America Calling: A Social History of the Telephone to 1940

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University of California Press, Mar 22, 1994 - History - 424 pages
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The telephone looms large in our lives, as ever present in modern societies as cars and television. Claude Fischer presents the first social history of this vital but little-studied technology—how we encountered, tested, and ultimately embraced it with enthusiasm. Using telephone ads, oral histories, telephone industry correspondence, and statistical data, Fischer's work is a colorful exploration of how, when, and why Americans started communicating in this radically new manner.

Studying three California communities, Fischer uncovers how the telephone became integrated into the private worlds and community activities of average Americans in the first decades of this century. Women were especially avid in their use, a phenomenon which the industry first vigorously discouraged and then later wholeheartedly promoted. Again and again Fischer finds that the telephone supported a wide-ranging network of social relations and played a crucial role in community life, especially for women, from organizing children's relationships and church activities to alleviating the loneliness and boredom of rural life.

Deftly written and meticulously researched, America Calling adds an important new chapter to the social history of our nation and illuminates a fundamental aspect of cultural modernism that is integral to contemporary life.
 

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Contents

IV
1
VI
33
VII
60
IX
86
XI
122
XIII
175
XV
193
XVII
222
XXII
277
XXIV
283
XXVI
292
XXVII
299
XXIX
309
XXXI
312
XXXIII
321
XXXIV
379

XIX
255
XXI
273

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 2 - The telephone is essentially democratic; it carries the voice of the child and the grown-up with equal speed and directness.... It is not only the implement of the individual, but it fulfills the needs of all the people.
Page 2 - In the development of the telephone system, the subscriber is the dominant factor. His ever—growing requirements inspire invention, lead to endless scientific research, and make necessary vast improvements and extensions.
Page 3 - I think men's minds are going to be changed in subtle ways because of automobiles; just how, though, I could hardly guess.

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About the author (1994)

Claude S. Fischer is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of To Dwell among Friends: Personal Networks in Town and City (1982) and The Urban Experience (1984).

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