A phone in every home, Bell urged
I pulled a few National Geographic magazines from 1950 off the shelf and looked through them this evening.
It was interesting to see the ads that Bell Telephone System was running. I noticed two frequent themes: 1) We're a big company, so you can count on good service, and 2) If you don't have a telephone, you need to get one.
Here are the texts of two persuasive ads of the second sort:
Big Value At Low Cost
The telephone is a big bargain in security, convenience and good times for every member of the family. Just in the steps it saves, it more than pays for itself. Its value in emergencies is often beyond price. Day and night, every day, the telephone is at your service. And the cost is only pennies per call.
Advertisement by the Bell Telephone System, in The National Geographic Magazine, January 1950.
Service That Never Sleeps . . . Whatever the need or the hour, the telephone is on the job -- ready to take you where you want to go, quickly and dependably. Telephone service is one of the few services available twenty-four hours a day -- weekdays, Sundays and holidays. Yet the cost is small -- within reach of all . . . Bell Telephone Service
Advertisement by the Bell Telephone System, in The National Geographic Magazine, February 1950.
In 1950 -- the year of these ads -- 62% of American households had telephone service (source). Most of those households were served by party lines. Many of the rural party lines were owned by small locally-owned telephone companies that had no affiliation with Bell at all.
The Bell ads show sleek black desk telephones with rotary dials, but the telephones I remember from the 1950s had crank handles. We didn't have telephones with dials in rural Rock County, Nebraska, until the mid-1960s.
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Prairie Bluestem: Rural Party Line Remembered