While working on an inventory of an old collection in our archives, known as “The Old Collection,” I came across an interesting find today. I found the “Grand Rapids Telephone Exchange,” from July of 1879, and it is the first telephone directory of Grand Rapids. What an amazing find!! The stamp in the corner shows that it was received by the library in 1921.
The telephone exchange has lists of various local Grand Rapids businesses and the few residents that had a telephone. There were no telephone numbers yet, as you had to speak with an operator, then could be directed to one of the parties on the list. The Grand Rapids city directories did not contain telephone numbers (once they had numbers) until approximately 1891.
Here is the Grand Rapids Telephone Exchange list, where you can find which businesses and Grand Rapids residents had a telephone where you could have direct communication with them in the year 1879 (click on the image two times to view larger):
Who do you think you would have called in 1879?