www.phonebox.info

North America

United States of America Payphones
 
gallery
US-Missing911.jpg (45265 bytes) us-ny-blackout.jpg (132987 bytes) us-PG001258.jpg (81914 bytes) us-sandiego.jpg (124570 bytes)
Missing after 9-11 New York blackout '03 Bell South Sandiego
us-Phone_booth_stuffing_California_1959.jpg (47223 bytes) US-woodstock99-Payphone1.jpg (44574 bytes) us-phone_booth_and_legs.jpg (17072 bytes) US1.jpg (10465 bytes)
1959 Californian booth stuffing - those crazy kids!! Woodstock 1999 - those crazy kids!! Detroit
us-astoria-payphone.jpg (76172 bytes) US-amatrw01.jpg (19204 bytes) us-42ndandlex.jpg (51091 bytes) us-Mojave_Phone_Booth.jpg (37494 bytes)
Astoria, Queens old style booth (now all gone) 42nd and Lexington the famous Mojave desert booth - the world's most remote. You could call it and invariably someone would answer. Now gone, sadly.
us-hawaii2.jpg (127874 bytes) US-MILLIE.JPG (45547 bytes) US-MOBIL.JPG (62494 bytes) US-PIGGLY.JPG (81973 bytes)
Hawaii Millie's Pancake Haus Delavan Wisconsin (thanks to William Slater) Mobil Gas Station Delavan Wisconsin  Piggly Wiggly Grocery store Delavan Wisconsin
us-nebraska1_resize.jpg (53553 bytes) us-nebraska2_2.jpg (75324 bytes) us-Phone_Booth_pic2_resize_2.jpg (56633 bytes)
Nebraska Nebraska bad day...
us-phonebooth.jpg (11067 bytes) us-phonebooth2.jpg (38410 bytes) NY.jpg (27855 bytes) us-pee.jpg (37431 bytes)
meanwhile in new york... pee pee in the phonebox - from Karlo in Soho!
us-AlaskanIceArtPayphone-Jasonik.jpg (20512 bytes) US-dealerphone.jpg (86086 bytes) US-BURNINGMAN-playaphone.jpg (35743 bytes) US-JHi.jpg (23353 bytes)
Alaskan Ice Art Payphone - sent in by Jasonik dealerphone BURNINGMAN playaphone

gallery - American payphone types

TTC Housing Image

3 Slot click for more info Tatung click for more info QuorTech click for more info Protel click for more info

(a picture) (a pay phone) (a picture)
Millenium click for more info AT&T 2000 click for more info Intellicall click for more info Western Electric Fortress click for more info

lone payphone at the base of Worthington Glacier
Western Electric Charge-A-Call click for more info Northern Telecom Centurion click for more info Automatic Electric/GTE Fortress click for more info The lone payphone out there at the base of the  Worthington Glacier over near Thompson Pass in Alaska.

(a pay phone) (a pay phone) (a pay phone) (a pay phone)
Verizon COCOT hiding inside a mall. With thanks to the Payphone Project. Telus payphones Nortel Centurion Telus payphones GTE Fortress PhoneTel COCOT
formerly a TDS Telecom 

(2 payphones) PICT0004.JPG (70059 bytes) PICT0005.JPG (71804 bytes) PICT0006.JPG (69304 bytes)
GTE Millennium payphones New York 2004

PICT0008.JPG (72675 bytes) PICT0017.JPG (75644 bytes) PICT0023.JPG (74538 bytes) US-dbpnl2.jpg (33071 bytes)
New York 2004 New York 2004 New York 2004 Now give me money...
US-ny305.jpg (17159 bytes) us-payphone.jpg (27152 bytes)

(a pay phone) T16P6.jpg (97683 bytes)
They may not be foreign payphones but they look rather alien to us. These phones happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time - namely, Los Angeles in the spring of 92. Riots have never been kind to payphones. We can only imagine what the COCOTs looked like. Photos by Kuang. Thanks to 2600.com Bell System Fortress At the World's Fair
kiosks
(2 payphones) (a pay phone) (a pay phone) (2 payphones)
The Whidbey pay phone on the left, and the Verizon pay phone on the right have mutually exclusive local calling areas, so calls between these 2 pay phones are long distance calls. New Verizon enclosure New Qwest enclosure

