The Switchboard Girls, in 1891

Unknown1891 - 19th century

Fundação Portuguesa das Comunicações

Fundação Portuguesa das Comunicações
Lisboa, Portugal

It was the switchboard girls who connected calls between the network subscribers. The two main networks were set up in Lisbon and Porto by Edison Gower Bell Telephone Company of Europe Limited, the only company to tender for the public competition held by the Portuguese government on 9th December 1881. The Lisbon telephone network was officially inaugurated on 26th April 1882 and the first directory, published on 19th May, contained the names of 22 subscribers. There was heavy demand for the installation of phone lines in private homes and businesses, with the use of the telephone starting to enter into the daily habits of Lisbon’s citizens, as well as those of Porto after the network came into operation on 1st June 1882. Initially, calls could only be made between 8 am and 9 pm, but from June 1882 onwards it became possible to make emergency calls to the police or firemen at any time. King Luis himself had a phone connected to the public network, allowing him to listen to the opera Laureana via the connection established between the São Carlos Theatre and the Palace of Ajuda. This gave rise to a musical service that enabled the population of Lisbon to listen to the performances of the operatic season at home. Though the introduction of the telephone in Portugal was a very important moment, on 23rd August 1887 the concession to operate the networks was transferred to the Anglo-Portuguese Telephone Company, Limited, which would adopt a more active approach than its predecessor, increasing the number of poles installed significantly and diversifying the services it provided to the community. The telephone connection between the two cities was undertaken by the General Directorate of Post and Telegraphs (DGCT) and only finally completed on 11th April 1904, the result of studies, trials, legislation, law suits, hard work and an unshakable desire by its technicians.


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