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M991X.5.120
© McCord Museum
Engraving
Catalogue illustration of a telephone
John Henry Walker (1831-1899)
1850-1885, 19th century
Ink on paper - Wood engraving
11.3 x 10.8 cm
Gift of David Ross McCord
M991X.5.120
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

Many new inventions appeared in the last quarter of the 19th century. The many uses for electricity transformed the city, for example when inventions such as the incandescent arc lamp or electric tramways appeared. Not to mention the telephone, whose popularity spread across Canada in this period. In 1880, there were 2165 Canadian subscribers. Just before the First World War broke out, they numbered more than a quarter of a million. The rise of this industry led to the creation of an entirely new job: the operator. In this era, a third party had to connect up the two subscribers so they could make a call. At first, men - former telegraphers - filled these positions. However, operators do not need to have as many technical skills as telegraphers. So some people said, why not hire young women and pay them a much lower salary?

What:

A print by John H. Walker showing a man, possibly an office clerk, using a wall phone.

Where:

In Canada, businessmen from the city of Hamilton were the first Canadian subscribers to the telephone. The business elite of large Canadian cities quickly followed in their footsteps. In 1880, Montreal, with its 546 telephones, was the most "switched-on" city in Canada.

When:

This print illustrates the technological breakthroughs of the end of the 19th century at a time when the telegraph was about to be replaced by the telephone. In Canada, the first telephones appeared in 1877.

Who:

The main architect of the telephone in Canada was Charles Sise, who may be considered as the founding father of Bell in Canada.

© Musée McCord Museum