Posted 10 years ago
You may have seen the reproductions of this great 1881 Telephone Despatch Company directory. I have the original, and am now preserving it archivally. This is a fascinating 40 page book, the highlight being the listing on page five for Prof. Alexander Graham Bell's home number (7200). Many other famous personages inside, and a great ad for Charles Williams Jr's shop on the back.
The way I got (more appropriately, rescued) this book was pretty interesting. I'd heard about a phone collector nearby who'd passed away, leaving a large collection of phones, parts, signs, and other stuff that his family wanted to get rid of. They were pretty picky about reserving his nicest phones for collectors they knew personally, but just wanted someone to come in and haul away lots of other common stuff, including (they thought) several boxes of old phone directories and paper.
The paper (like many items in this collection) had not been well cared for, just thrown together in boxes. Most of the phone books were nothing special but kind of fun to look through. I ended up selling a lot of them to people who lived in the towns they came from and who appreciated them.
Buried deep in the pile was a plain manila envelope. I had heard about the 1881 directory because this collector had made and sold (bad) reproductions of it for years and years. I had wondered where the original was. I opened this forgotten envelope, and there it was! Wow. Lucky it didn't just get thrown out with the pile!