Very first phone book up for auction

The only known edition of the world's first telephone directory — the first phone book — is up for auction, reports Discovery News:
The 20-page directory was issued in November of 1878, just two years after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. The phone book contained information useful to 391 subscribers within the New Haven, Conn., area who were obviously still learning their way around the new communication device. "Should you wish to speak to another subscriber you should commence the conversation by saying, 'Hulloa!'" it instructs. ... No phone numbers were printed in the Connecticut city's milestone book -- just the names of subscribers.
It's estimated by Christie's to go for about $30 to $40k. If AT&T doesn't buy this they are idiots. I mean more than usual. World's First Telephone Book Surfaces []
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23 Responses to Very first phone book up for auction

  1. Enochrewt says:

    Takuan: My God! It’s full of spam!

  2. Takuan says:

    what’s the oldest, still valid email address in the world?

  3. CastanhasDoPara says:

    A few things here. First off, no Spanish/Castellano speaker I know says “bueno” to answer the phone. It’s either “Quien es?”, “Quien con hablo?” or “hola” (and sometimes “si?”)(your mileage may vary as Mexico is a place I have not been to.) Also, it would seem to me that the term would be “Buenas” but that might just be that trip to Nicaragua talking. For giggles folks in Brasil answer the phone with “oi”, “fala” and “ola”. And Russians answer with “allo?” Secondly, “What’s unusual about `hello’ in the United States is that words that are used in other countries for greetings on the telephone–like in Italy, `Pronto,’ or in Japan, (Japanese expression)–never move to everyday
    speech, person to person.”
    It seems to me that this guy is an idiot or at least under informed. “Pronto” in Italian is a very common word that means “ready” in this case more like a question but still it is used for more than just phone greetings. Don’t know where “moshi moshi” came from but I do agree that it would have been easily rendered in romanji. Still on this tangent, “moshi moshi” seems more often than not to be spoken as “mosh- moshi”. Well that’s my two and a half cents on this topic. BTW, where can I get some Phrack from the 1800’s?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Oliver Twist was written in 1938, and they used the greeting, spelled, “hullo.

  5. Fnarf says:

    “Hulloa” was not archaic at the time. The word “Hello” had not been invented yet, and indeed came about for this very purpose.

  6. CastanhasDoPara says:

    @Simon Greenwood: I have also never been to Chile. It is on the list though. (BTW that’s why I qualified that with YMMV.) Anyway…

    @Takuan: what’s the oldest still in service phone number? Just in case you want to do the research.

  7. drblack says:

    I will try to find it. You are right I should share it with Boing Boing readers. I forget that I may have some stuff I have collected that people would like to see.
    I will have to see where I can post it after scanning it.

  8. w000t says:

    “Hulloa!”? No wonder they needed instruction on that–they were probably inclined to use non-archaic, non-British words to initiate a call.

  9. Anonymous says: has an explanation of the word Hello, and the fact that it was in print in 1846, long before the phone was invented. But what was the proper greeting before Hello?

  10. rabican says:

    @KMOSER: This is a total tangent, but I wonder why in the NPR transcript you link to, the Japanese “Moshi-moshi” wasn’t romanized but instead written down as [Japanese expression]? It’s hardly difficult. How odd…

  11. drblack says:

    Joel I found it. It is four pieces from the New York telephone Company from 1927.
    two are plain text only titled “The Voice With A Smile’ and “You and Your telephone” both are subtitle4d “A Pamphlet On Good Telephone Usage”
    The other two include photos and are titled “Your Telephone Service” and “Your Company’s Voice”
    I have no idea how to post photos here. I would be glad to scan them for you as long as i can do it without hurting them. they are all like new.They are simple two staple pamphlets.
    I love historical paper and love blogs like this,Modern Mechanix, that guy who put up the 1978 JC Penny catalog. etc.
    I will see if this site includes instruction on putting up photos. I will watch this space if you can advise me.
    Sorry to go off topic Boing Boing readers.

    • Joel Johnson says:

      Dr. Black: Do you have a scanner? That would be the first step. A flat-bed scanner should be able to bring them in without issue.

      If you want, shoot me an email (joel@boingboing dop net) and I can help walk you through it.

  12. Simon Greenwood says:

    CastanhasDoPara: Chileans say ‘hello’, not ‘hola’ or ‘bueno’, so it’s not a hard and fast rule among Castellano speakers.

  13. cfpresley says:

    I always thought that Ahoy-hoy was the recommended answer in the beginning. *Ref. Monti Burns in the Simpsons.

    On a tangent, my Spanish teacher told us that the way to answer the phone was “Bueno”

  14. HeatherB says:

    Your Spanish teacher is weird, or it must be in Spain. I lived by Mexico for years and had to make calls to Spanish speaking homes quite often and the way they would answer the phone was by saying “Hola”.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Personally, I’ve always liked Dorothy Parkers standard responsw ehe answering the telephone : “What new Hell is this?”

  16. zeta says:

    Bell didn’t invent the telephone, Antonio Meucci did.

  17. Jake0748 says:

    Why didn’t they just say, “Whaazzzzzzzaaaapp!”

  18. drblack says:

    It is great that this has survived.
    I have a copy of a book that was put out by the phone company in NYC in the early 1920 entitled how to use your telephone.
    It has some great and funny information. I will see if I can find it . I have a bunch of old paper.
    My favorite is a child’s school notebook from the 1920’s that has two columns. One is labeled Horse and the other tractor. It then lists the advantages and disadvantages of each.
    I can see the family around the table deciding if they should get that new fangled tractor gizmo.
    Old paper is one of my favorite collectible.

  19. Pakkal says:

    Er, @HEATHERB, I’m from Mexico and EVERYONE I know (myself included) answers “bueno” when they pick up the phone. Actually, it’s “bueno?”, said as a question, not as a greeting. Actually, in Mexico, EVERY phone-answering phrase (that I’ve heard) is a question, to the likes of “yes, who’s speaking” and such, so “hola” or “hola?” don’t make much sense.

  20. Anonymous says:

    HELLO!!!! This word greeting was made by EDISON for he improved upon the carbon button transmiiter that Bell used which was inferior. HELL-O was considered vulgar and crass word of that era and Edison the ever showman wanted to tweak Bell and make it standard to answer the phone with HELLO instead of Bells AHOY-HOY… Woman would faint and priests would lecture people not ot use that VULGAR WORD.Google Edison+Hello for more As for Mr Burns in Simpsons, it is to show hoy really old he is…….

  21. kmoser says:

    @CFPRESLEY, “Ahoy ahoy” was Alexander Graham Bell’s recommended greeting (which never really caught on) for answering the phone. That was what the Montgomery Burns joke was referencing. More info here:


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