Friday, March 6, 2015

Hello, Goodbye AT&T

AT&T is being ousted from the Dow Jones industrial average in favor of Apple.

AT&T is but a shadow of its former self. It once was the corporate home of the long-distance service used by virtually all home telephone subscribers, as well as the corporate umbrella for the regional Baby Bells subsidiaries that provided local telephone service to more than 90 percent of the country. 

There was no competition to speak of. Innovation was slow to nonexistent. The monopoly was approved and enforced by the FCC (under the same authority they used to assert internet jurisdiction last week) in return for supposed low consumer cost, reliability and the promise of universal service. Very smart Washington lawyers and armies of accountants and engineers who worked for the conglomerate and its affiliates, insisted the monopoly and its cross subsidies were necessary if AT&T was to have the scale, technical inter-operability and financial wherewithal to support seamless, reliable and nondiscriminatory universal service. If you were an economist, you could make a small fortune building models and engaging in argument that telephone service was a natural monopoly. If you were a consumer in need of a telephone handset, you could get it anywhere you wanted so long as it was leased and it was manufactured by Western Electric, another Bell subsidiary

After the FCC had implemented a series of meek reforms, the Reagan administration Justice Department said nuts to all that and stepped up to rip apart that AT&T in 1984, which opened up telecommunication markets to competition and invited quantum leaps in innovation. Settlement of the antitrust action further eliminated artificial barriers between computer and telecommunication services, facilitating the development of the enormous tech sector we have today. 

If the FCC of old had its way and the AT&T still existed in its historic form, we would probably still be communicating largely via fax machines. Legions of lawyers and lobbyists would be arguing whether the regulators should permit AT&T to introduce text messaging as a value added, separately metered service, to its installed customer pager base (if you don't know what a pager is, ask mom or dad). Cell phones? Only for the elite if they were out there at all.

AT&T joined the Dow Jones industrial stock index on October 4, 1916. There were twenty stocks in the index then (thirty now). Eight of the twenty firms had "American" or "United States" in their titles. With the departure of AT&T announced today, American Express is the sole remaining firm whose name has a domestic flavor. 

AT&T was a giant. A big part of the 20th century history of this country is a history of how AT&T got to be what it was. AT&T knitted the nation together. It drove enormous commercial growth and facilitated the country's industrialization. The firm bridged the gap from the telegraph to the internet. All that success blinded many to the possibilities that existed beyond AT&T.

Which would lead to us winding up this post except that we have been doing some research.

In that vein, we present a look at a businessman and manager, cum engineer who was an AT&T pioneer. We identified him in a current project where we are looking into the early history of a country club, founded in 1897, where we caddied from 1964 to 1972. Glen View Club had an impressive lineup of early members whose callings and careers are reflection of a time in this country and its history much bigger than themselves.

Today we introduce Angus S. Hibbard

Illinois Bell adaptation of the Bell logo.
Most of us can recall the AT&T Bell system logo, a later Illinois Bell version presented to the right. The originator of that logo, Angus S. Hibbard, was an early AT&T executive and a member at Glen View Club.
While strolling down New York’s lower Broadway during 1888, Angus Hibbard observed that trade signs painted blue and white seemed to stand out the best. At the time Angus Hibbard was the general superintendent for American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) then referred to as the Long Distance Company. AT&T was established during 1885 as an American Bell Telephone Company subsidiary. Its purpose was to connect distant cities with long distance lines.
Bell Telephone Sign
Three years had gone by since AT&T’s founding and public pay phones were becoming more widespread. But the company had no standardized signing for marking long distance payphone locations. Having noticed signs painted blue and white attracted the eye, Angus had a thought. Many vendors and stores at the time advertised their wares or services by displaying large symbolic examples above the sidewalk. Why not symbolize Bell telephone service using the outline of a bell? 
Advertising is often related to the American consciousness through subliminal cultural themes. The Bell interests released its first telephone advertisement in May 1877 referring to Prof. Bell’s “Speaking and Singing Telephone.” An image of The Liberty Bell came to Angus’ mind coinciding with The American Bell Telephone Company named for the Bell patents and Alexander Graham Bell. Angus Hibbard set to work sketching renditions of an appropriate advertising sign. His first attempt included adopting the Liberty Bell shape in blue and attaching a set of wings indicating the flight or speed of modern telephone transmission. On the bell he included the words in white “LONG DISTANCE TELEPHONE.” The bell was set on a white background and Angus showed his sketch to Theodore Vail, then president of AT&T.
The wings were dropped. The simple bell logo adopted soon thereafter was plastered on telephone booths everywhere and became emblematic of AT&T and the Bell System. The logo in various forms was used from 1889 into the 1990s (by some of the baby bells). At its peak the logo achieved 93 percent recognition from the American public, similar to the percentage of households that were wired in the Ma Bell era for telephone service.

