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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Well Connected: 1920

Well Connected: 1920

Washington, D.C., circa 1920. "Daniels and Navy telephone exchange." Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy. National Photo glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Name and number, please?

I started work with C&P Telephone in Silver Spring, MD, in 1972. We were in what was a modern office for its time, but just down Georgia Avenue was the Bethesda office which had a switchboard that looked very much like this one. I transferred in 1973 to Southern Bell Telephone in Wilmington, NC, and (lo and behold!) had to man a similar switchboard that had been acquired after the 1939 World's Fair closed. The switchboard from the fair was shipped to Wilmington and remained in use until the late 1970's.


I wonder if this was in the State, War, and Navy Building (now the Eisenhower (or Old)) EOB west of the White House. Or, being after WWI, was it in those Navy tempos that blighted the Mall until Nixon got rid of them?

The tarp

Looks like a folded cover. The 'weights' look like handles which could be used to pull the cover down over the switchboard.

No idea how they'd get it back up again, short of climbing up on the desk.

Skates rock

Not sure when the concept of roller sakes for the supervisors came into play, but so much better than those tight shoes!

Might want to Snopes that

The Mikkelsons have thrown cold water on the "cuppa Joe" etymology.

In any case, the Greek-writing first century Jewish historian must have been a semi-popular namesake in the late nineteenth century, at least in the American South. My great-grandfather was named Josephus, a name his baby sister couldn't pronounce, so she called him C.B. He decided he liked that name better, starting a family tradition of naming boys with those initials. He died in the 1918 flu epidemic, and I don't know much more about him than that.

Number playz

My first job in Verizon/Bell Atlantic/NYNEX was a Directory Assistance Operator. Before I transferred to the technical side of the house I was handling over 1,300 calls for directory information. This was in the late eighties after DA went from microfilm to mainframe based technology. There were still customers who thought we were in a big room with phone books!!!

Time to swab them decks!

Looks as if there's a fine dark powder all over the floor, with the inevitable scuff marks of hundreds of footsteps. Except in places where no one walks, like under that desk on the left and around the baseboards out of the main travel paths. Don't they ever mop these floors?

What about the tarp covering the top?

The tarp covering the top has weighted straps to keep it in place. I wonder what this covering is for. The pipes above look like a sprinkler system, but I can't find any sprinkler heads. Interesting.


Josephus Daniels

His Assistant Secretary of the Navy was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Have a cuppa...

Not my favorite SECNAV, for sure.

Daniels, SECNAV #41, was responsible for the prohibition of the daily rum ration for enlisted personnel, and of wine in the officers' mess in the US Navy. The stongest replacement aboard ship was coffee, and having a "Cup of Joe" remains in our language.

Operator, May I Help You?

That phrase is what we would have to say to cuatomers. This was my very first "real" job when I graduated from High School in 1975. The switchboard looked exactly the same as this one with just as many operators. It was a fun job working the old switchboards but not too long after I was with the phone company, they started moving everything over to computer and it became dull and boring, so I quit. I regret leaving, but eventually all this would become dinosaur technology anyway. Good memories though!

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