JANUARY 25: Teen talks long distance

100 YEARS AGO TODAY, thirteen-year-old Melville Bell Grosvenor, grandson of Alexander Graham Bell, became the first teenager to talk from coast to coast on a telephone, speaking from New York to San Francisco.

Melville Bell Grosvenor

Melville Bell Grosvenor

The boy’s father, Gilbert Grosvenor, handed him the phone, saying, “This is something you will never forget.” “Hello,” said the teenager in a high-pitched voice before hearing a response from San Francisco. After a short exchange, Grosvenor said, “Yes, I can hear you perfectly,” and gave the phone back to his dad.

Grosvenor was in select company as his grandfather and President Wilson, connected from Washington, also took part in the American Telegraph and Telephone’s first coast-to-coast hookup. AT&T workers had recently strung up 13,000 miles of copper wire between New York and San Francisco — this was way before the introduction of cellular phone technology — to make the calls possible. At the time, it cost $20.70 for a three- minute coast-to-coast call — a steep price in 1915.

Melville would grow up to be the president and editor of the National Geographic Society.

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