Skip to main content

High-wire Act

June 2024
1min read

Conley Kidd, of
Fruitland Park,
Florida, has put in
thirty-eight years
with United Telephone of
Florida. Telephones are clearly
in his blood, and he casts a
professional eye on the
bravura photograph he sent
us. “Follow the pole to the
top,” Kidd writes, “and you
will see three young fellows
posing with nonchalance as if
they climbed like this every day
—which they probably did.

”On the left is my father,
Henry H. Kidd, who in 1910,
when this picture was made,
was a lineman for the Trap
Hill Telephone Company,
in West Virginia. The company
office and switchboard were
located on the second floor,
where you can see the
young lady operator framed
in the bay window. In the
years from 1890 to 1920
it wasn’t unusual for people
living in rural areas to
purchase a magneto telephone
from Sears or Montgomery
Ward. They would string
one conductor of wire from
farm to farm and thus
establish their own party line.
Power was provided by a pair
of dry-cell batteries owned by
the customer. Very often the
communication medium
would be a single strand of
barbed wire.

“My father brought all
these magneto phones together
in the Oak Hill, West Virginia,
area. They were extended to
a central office and then to
Bell Telephone Central offices,
thus allowing their owners
to communicate with the rest
of the world.”

We continue to ask our readers to send unusual and unpublished old photographs
to Carla Davidson at American Heritage, Forbes Building, 60 Fifth Avenue, New York,
NY 10011. Please send a copy of any irreplaceable materials, include return postage, and
do not mail glass negatives. We will pay one hundred dollars for each one that is run.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.