Profile America: First Phone Booth

The first public pay telephone was set up in just two years after Alexander Graham Bell invented the phone. The first coin-operated pay phone was installed ..

America’s first public phone booth was installed this month in 1880 in New Haven, Connecticut, just four years after the telephone was invented. These first public telephones were supervised by attendants, while those operated by coins came along nine years later.

Today, it’s increasingly rare to see a pay phone beyond transportation terminals, but the latest models have computer-like features; some booths are converting to wireless fidelity hot spots. Now, 97 percent of U.S. households have telephone service, and the number of cell phone subscriptions grew from 2 million in 1988 to over 300 million in 2010. Smartphone ownership is estimated to reach 224 million this year, or two-thirds of the population.

Profile America is in its 22nd year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.

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