(2 payphones) (3 payphones) (a pay phone) (a pay phone)
Telus Protel payphones Beach at Lakeview, ID Airport at Thompson Falls, MT

(a pay phone) (3 payphones) (a pay phone) (a pay phone)
Hancock Center, 94th floor, Chicago Chinese Restaurant Pay Phone University of Idaho courtesy phone

us-old.jpg (36808 bytes) us-hawaii1.jpg (99771 bytes)
Hawaii old wood kiosk c. 1930 groovy... Hawaii
us-alaska.jpg (7651 bytes)

US-NEGPAYSLlg.jpg (10302 bytes)

On the scrapheap in Alaska, as elsewhere.. North Electric Galion Single Slot Payphone

history

click here to see a full selection of 3 slot payphones
us11.gif (62986 bytes)
US-5W.jpg (13788 bytes) US-shield5.jpg (79402 bytes) US-shield4.jpg (69120 bytes) US-shield3.jpg (35464 bytes)
coin collector  interesting coin collector
US-23dW.jpg (46956 bytes) US-shield1.jpg (37772 bytes) US-shield2.jpg (37344 bytes)
us-Gray_Silver_Dollar_Paystation_CoinChute.jpg (49887 bytes)
Gray Silver Dollar Paystation CoinChute

The first payphones had an attendant who collected the money and placed the calls. The phones were often in very fancy large booths.

William Gray, who is considered the "inventor" of the payphone, started the Gray Telephone Pay Station Co. in 1891. A patent allowed him to sell his "unattended"  payphones to all of the phone companies in the country. 

He started selling the familiar "3 Slot" payphone in 1913, which remained basically the same (many interchangeable parts) until 1965 (see ad below).

The same payphone parts were used by many different manufacturers, who added their own handsets, transmitters, dials etc.

Gray was sold to Automatic Electric in 1948.

HIGHLIGHTS IN PAY PHONE HISTORY

 Pay telephone stations preceded the invention of the pay phone and existed as early as 1878. These stations were supervised by telephone company attendants or agents (such as an employee in a hotel where a station might be located) who collected the money due after people made their calls. Some pay stations utilized a fail-safe collection method: After making the connections for customers, attendants would lock them in booths so they couldn't leave without paying.

In 1889, the first public coin telephone was installed by inventor William Gray at a bank in Hartford, Conn. It was a "postpay" machine (coins were deposited after the call was placed). Gray's previous claim to fame was inventing the inflatable chest protector for baseball.

In 1898, the Western Electric No. 5 Coin Collector, the first automatic "prepay" station, went into use in Chicago. The depositing of coins before placing a call would gradually become the norm in payphones until the introduction of "dial tone first" service in 1966. o By 1902, there were 81,000 pay telephones in the United States.

In 1905, the first outdoor Bell System coin telephone was installed on a Cincinnati street. It wasn't an instant hit; people apparently were reluctant to make private calls on a public thoroughfare. (Moose were not as shy when they first encountered outdoor payphones. When Bell Laboratories designed a new glass and aluminum outdoor telephone booth in the 1950s, it was a great advancement over the wooden outdoor booths that had been in use for a number of years. And yet several booths ordered by the U.S. National Park Service were found mysteriously broken and battered. Park rangers soon knew the answer, though: It was mating season for moose. Amorous--but territorial--bulls were charging the booths whenever they saw their reflections in the glass.)

In 1910, Western Electric and Gray Telephone Pay Station Co. signed an agreement for Gray to manufacture coin collectors for the Bell System using both Gray and Western Electric patents. o The result of that agreement, the 50A coin collector, went into production in 1911. By the end of 1912, 25,000 of these coin telephones had been ordered for New York City alone. The 50A model had three coin slots--for nickels, dimes and quarters --and was a "prepay" machine. The basic design, though often modified, was so practical and reliable it remained in production until 1964. In 1965, Western Electric introduced the 50A's successor. Among other things, it had a single coin slot instead of three, and electronic signalling of coins deposited replaced mechanical bells.