Mr. Hibbard described the development and adoption of the logo in his own words.
Tramping lower Broadway, studying signs of many kinds, I had come to believe that the best color scheme for such a sign would be blue on white, with plenty of blue. Alone in my office with the samples at hand, I took a large pad of paper and tried to study the question from the bottom up. We wanted a sign for Alexander Graham Bell's telephone. With that as the fundamental I sketched on the paper the outline of a bell. To the next question, "What kind of telephone are we to advertise?" there was but one answer, the long distance telephone. And so I printed within the outline of the bell the words "Long Distance Telephone." This looked good to me and, deciding to follow the color scheme described, I had a blueprint made from the drawing and discussed it with my associates. They liked it. The original sketch and blueprint were approved by Edward J. Hall, Jr., general manager of the company, my superior officer, on January 5, 1889, together with the words "Standard Bell, use no other form." So was born the Blue Bell of the telephone.

Angus Hibbard's mid-career, 1895 bio was as follows.
ANGUS S. HIBBARD is one of the leading telephone men of the country. At the head of a company possessing an exchange doing a larger business than any other in the United States, he is a recognized authority on all questions pertaining to this branch of the electrical industry. Mr. Hibbard was born in Milwaukee on February 7, 1860, and was educated in the Milwaukee Academy and Racine College. In 1878 he was chief clerk to the general superintendent of the Northwestern Telegraph company, who, as agent of the Bell Telephone company, began the introduction of telephones in Wisconsin. In this connection young Hibbard went into telephone work exclusively in 1881 as superintendent for Wisconsin, and built 54 exchanges and 2,800 miles of toll line in that state. In 1886 Mr. Hibbard went to New York as general superintendent of the American Telephone & Telegraph company and opened the New York and Philadelphia lines of that company for the first long-distance business. He continued in charge of that company's lines in its extensions throughout the eastern and central states, and opened the New York-Chicago line for business in October, 1892. He came to Chicago February 1, 1893, as general manager of the Chicago Telephone company, since which time that company's exchange has advanced to first place in the country, having 11,000 subscribers, and its traffic has grown to the handling of over 250,000 messages per day.
New Officers of the Institute. — Angus S. Hibbard, Vice-President.

[Trade Journal]
Western Electrician
Chicago, IL, United States, Saturday, May 25, 1895
vol. 16, no. 21, p. 251-252, col. 2-3,1-3
Angus Hibbard was a renaissance man, for his skills were not only in management and marketing, but in engineering as well, as related in this extended biography from the brain trust at Bell Labs (another subsidiary).

