DENVER - Happy June 1. 136 years ago today, on June 1, 1880, those who lived in New Haven, Connecticut had the opportunity to use a pay phone for the very first time. In fact, it's believed that was the first time a pay phone was used in the United States.
It cost 10 cents to make a call in 1880. You handed a dime to the attendant at the Connecticut Telephone Company, and made the call. Nine years later, in 1889, the first official coin-pay pay phone was installed in Hartford, Connecticut, on a street corner.
Between then and now pay phones were a big deal, then a done deal. Think about it. Do you even know where to find a pay phone these days?
There's a group of people dedicated to preserving them. We talked to the guy who runs the Payphone Project, a database of pay phone numbers and locations across America. Mark Thomas began putting together a list of pay phones phone numbers in Manhattan in 1995. Thomas said he's had a fascination with pay phones since he grew up in Florida.
"The randomness of communication that they allowed is really what ignited my interest," Thomas said. "In that spirit of random communications, I just started collecting pay phone numbers and posted them to my website and I just did that to encourage people to call these phones and make random contact with complete strangers."
The local New York project quickly grew to a national level.
"I started getting people from random cities, collecting pay phone numbers and sending them to me," Thomas said.
Thomas also mentioned that pay phones have been used in dire situations, like Sept. 11, 2001, and during natural disasters, when cell phone service is cut off.
"I live in New York and there are still thousands around the city. I don't think they'll ever disappear," Thomas said. "People still use them, I know people don't believe me when I say that."
Thomas said he's planning on writing a book about the history of pay phones in New York City. He's also given tours of some pay phones in Manhattan.
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