Morrie, who is dialing the phone, told me the short version of Almon Strowger, the man who invented the dial telephone system while keeping his day job as an undertaker!
The longer version begins that Strowger went to his office one morning, hung his Prince Albert coat on the wall, secured the Kansas City morning paper, sat down in his chair, placed his feet upon his desk, and began to read. Suddenly his attention was attracted to an item of news, which told him that a friend had died. To his astonishment and amazement, he read that the burial was to be handled by a competitor. When he saw this, he jumped to the conclusion that his friends had tried to reach him by telephone, but the operator had undoubtedly given the call to his competitor. As a result, he had lost the business.
Immediately, so it is told, he flew into a rage. His eye fell upon the telephone on the wall a few feet distant; he crossed over to the instrument, rang the bell impatiently, and when the operator answered spoke to her angrily. The operator’s protestation that she was entirely innocent did not satisfy him and slamming the receiver back onto the hook, he impatiently walked the floor.
Suddenly the thought came to him; why not build a telephone system that will not require an operator. “Surely,” he must have reasoned, “just so long as there are human operators with their human frailties, there will be human mistakes.” He began to ponder over this, and the more he thought about it the more he resolved that he could and would build such a telephone system. . . .
Snohomish resident Morrie Sachsenmaier founded the telephone museum now located in the new museum of the Marysville Historical Society. Morrie’s on duty at the Marysville Museum on Tuesdays, 10a to 4p–you won’t be disappointed.