The Phone Book

In 1878, the first-ever telephone directory was published in which state?

And the answer: Connecticut.

Photo credit: public domain. 

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell publicly demonstrated the telephone for the first time, and less than two years later, the first phone book was published in New Haven, Connecticut. There were only 50 people in the directory, which was printed on cardboard.

While you might be more familiar with the brick-like book of yellow pages from days past, the first phone book was only a single slip of cardboard, and didn't contain a single phone number. Rather, the names of members in the New Haven telephone network came at the hand of George Coy, who created one of the first networks allowing users to connect with multiple individuals at multiple call locations. With his handy switchboard, Coy charged his 21 subscribers $1.50 per month to connect them to other telephone users.  

As news of the telephone spread, so too did the need for telephone books. However, these books still looked pretty different from their contemporary counterparts – in fact, some of them even contained instructions for how to use the phone itself. Sometimes, the books also contained suggestions for greetings. Evidently, Graham Bell preferred a jovial "ahoy" at the beginning of his calls (as, we think, we all should).

In 2008, one of the only known surviving copies of the world’s first telephone book sold at auction for over $170,000 – a testament to the lasting impact George Coy and his New Haven telephone company have had on the way the modern world communicates.

Learn more about the first steps of telephonic communication here. And, to see the first phonebook in action, check out this site.


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