When the first telephone was installed in Fort Atkinson in 1883, just seven years after its invention by Alexander Graham Bell, many thought it was a mere novelty. The phone was located in Dexheimer’s Drugstore on South Main Street and was linked to a telephone in Jefferson, making it our first long distance line. The city granted the Wisconsin Telephone Company an operating franchise, and before the end of the year, an exchange was established to furnish local service. The phone stayed at Dexheimer Drug, and Miss Elizabeth Hoffman was the first local telephone operator, with a headset that weighed six and a half pounds.
Businesses were the first mass consumers of the telephone. Of the 26 subscribers who appear in the 1888 Fort Atkinson phone directory, twenty-one were businesses. Only five were for private residences, and of those three were for doctors.
This historic document aired on the radio as an Historic Minute on 06/20/2005.