Angus S. Hibbard - Pioneer Telephone Executive and Inventor Reprinted from "INSULATORS - Crown Jewels of the Wire", September 1981, page 12 (A reprint from the Bell Laboratories Record) 
by R. B. Hill
General Staff 
At a conference held by the American Bell Telephone Company in Boston in 1885, a paper was read by a young man named Hibbard, describing the methods he had followed in building toll lines in Wisconsin. This paper, and the man who read it, created such a favorable impression on Theodore N. Vail, General Manager of the American Bell Telephone Company, that Hibbard was called to New York in September, 1886, to become General Superintendent of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. This company had been formed during the previous year, with Edward J. Hall, Jr., as General Manager, to construct and operate long distance lines connecting the territories of the various Bell operating companies. At this time, the company's first line, between New York and Philadelphia, had been completed but not yet opened for service.
Angus S. Hibbard was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on February 7, 1860, the son of William Bowman Hibbard and Adaline (Smith) Hibbard, both of whom were born in North Hadley, Massachusetts, and whose families had later settled in the west. He was educated in the Milwaukee Academy, and was for a short time a student at Racine College. After spending a year in the general offices of a railroad company, he was made chief clerk to Charles H. Haskins, Superintendent of the Northwestern Telegraph Company at Milwaukee in 1878. Haskins, as agent of the Bell Telephone Company -- a predecessor of the American Bell Telephone Company -- began the introduction of telephones in Wisconsin.
Such was Mr. Hibbard's aptitude for the telephone business -- only a year old in 1878 -- that when the Wisconsin Telephone Company was formed in 1881, he was made its General Superintendent. At this time, life was very rugged in the heart of the lumbering country, and plenty of nerve, as well as the ability to improvise, were required in the construction and operation of telephone exchanges. Mr. Hibbard completed his first exchange, at Wausau, in six weeks. During the next five years, he had charge of the construction of more than fifty exchanges, as well as numerous short toll lines, and had some very interesting experiences. 
When Mr. Hibbard was called to New York at the age of twenty-six, the offices of the A T & T were on the fifth floor of the Smith Building at 15 Cortlandt Street, New York City, while the operating room was on the second floor of a building at 140 Fulton Street, which is still standing (across the street from Whyte's Restaurant). In 1887, both the general offices and the operating room of the A T & T were removed to the new eight-story building of the Metropolitan Telephone and Telegraph Company, at 18 Cortlandt Street, where they remained for many years. 

Fig. 1 Lines of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company as of March 1, 1893.
During the seven years that Mr. Hibbard held the position of General Superintendent of the Long Distance Company, its lines were extended northward to Boston, Albany, and Buffalo; westward to Chicago and Milwaukee; and southward to Washington, D.C. Their extent as of March 1, 1893 is shown in Figure 1. From the start, only the highest grade of construction was employed: very heavy poles, set about 45 to the mile, sunk six feet in the ground, and strongly braced. The metallic circuits were all on hard drawn copper and were carefully balanced against induction and crosstalk. The high quality of transmission which they furnished set an example that did much to hasten the conversion of the exchange and toll lines of the local operating companies from a grounded to a metallic circuit basis. The strength of the long distance lines was amply demonstrated by their behavior under severe weather conditions, notably the famous blizzard of March, 1888, which completely disrupted telegraph and local telephone service along the eastern seaboard. During this storm no a single pole belonging to the A T & T broke or fell, and communication between New York and Philadelphia was not interrupted.
The first use of the long distance telephone in transmitting election returns was made during the presidential election of November, 1888, and due to the careful preparations made by Mr. Hibbard, the reports were received at political headquarters and newspaper offices in many eastern cities well in advance of those transmitted in the usual manner. 
Fig. 2 Early type of "point" transposition employing four insulators on a double crossarm.
The story goes that during his early period of service with the A T & T, Mr. Hibbard was overburdened with work and had to put in long hours at his desk. Accordingly, he felt justified in applying to Mr. Hall for an increase in salary. The latter was not impressed, and told Mr. Hibbard that his work must be poorly organized. "If you can come to me sometime," said Mr. Hall, "and tell me that you have nothing to do, you may get an increase in salary." Mr. Hibbard said nothing further at this time, but at a later date, when Mr. Hall mentioned that he was going uptown to pick out a carriage, Mr. Hibbard asked to go along. When Mr. Hall reminded him of the fact that he was supposed to be overburdened with work, Mr. Hibbard replied that his work was so well organized that he had nothing to do right then. Shortly afterward he got a raise in salary.
Fig. 3 Hibbard double transposition insulator of 1889
While he was General Superintendent of the Long Distance Company, Mr. Hibbard made several inventions, two of which are worthy of special mention -- the double transposition insulator, and the first practical form of central office distributing frame.
When the transposition system for open wires was invented by J. A. Barrett in 1886,* "point" type transpositions were employed -- that is, the wires were transposed at the pole and ran parallel throughout the span. At first, four insulators were employed on a double crossarm, the transpositions being made by dead ending and cross-connecting with jumper wires as shown in Figure 2. In 1889, Mr. Hibbard devised a double transposition insulator -- two insulators mounted one above the other on a single pin which extended through a hole in the top of the lower insulator as shown in Figure 3. The transposition could thus be made with two double insulators mounted on a single crossarm, the wires being dead ended and cross-connected as before as shown in Figure 4. This method remained standard until the early 1900's.

