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VIEW-15469
© McCord Museum
Photograph
Ritz Carleton Hotel, Sherbrooke Street, Montreal, QC, 1915
Wm. Notman & Son
1915, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
VIEW-15469
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

From Local to Global

On August 10, 1876, the first one-way long-distance call was placed by Alexander Graham Bell from Brantford, Ontario, to Paris, a village 13 km away. That was not far, compared to the distances between Canadian cities.

From the outset, the Bell Telephone Company of Canada's mission was to connect the cities across the country. On February 14, 1916, a banquet attended by politicians and Bell executives was held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montreal on the occasion of the first phone call between Montreal and Vancouver - an historic event. The circuit, 6,763 km long, went through the American cities of Buffalo, Chicago, Omaha, Salt Lake City and Portland.

It was not until July 31, 1932, that a call could be made from sea to sea using solely Canadian lines. The Trans-Canada Telephone System, the fruit of the collaboration of several companies, was inaugurated by the governor general of Canada.

What:

Calls over very long distances required major advances in technology to compensate for the weakening of the voice signal along the line.

Where:

The first call between Montreal and Vancouver was celebrated at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montreal. An immense portrait of Alexander Graham Bell was hung in the reception room. At the other end of the line, dignitaries were gathered at the Globe Theatre in Vancouver.

When:

In May 1915, the first transcontinental telephone conversation, between Montreal and San Francisco, was celebrated. Less than a year later, on February 14, 1916, the same technological feat was accomplished between Montreal and Vancouver.

Who:

Many scientists developed technological innovations that helped make calls over very long distances possible. They included the Americans Michael Idvorsky Pupin (1858-1935) (Pupin coil) and Lee de Forest (1873-1961) (vacuum tube).

© Musée McCord Museum