West Wendover in Elko County, Nevada — The American Mountains (Southwest)
Transcontinental Telephone Line
A Brief History
The AT&T Corp. was formerly known as the American Telephone and Telegraph Corporation. The company that became AT&T began in 1875. Inventor Alexander Graham Bell had an arrangement with Gardiner Hubbard and Thomas Sanders to become partners and the financiers of his inventions. Bell was trying to invent a talking telegraph-telephone. He succeeded, earning patents in 1876 and 1877. In 1877, the three men formed the Bell Telephone Company.
In 1908, AT&T made the transcontinental telephone line their company’s top priority, even though the technology to operate one did not exist. Even with the use of loading coils, telephone communication
Coast to Coast Construction Begins
With the emergence of electronic amplifiers, the transcontinental telephone communication became truly possible. The amplifier was the first high-vacuum tube triode, adapted from independent inventor Lee de Forest’s audion or three-element vacuum tube. In 1912, AT&T began construction of the line, working east from Sacramento.
By 1913, AT&T had tested high-vacuum tubes on the long-distance network. In the fall of the same year, construction began on the line west from Denver, with upgrades to the east.
Nationally, phone wires were being strung to link the country as the telegraph and railroads had done in the 1860s. The span between Salt Lake City and Wendover was a problem. At times the working temperature was 130 degrees, and the glare made working in the daytime almost impossible. On June 17, 1914, the final pole was set and wires strung at Wendover to complete the first transcontinental phone line in the United States.
The first test of the transcontinental telephone line took place in July of 1914. The president of AT&T, Theodore Vail, spoke from one coast to another. Along the way, his voice was boosted in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Omaha, Nebraska; and Salt Lake City, Utah.
There was one problem: AT&T had completed the line six months before the Panama-Pacific Exposition was ready. So, the company waited until January 25, 1915, then opened the line commercially with a huge celebration and great fanfare. Four locations participated in the call. Cofounder of AT&T and telephone inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, leading a group of dignitaries, began the event by speaking from New York to his longtime assistant, Thomas A. Watson in San Francisco. Bell spoke the same words into the phone that he had first transmitted via telephone in 1877: “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.” Thomas Watson replied, “Sorry Mr. Bell, it will take me a week now.” That reply was certainly appropriate, for Mr. Bell in New York was talking to Mr. Watson in San Francisco, where he had awaited this historic call. A short time later, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson congratulated everyone from a phone at the White House in Washington, D.C. AT&T President Theodore Vail spoke from Jekyll Island, Georgia.
The transcontinental telephone line, stretching between New York
Mayor John Mitchel of New York and Mayor James Roth of San Francisco exchanged greetings. Mayor Mitchel said: “Hello, Mr. Mayor. As Mayor of New York, which stands at the gateway of the East, I greet you, as Mayor of San Francisco, which stands as the gateway of the West. It is a long way to San Francisco, but I think that by the completion of the transcontinental telephone line our respective cities are now doubly joined together, first by the Panama Canal which joins us together for the rapid passage of maritime commerce, and now by the telephone, which links us together by the power of the human voice.”
First Underground Cable
Twenty eight years later, Wendover made telephone history a second time, when the first transcontinental all-weather buried cable was joined at the border in 1942.
• Final Splice, June 17, 1914, Wendover
• Nevada in 1914. A surveying party measured the pole spans for the first transcontinental
• Terrain and nature conspired to make the transcontinental job extremely difficult. This 1914 photograph shows the prevalence of water and mud encountered by construction crews.
• A piece of history can be seen today by viewing the transcontinental telephone monument; by going east on Wendover Boulevard, approximately 1 mile, to the main entrance of the Montego Bay Hotel & Casino, the monument is located on the north side of Wendover Boulevard, just south of Montego Bay’s building.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Communications. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #28 Woodrow Wilson series list. A significant historical date for this entry is June 17, 1914.
Location. 40° 44.446′ N, 114° 4.389′ W. Marker is in West Wendover, Nevada, in Elko County. Marker can be reached from Wendover Boulevard west of North Gene L. Jones Way, on the right when traveling west. The marker is located along the south side of the Victory Highway Monument Arch walkway, south of the West Wendover Police Department complex parking lot and just north of the giant "Wendover Will" landmark. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1552 Wendover Boulevard, West Wendover NV 89883, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Ancient Lake Bonneville (here, next to this marker); Historic Wendover Field (a few steps from this marker); Western Pacific Railroad (a few steps from this marker); Lincoln Highway (within shouting distance of this marker); The Victory Highway (within shouting distance of this marker); The Hastings Cutoff (within shouting distance of this marker); Wendover Will Reclaims Skyline Once Again (within shouting distance of this marker); 509th Composite Group – First Atomic Bombardment (approx. 0.9 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in West Wendover.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. First Transcontinental Telephone Line & Call
Also see . . . First Transcontinental Telephone Call (Wikipedia). A telephone call, which for marketing purposes is claimed to be the first transcontinental telephone call, occurred on Jan. 25, 1915, a day timed to coincide with the Panama–Pacific International Exposition celebrations. However, the transcontinental telephone line was first completed on June 17, 1914, and successfully first voice tested in July 1914. A 1998 U.S. postage stamp commemorates the completion of the line in 1914. (Submitted on March 26, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.)
Credits. This page was last revised on June 20, 2023. It was originally submitted on March 25, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 809 times since then and 294 times this year. Last updated on June 20, 2023, by Carl Gordon Moore Jr. of North East, Maryland. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on March 25, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. • J. Makali Bruton was the editor who published this page.