Fig. 4 "Point" transposition employing two of the
bard double insulators on a single crossarm.
In 1890, Mr. Hibbard designed the first practical form of distributing frame for making cross-connections between the line and switchboard cables in a central office, employing a compact structure of vertical, transverse, and longitudinal iron pipes or bars. The cables leading up from the cable vault were terminated on one side of the frame, while those leading down from the switchboard were terminated on the other side of the frame. Connections between the two sets of terminals were made by bridle or jumper wire, which made vertical and horizontal runs through the framework according to certain definite rules. In this way, the jumper wires, regardless of the position of their terminals on the frame, could be changed in any desired manner to effect a redistribution of the lines at the switchboard, without disturbing the cables of the connections at the switchboard.
The Hibbard distributing frame was covered by United States patent No. 453,863, issued on June 9, 1891. With subsequent improvements, it found wide use in Bell system manual exchanges. 
Mr. Hibbard was a member of both the Cable and Switchboard Committees, which were formed of executives and engineers of the parent Bell Company, the Bell operating companies, and the Western Electric Company. These committees met at intervals, beginning in the year 1887, to study the requirements of the operating companies and to make recommendations regarding the development of improved types of cables and switchboards to meet those requirements. 

In 1893, Mr. Hibbard left the Long Distance Company to become General Manager of the Chicago Telephone Company, predecessor of the Illinois Bell Telephone Company, where he remained until 1911, as Vice President after 1903. During this period, in addition to fulfilling his executive duties in a very able manner, Mr. Hibbard found time to make two very important inventions -- interrupted alternating-current machine ringing, and the first practical four-party full-selective signaling system. 
In 1895, Mr. Hibbard invented the interrupted alternating-current machine ringing system for "B" switchboard positions, in which the ringing of the called subscriber's bell started automatically when the operator inserted a plug in the jack, and continued intermittently, by means of a commutator arrangement, until the call was answered, when it was automatically discontinued. This system which has been widely used in Bell System common battery exchanges, was covered by United States patent No. 542,052, issued on July 2, 1895. 
It was also in 1895 that Mr. Hibbard invented the first successful four-party full-selective signaling system, in which each subscriber on a party line heard only the ringing of his own bell. In this arrangement, two oppositely biased polarized bells were connected from either side of the line to ground; the ringing was accomplished by the use of plus and minus currents supplied by two central office generators, one with its positive pole grounded and the other its negative pole. This gave four ringing combinations, because a current sent out in a predetermined direction over either side of the line operated the bell adapted to respond to that direction of current, while the other bell on that side of the line remained unresponsive, since the current that operated one bell assisted the biasing spring of the other to prevent its armature from oscillating. With various subsequent improvements, this system, which was covered by United States patent No. 555,725, issued on March 3, 1896, has found a wide application in party line service. 
In 1911, Mr. Hibbard transferred to New York to assist in establishing the combined telephone and telegraph service planned by Mr. Vail after the purchase of control of the Western Union Telegraph Company. This plan met with criticism, and after discussions with the Federal Administration was abandoned.
Mr. Hibbard retired from active service in 1915, and returned to Chicago, where for many years he maintained an active interest in civic and social affairs, and his hobbies of music and outdoor sports. In 1941, he published his book "Hello-Goodbye," a colorful and very readable story of the author's telephone career during the first thirty-five years of Bell system history. 
Mr. Hibbard died in Chicago on October 21, 1945, at the age of 85.
After 29 years combined with AT&T and Illinois telephone, Angus S. Hibbard set out a shingle as consulting engineer.

Electrical Review, Volume 68, 1916

Mr. Hibbard contributed his time and talents to the Red Cross during World War I.

Chicago Tribune, June 6, 1918
Later in 1922, Angus Hibbard was chairman of the association that funded Camp Roosevelt, which provided a healthful summer education for boys throughout the land.

At age 81, Mr. Hibbard published a biography of his career in telecommunications.

"Hello - Goodbye, My Story of Telephone Pioneering", 1941

Angus Hibbard, as pictured on the back jacket of the book.

Angus S. Hibbard is buried in Forest Green cemetery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Angus Hibbard had a long fruitful life, as has his corporate parent. So it was in the later 19th century and so it is in the early 21st.

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