Operator. May I help you?: Bell Canada's 125 Years

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VIEW-25407 VIEW-20563 VIEW-12777 MP-0000.888.11 MP-1978.207.1.40 M975.62.561 M996.10.460 BELL-24060 VIEW-15469
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Creative Commons License
Dominion Bank, corner Bleury and St. Catherine Streets, Montreal, QC, about 1915
Anonyme - Anonymous
About 1915, 20th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Gelatin silver process
15 x 20 cm
Purchase from Mr. John Mappin
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Cityscape (3948) , Photograph (77678) , streetscape (1737)
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Keys to History

From Luxury to Necessity

During the 1930s, the increase in the number of telephone subscribers came to an abrupt halt all over Canada. It was not until after the Second World War that the penetration rate of phone service returned to its pre-Depression peak.

In 1956 the vast majority of Canadian households had a phone. At 28.2 per 100 inhabitants, Canada's penetration rate was the third highest in the world, after the United States and Sweden. There were major regional differences across the country, however. Newfoundland had the fewest phones altogether and Ontario had the most home phones. The telephone became more accessible to the general public. It was no longer solely a luxury service for businessmen and the urban élite.

  • What

    With the growth in the number of subscribers, telephone poles and wires took over the 20th-century urban landscape.

  • Where

    In Montreal, at the start of the 20th century, Ste. Catherine Street and the surrounding area were still residential. Little by little, homes were replaced by multipurpose buildings housing manufacturing workshops, stores and offices.

  • When

    During the First World War, the telephone companies' equipment program slowed down somewhat as finances were tight and supplies were limited.

  • Who

    In Canada several public and private companies besides Bell were helping develop telephony: Telus (Alberta Government Telephones, or AGT, BC Tel and Ed Tel), SaskTel (Saskatchewan Government Telephones), MTS (Manitoba Telephone System), Télus Québec (QuébecTel) and Aliant (MT&T, New Brunswick Telephone and Newfoundland Telephone).