The booths that house payphones have undergone more design changes than the phones themselves. At the turn of the century, indoor booths were constructed of durable hardwood, such as mahogany, with comfort and privacy in mind, and exhibited detailed craftsmanship. They were often carpeted. The "original" telephone booth is credited to Thomas Watson, the man who helped Alexander Graham Bell invent the telephone. Watson's "booth" was made by draping blankets over the furniture in his room and crawling underneath to conduct early telephone experiments. One story says Watson, in order to hear, was insulating himself from street noises. Another story is that his landlady ordered Watson to be quieter; his shouting, albeit for the sake of science, was disturbing other boarders. In 1883 Watson designed a real booth. It was built of expensive wood, had a domed top with a ventilator, windows with screens, and a desk with pen and ink. Over the years, telephone booths have reflected their surroundings as well as the times. There have been phone booths resembling cable cars in San Francisco, and others resembling pagodas in New York City's Chinatown district. In the 1960s, as American architects designed glass-wall office buildings, wooden phone booths looked out of place in lobbies. Bell Laboratories designed an indoor glass and metal phone booth to better fit newer surroundings. Not all of the designs for phone booths have reached the market. An experimental "hands-free" booth in 1972 featured a microphone in front of the caller and a loudspeaker in the booth's ceiling. Observers noted that people readily tried the new arrangement but that, conditioned to speaking in the direction another voice is coming from, they were all shouting into the ceiling.

In 1950, the first coin telephone mobile train service was established on the Pennsylvania Railroad between New York and Washington.

"Calling from your car" was first tested in Mobile Ala., and Chicago in 1957. Drive-up pay telephones proved popular and are still in use today. o In 1960, the Bell System installed its one millionth pay telephone.

 In 1964, when the U.S. Treasury Department decided to change the metallic composition of U.S. coins, it consulted with Bell Laboratories to ensure the new coins would still function properly in payphones.

 "Dial tone first" service was introduced in 1966 in Hartford, Conn. This essentially turned coin phones into emergency call stations because such calls could be made without first depositing coins.

In 1977, "automatic coin telephone service" was introduced in Phoenix, Ariz. This allowed most pay telephone calls, including long-distance, to be made without operator assistance. A computer-controlled synthesized voice gave customers the necessary instructions.

AT&T introduced "Charge-a-Call," a "coinless" pay phone, in 1978 (and the term "pay phone" began to replace "coin phone").

 In 1984, AT&T introduced the AT&T Card Caller, which featured a video screen with dialing instructions and allowed customers to charge calls by inserting an AT&T Calling Card. The Card Caller also was the first of AT&T's public phones to feature

 
Timeline

1889

The first public coin telephone was installed by inventor William Gray at a bank in Hartford, Conn. It was a "postpay" machine (coins were deposited after the call was placed). Gray's previous claim to fame was inventing the inflatable chest protector for baseball.

1898

The Western Electric No. 5 Coin Collector, the first automatic "prepay" station, went into use in Chicago. The depositing of coins before placing a call would gradually become the norm in payphones.

1902

There were 81,000 pay telephones in the United States.

1905

The first outdoor Bell System coin telephone was installed on a Cincinnati street. It wasn't an instant hit; people apparently were reluctant to make private calls on a public thoroughfare.

1950s

Glass outdoor telephone booths began replacing wooden ones.

1957

"Calling from your car" was first tested in Mobile, Ala., and Chicago. Drive-up pay telephones proved popular and are still in use today.

1960

The Bell System installed its millionth pay telephone.

1964

When the Treasury Department decided to change the metallic composition of U.S. coins, it consulted with Bell Laboratories to ensure the new coins would still function properly in payphones.

1977

Automatic coin telephone service was introduced in Phoenix. This allowed most pay telephone calls, including long-distance, to be made without operator assistance. A computer-controlled synthesized voice gave customers the necessary instructions.

2001

BellSouth announced that it was getting out of the pay phone business. It was the first major phone company to do so.

2003

MARCH: The United States had 1.5 million payphones, down from 2.1 million in 1999.

MAY: Verizon began installing wireless transmission gear in some of its public phone booths, creating Wi-Fi hot spots where paying customers can use the Web.

MARCH 2004

BellSouth finished disconnecting or selling its 144,000 payphones.

SOURCES: AMERICAN PUBLIC COMMUNICATIONS COUNCIL, PHONE COMPANIES