Suggestions for the Classroom
: 1876 - 1915
: business, technology, cultural values
The telephone was first introduced at the Centennial Exposition in 1876 and was
an instant success. Although first rented only to "persons of good breeding"
and seen as an expensive luxury for doctors and businessmen, the telephone soon
transformed American life. Trees gave way to telephone poles as operators
known as "hello girls" began to connect a sprawling continent.
Before Viewing Discussion
After Viewing Discussion
- As a class, create a list of communication technologies, such as
telephones, computers, and fax machines. For three days, have students keep a
record of all the technologies they use to communicate. What technologies did
they record? How would they communicate differently without these
technologies? How might their lifestyles be different?
- What strategies might inventors use to protect their inventions?
What strategies might business people use to make their businesses profitable?
As students watch, have them take notes on how Bell protected his invention and
how business people made profits from the telephone.
- Ask students to share the strategies they noted. Would they have
made the same decisions? Why or why not? Could Bell and the businessmen have
all achieved their goals using other strategies?
- How did Bell, Hubbard, and Morgan create monopolies? What are the
benefits and dangers of monopolies for companies and consumers? Are there
monopolies today? Explain.
- How did the telephone change conversation, etiquette, and privacy?
Have students write about how another communication technology has influenced
- How did the decision to hire women telephone operators reflect or
challenge contemporary attitudes about women? How was the operator work
similar or different from other jobs women held at the time?