Jump to Navigation

Almon Strowger

Almon StrowgerInventor dial telephone. Born 1839. Died 1902.

Almon Strowger was born in Penfield, New York, in 1839. From a young age he was known to invent things. When given a task it was said that instead of merely doing it he would often try to invent a machine to do it for him. Strowger fought in the Civil War, and afterward came to settle in El Dorado or Topeka, Kansas. It was while working as an undertaker that he found the inspiration for his invention the dial phone.

In the late 1880s Strowger was the only undertaker in town, and ran quite a profitable business. Suddenly he noticed his work had dropped off considerably, and that there was a new undertaker in town. Curious as to why so many were going to this new undertaker instead of him, Strowger found out it was because the telephone operator was married to this other undertaker. When anyone called for Stowger's business, she would direct them to her husband. At that time when anyone placed a call they had to first call in an operator who would then connect them to their intended party. Strowger found this system entirely unnecessary, and worked to come up with an invention that would allow callers to contact one another directly, without the need of a human intermediary.

Strowger was not the first to have this idea. Thousands of patents for such machines had been submitted, however, Strowger, living in Kansas City, Missouri, at the time of the patent application, was the first to create a working model. It is said his first model was created using a color box and straight pins. Later designs became much more complex, using electromagnets and push keys. In 1892 Strowger patented his automatic telephone exchange and left the undertaking business to mass-produce his new invention.

Teaming up with family members and friends, he created the Strowger Automatic Telephone Exchange Company, which installed the first working system into La Porte, Indiana, in 1892. In 1898 Strowger sold his patent and shares of the company and moved to St. Petersburg, Florida. There he returned to the undertaker business until his death in 1902.

Strowager's invention would be the common system used by telephone companies in the U.S. for many years to come. He allowed for a revolution in telephone technology, and ensured that never again would an operator misdirect people.

Entry: Strowger, Almon

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: June 2011

Date Modified: February 2019

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.