Operator. May I help you?: Bell Canada's 125 Years

 
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Photograph
E. N. Bender, C. P. R. official, Montreal, QC, 1904
A. H. Harris
1904, 20th century
Silver salts on film (nitrate ?) - Gelatin silver process
11 x 15 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
VIEW-6488.Q
© McCord Museum
Description
Keywords:  informal (1120) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

A Business Management Tool

At the turn of the 20th century, the telephone was considered to be essential to business. It enabled users to be in virtually two places at once and was a means of instantaneous communication. Also, the widespread use of the service meant increased efficiency and productivity, because it saved money by eliminating travel. "Time is money," as telephone ads pointed out, so why not put in more phones and lines in offices?

The decentralization of activities and the creation of specialized zones in cities assumed the existence of efficient means of communicating over distances. Thanks to the telephone, managers could run their businesses and co-ordinate operations going on in different locations (plant, office, store, warehouse).

  • What

    The photo shows E. N. Bender, an official with the Canadian Pacific Railway, in his office. As you can see, he has a phone.

  • Where

    From the 1880s on, Montreal was the railway capital of Canada. CPR operated train stations, grain elevators and repair shops there.

  • When

    In the early 20th century, Canadian railways were undergoing major expansion. Having encouraged the running of telegraph lines alongside the tracks, they profited from telephone communications.

  • Who

    Mr. Bender is a typical business subscriber of the early 20th century, when the telephone was rapidly gaining in popularity in well-off private homes.