1888 – The Telephone Comes to Shawano

Published March 20, 2024

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1888 – The Telephone Comes To Shawano

According to the records of the Wisconsin Telephone Company, it was in 1888 when the telephone made its first appearance in Shawano. Shawano’s first telephone was placed in the store of Anton Kuckuk. It was connected by a grounded line to a telephone in Clintonville.

Within the next few months, the Wisconsin Telephone Company installed a small switchboard in Kuckuk’s store and the first exchange to serve local subscribers came into being, with the store proprietor as its first manager. There were 12 subscribers at the outset.

What business on Main Street had phone number “1?” It was the Rognlin Pharmacy. Rognlin was located in the building currently owned by Dreiers Pharmacy. We know this because we have an artifact, a pharmacy bottle with phone #1 listed on the bottom of the bottle.

In 1893, the exchange was moved across the street to the office of Adam Seidel, who succeeded Kuckuk as manager. The following year the office was moved again, a few doors north, where Mr. Tollman became manager.

By 1897, the number of telephone subscribers in Shawano had grown to 25 and it was necessary to move the exchange a third time to an office at the intersection of Main and Division Streets, where a larger switchboard was installed. Mrs. S. W. Fullerton became the local operator and was later succeeded by Mrs. H. P. Kathen.

That same year, a second telephone exchange was formed by an organization known as the Northeastern Telephone Company. After two years of operation, it consolidated its service with the Little Wolf River Telephone Company. The latter firm abandoned its service in 1903, selling its property and facilities to the Wisconsin Telephone Company.

In that year, the number of Shawano subscribers totaled 125, and this mushrooming telephone growth forced a move to more adequate quarters. The switching office was transferred to the Kuckuk-Pulcifer Building. The office was moved a fifth time, in 1926, to 214 Main Street. The move in 1926 also heralded the change of the. local telephone system from the crank-type, magneto operation to common battery method.

The Wisconsin Telephone Company gradually expanded telephone facilities during intervening years to meet the increasing telephone needs of the community.

The role of managers who governed the activities of the Wisconsin Telephone Company’s Shawano exchange through the years of service also includes A. J. Schultz, E. B. Emery, J. T. Callahan, H. E. Meverden, E. J. Ledvina, E. M. Gilson, who served as Shawano’s manager for 25 years until 1947; F. A. Haanen, H. W. Dickey, J. L. Metz, and C. M. Flaherty.

On January 1, 1957, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission approved an agreement whereby the Wisconsin Telephone Company turned over the Shawano exchange to the Dairyland Telephone Corporation of Clintonville. The Wisconsin Telephone Company in turn acquired the Big Bend, Prospect, and Muskego telephone exchanges from the Dairyland Telephone Corporation. A. O. Sander became local manager of the Shawano exchange.

A new building was constructed at 215 East Division and the exchange was converted to modern automatic dial operation on June 21, 1959.

Dairyland Telephone Corporation of Clintonville, was affiliated with Urban Telephone Company also of Clintonville. On April 1, 1962, the two consolidated forming Urban Telephone Corporation.
Shawano Evening Leader, June 30, 1976.