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Randwick District Telephone Exchange List of Subscribers - 1st January 1906

Hazel Brombey

On 10 March 1876, Alexander Graham Bell said, This is a great day with me and I feel I have at last struck the solution of a great problem and the day is coming when telephone wires will be laid in to houses just like water or gas, and friends converse with each other without leaving home. (1)

In 1879, the first telephone service in Australia was launched, connecting the Melbourne and South Melbourne offices of Robinson Brothers. In 1882, Sydney's first public telephone exchange made telephone use and ownership available to the public in NSW. (2)

When the Postmaster General's Department (PMG) was founded after Federation in 1901 there were around 33,000 phones across Australia, with 7,502 telephone subscribers in inner Sydney. (3)

The citizens of Randwick Municipality by 1906 had fully embraced telephone technology. The R&DHS holds the list of 297 subscribers for the year.

It's interesting to note that the first subscriber was Randwick Town Hall at Number One. Numbers Two and Ten were not listed - perhaps they hadn't paid their account! Other interesting subscribers were Number 45 Stock Quarantine, Number 9 Tramway Works Manager's Offices and Number 42 was a Cab stand at Allison Road, Randwick. The spelling of Allison Road with double-L was used throughout the telephone directory and also the contemporary Sands Directory.

Listed below are eight of the first listings. Other listings include Number 230 The Female Prison and Penitentiary, Number 166 Hillside Wool-Scouring Company, wool scourers and fellmongers of Maroubra Bay and Number 164 Nance's Poultry Farm at Arden Street, Coogee. Our Treasurer, Geoffrey Lewis, lives at "Peckham" in Cowper Street. In the year 1906, John Forsyth with telephone Number 61, was a subscriber living at this address.

In 1888, Mark Twain, the American humorist evidently had trouble with inconvenient telephone calls when he said of the new-fangled invention: It is my heart-warm and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration that all of us - the high, the low, the poor, the rich, the admired, the despised - may eventually be gathered together in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss - except the inventor of the telephone. (4)

1Randwick Town Hall
3Bolton A. T."Strathden", Belmore Road, Randwick
4Coogee Bay HotelCoogee
5Coach and Horse Hotel John Peters, Allison Road, Randwick
6Royal HotelS. T. Rowan, Belmore Road, Randwick
7Bransby C. S."Cambridge", Brook Street, Coogee
8Allsop, John"Wilton", Barker and Maude Streets, Randwick
9Richards, Mrs Robert"Holkham". Allison

1 'The Palace of Winged Words' in The Development of Telephone Exchanges in Australia, Telecom Australia - Information Publicity Office, [Randwick & District Historical Society collection]
2 www.actewagl.com.au/Education/communications/Telephone/AustTelephoneNetworks/TelephoneHistoryAust.aspx
3 ibid
4 www.twainquotes.com/telephone.html

Early Telephone
Pioneer Telephone
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