversion to dial service, which eliminated the need to go through an operator, was begun. But expansion was again halted when the stock market crashed in 1929 and the Great Depression ensued. The 1930s saw the first net loss of telephones since 1894.
World War II brought many of the same problems as the first World War. Over 740 SNET employees entered the military. During the war, only 4 party residence service was available, leaving the company with a backlog of 60,000 customers waiting for private service. In addition, inflation and high income taxes left the company's financial stability in question at the war's end. In 1947, SNET applied for, and was granted, its first rate increase in 20 years.
During the post-war years the economy, and the telephone business, grew rapidly. 500,000 phones were in service in 1945 and by 1956 the one million mark was surpassed. The conversion to the dial system was completed in 1953 and in 1956 an improved dial system called “crossbar” was implemented. By 1970 there were two million telephones in service. At this time the company underwent a concerted effort to centralize service for increased efficiency and simplified long-distance services.
In 1974, SNET's corporate parent, AT&T, was sued by the federal government to break up the Bell System monopoly on the telephone industry. In a 1982 settlement AT&T was required to spin off its local telephone companies to shareholders. The local telephone companies were prohibited from engaging in any other business except local exchange service until January 1984. Because SNET was only 22% owned by AT&T at the time of the agreement, the company was not required to comply with this ruling. In response, on 1 January 1983, SNET established the Sonecor Systems Division in order to take advantage of their special status. This subsidiary would distribute equipment made by a variety of different manufacturers.
In 1986, SNET reorganized its corporate structure once again to reflect its new diversified nature. The newly formed holding company would be able to better manage the new divisions and would now be called the Southern New England Telecommunications Corporation. In 1988, SNET formed a partnership with NYNEX to offer cellular service and in 1989 sold their share of Lightnet for $365 million dollars to Williams Communications. By the end of the decade, SNET had more then doubled its 1980 income level.
In 1991, amidst economic recession, SNET received its first rate increase in 10 years. During this year the company also established a new subsidiary, SNET Paging, Inc. which would offer paging service to Connecticut, Rhode Island and Boston.
The next seven years were a period of new product and service introductions for the company, including SNET 800 CustomLink (800 numbers for residence customers) and Smartlink, which included services such as Caller ID. In 1993, SNET announced plans to invest 4.5 billion dollars in I-SNET, a statewide, interactive information super highway, and launched SNET America, which would offer national and international long distance calling. The introduction of SNET Internet came in 1995 and in 1996, SNET led the industry with the introduction of one-second billing. In 1997, J.D. Power and Associates rated SNET as the number one rated long-distance company in America. And in that same year SNET Americast, a cable television service, was launched. In addition, the acquisition of Woodbury Telephone Company, the only other independent telephone company in Connecticut, was completed.
On 5 January 1998, a transaction was announced that would merge the Southern New England Telecommunications Corporation and SBC Communications Inc., of San Antonio, Texas. On 26 October, after approval from stockholders, the FCC and CDPUC, the merger was officially completed. Although operating headquarters remained in Connecticut and the SNET name was retained, the company had officially come to the end of its days as an independent telecommunications service provider.
8 Linear Feet (Five boxes and one large wrapped antique telephone.)
Language of Materials
Memorabilia and artifacts related to the Southern New England Telephone Company of Connecticut, including antique telephones, a climbing belt and lanyard used by a crewman, the cellphone used to make the first cellphone call in Connecticut, an operator's dial pencil, an employee service pin and Telephone Pioneers memorabilia, and "clothing" made from pages from the SNET Yellow Pages. Also includes a printing plate of the first telephone directory created in February 1878, of subscribers to the New Haven District Telephone Company, the predecessor of SNET.
Provenance and Acquisition
This is an artificial collection that is composed of donations from various people:
Most of the materials in boxes 1 and 2 were donated in December 2010 by Mr. Joseph Kennedy of Uncasville, Connecticut, who was an employee of the Southern New England Telephone Company from 1948 to 1978, first as a lineman and pole hole digger and later with the production of the company's Yellow Pages.
One item in box 2, not donated by Mr. Kennedy, is a printing plate of the first telephone directory created in February 1878, of subscribers to the New Haven District Telephone Company, the predecessor of SNET. This item was purchased in December 2011 from an auction gallery.
Also in box 2, the telephone operator's dial pencil, was donated by Mrs. Mary Cullen Yuhas Anger of East Lyme, Connecticut, in February 2012. Mrs. Anger was an operator for SNET from 1944 to 1956; in 1952 she received the "Voice with a Smile" award for superior public service.
The materials in Boxes 3 to 5 were donated in 2005 by Mr. Jonathan McGuire of East Haven, Connecticut, in memory of his father Herbert F. McGuire, who worked for SNET from the early 1950s to the 1990s and was a a cable-splicing supervisor at the time of his retirement, as well as a collector of antique telephone equipment.
The item in Box 6 was donated in September 2011 by Mr. Enrico Bernardi of Vail, Arizona, who served as Manager of Operations for the cellular system of SNET.
- Southern New England Telephone (SNET) Collection
- Archives & Special Collections staff
- 2011 November
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