Webster’s first “telephone”

You never know what fascinating nugget of Webster history you’ll discover when you visit the Webster Museum. 

For example, just inside the front door hangs one of Webster’s very first “telephones,” which was used from 1887 to 1901. It hung in what was most recently the Music Store on West Main St. in the village, when the old post office was located there. A second one was installed in the railroad station on North Ave. 

The two instruments were connected by two wires strung across poles and roofs of houses along North Ave. They operated in much the same way as the old tin-can telephones we used to use when we were kids. Remember them? Stretch a string between two tin cans and you could talk back and forth just by keeping the string taut.

When the postmaster wanted to know when to expect the mail trains, he would knock vigorously on the center of the disc. This would cause the wires to vibrate and ring the bell on the telephone at the other end. To communicate, you would talk and listen through the center of the disc.  

This particular telephone has been in the Webster Museum’s collection since the museum opened in 1976. It was donated by Peter and Jay Smith, whose father was the postmaster (although the bell is not original).

Learn more about this and other interesting bits of local history at the Webster Museum, 18 Lapham Park in the Village of Webster. It’s open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Visit the website at webstermuseum.org to learn more.    

Missy Rosenberry
Webster Community Blogger

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