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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Crank It: 1925

Crank It: 1925

"C & P Tel. Co." Another look at the operations of the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. around Washington circa 1925. Plus an interesting glimpse at the kind of working-class houses not usually seen in the photo archives from this era. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Re: Phone Trees, Carries & Conduit

You'd be surprised how phone wire was strung. Originally, telegraph and telephone wire were strung on anything available, and poles were put in when there was nothing else. There are still some places where wire goes through places where trucks can't and is tacked to trees.

Joe from LI, NY

The backside of living

Even working class rowhouses had their bays and cupolas on the street front side, some rounded and some faceted; you can be certain the bays had multiple windows in the parlor. It would be nice to see how simple or adorned these may have been on the public face.

Gin Pole

The rig is called a Gin Pole.

Things On The Left

Those strange looking items on the left are underground cable runs.They are laid in like a sewer line and then the the phone cable is pulled thru them.


The stack of shorter, squared off pieces of wood are the crossarms for mounting the wires. You can see some of the loose crossarms on the ground with the studs that the insulators mount on.

Wire Carriers and Conduit Sections

The square, grid-like stack immediately to the left of the pole pile is made up of prefabricated wire carriers that were mounted as cross arms into mortises on the poles. Each carrier is fitted with wood pegs, to which would have been added pressed glass or porcelain insulators that held each telephone cable. If the poles also carried electric power lines, these would be placed at the top of each pole on separate carriers and the phone lines strung on carriers about ten feet beneath them. To the left of the stack of wire carriers is another grid-like stack of fired brick clay conduit sections. Those seen here are both six- and nine-section conduits and were used to protect underground telephone lines.

On the Grid

So what's the stack of grid like thingys on the left? Anyone?


There were fewer stations then, and they ran lower power (some as low as 50 watts) and radios were less sensitive so almost all radios in the 1920s required outside antennas. By 1930 the technology had improved greatly and built-in loop antennas were usually sufficient.

Indiana Steel & Wire

The spool is marked by the name "Indiana Steel & Wire Co. - Muncie." Once the largest wire-making company in the U.S., it was founded in 1901 to manufacture wire for telephone lines. It also experimented with wire for electrical distribution. Operating for over a century, Indiana Steel & Wire Co. shut down in 2003: yet another sad example of the loss of basic manufacturing capability to overseas trade.


No TV antennas, but lots of radio antennas. These are most likely random-length antennas for medium-wave (AM broadcast) reception.

I'm guessing that people enjoyed listening to far-away stations back then. Nowadays, there's little point to hearing Rush Limbaugh from the town 200 miles away.

Phone Trees

This is a fascinating series. Most startling to me so far is this glimpse of a man-powered telephone pole hoist system. The rigging setup is pretty much the same as that then used by the logging industry to drag and hoist freshly cut trees up hillsides for transport to mills, but those systems used steam-powered donkey engines. Who knew that there was a hand-cranked "light use" version that was geared-up enough for one man to lift sticks as big as these? And the telephone poles themselves are still recognizably tree trunks, with twists and bends and lopped branch ends quite visible. Looks like the cost of standardized, fully milled poles hadn't as yet been accepted by this industry.

Baby box?

Is that a baby box dangling out of that upstairs window in the center?

[Or beer or milk. Nature's refrigerator. - Dave]

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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