The pay phone locations on the map are marked from 20 Fifth Avenue on the corner of 9th Street in the north to 1 Broadway at the corner of Battery Place in the south with hand-drawn black squares pinpointing their precise locations. Each is accompanied — in hand typed manuscript — by the address, the name of the building or business where it is located, and the phone number, most of which begin with “Spring” followed by a four-digit number. The intersection of Fifth Avenue and 9th Street is also hand-drawn. Washington Square, the County Court House, and Battery Park all appear on the map. The maker of the map and whom it was intended for are unknown, whether a company, government agency, or private individual.
The Gray Telephone Pay Station Company was founded in Hartford, Connecticut in 1891 by William Gray, inventor of the coin-operated pay telephone and was in business until 1948. The company installed the first public coin-operated telephone in 1891 inside a Hartford bank. This innovation allowed people without phones in their homes to make calls without an attendant. In the early days of the telephone, all calls were connected by operators. The earliest pay stations required payment directly to an agent who had a telephone available; these were quite rare. With Gray’s “coin-controlled apparatus” a small bell would signal the operator when a coin was deposited to come on the line and connect the call. Shortly thereafter this was replaced by a more sophisticated “signal device for telephone pay stations” developed by Gray. Over the years, Gray continued to improve his invention under additional patents. In 1898, prepay coin-operated phones were introduced and in the early 1900s the first outdoor phone booths appeared. By 1902 there were 81,000 pay telephones installed inside public buildings in the United States.
This map may be considered at once a map of Broadway in lower Manhattan, and also a specialty map of the history of technology in general and as related to the City. This is a topic of considerable contemporary interest; in 2022, an exhibition Analog City: NYC B.C. (Before Computers) was displayed at the Museum of the City of New York. Accofding to the museum: “Analog City examines the technologies that enabled the city to reach its position as the ‘capital of the world’ in an age before the speed and capacity of today’s digital technologies.” The last two pay telephone booths in the City, removed in May 2022, were displayed as part of the exhibit.
Condition: Generally very good with only light toning, wear, handling. Backed on linen, and folds, as issued.
Fabry, Merrill. “Now You Know: Where was the First Public Telephone Booth?” Time Magazine. 3 August 2016. https://time.com/4425102/public-telephone-booth-history/ (10 November 2022).
Stamp, Jimmy. “The Pay Phone’s Journey From Patent to Urban Relic.” Smithsonian Magazine. 18 September 2014. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/first-and-last-pay-phone-180952727/ (10 November 2022).