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American Telephone & Telegraph: The Art of Telephony, 1916

Improving the State of the Union

In March of 1916, The Franklin Institute recognized AT&T for its contributions to the art of telephony with its revered Elliott Cresson Medal. The case file that chronicles the decision-making process leading up to AT&T's recognition includes several drafts of the arguments made in support of AT&T's receipt of this honor. The final draft declares that the Cresson medal was conferred on AT&T in honor of its constructive and far-seeing policy in the development of telephony, its promotion of telephone engineering, its establishment of telephone systems in every part of the US, and its success in placing all states of the Union in speaking communication.

The time spanning between the establishment of AT&T in the late 1800s and its recognition by The Franklin Institute in 1916 saw many changes in American Society, and the improvement of railroads, mail delivery, and telecommunications helped make the country seem smaller by making it easier for the population to get in touch. As President Theodore Roosevelt spearheaded the creation of the Panama Canal, AT&T set up switchboards and long distance telephone service. Under the leadership of Theodore Vail, AT&T flourished, establishing many practices which continue to be adhered to by companies specializing in telephony today. The documents detailing the accomplishments of Vail's company sing the praises of this noteworthy figure in AT&T's history.

At right are thumbnails linking to the draft, the revisions, and the final statement of AT&T's achievements in "the art of telephony." You can click on these thumbnails to view the stages of this document.