The newly digitized Midwest Commercial Architecture Photograph Collection consists of 32 photographs depicting commercial buildings in rural northwestern Ohio with Central Union Telephone Co. signs indicating recently installed telephones. There are a variety of commercial buildings present in the photographs, as well as telephone poles, merchants’ signs, displays of goods, customers, horse drawn wagons, and bicycles. Three of the photographs do not depict buildings but, instead, one is of a telephone operator office, and the two others depict three men posing humorously for the camera. The photographs date from the early 1900s.
The details shown here are examples of signs found in the photographs. Details above are from “Laundry office”, “House with telephone sign”, and “Piper’s Grocery storefront”. Details below are from “Building with Bell telephone sign”, “Lease & Twining storefront”, and “A.D. Baumhart: The Druggist Store”. Each image of a telephone sign links to the larger photograph.
The Central Union Telephone Company was originally based in Chicago and in 1883 took over the Midland Telephone Company, a Bell organization also based in Chicago. Many Bell patents expired in 1893 and 1894 resulting in an increase of competing telephone companies. By the early 1900s the Central Union Telephone Company was headquartered in Indiana and was organized to develop telephone service in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio. Mergers in the telephone industry in the early 1900s resulted in Central Union Telephone becoming part of Indiana Bell, Illinois Bell and Ohio Bell. In 1920 Central Union Telephone Company was purchased by the Ohio Bell Telephone Company which emerged from the Cleveland Telephone Company. In the 1920s telephone service in Ohio was unified under Ohio Bell. [More information can be found at the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History].
Images from other collections that feature the Central Union Telephone company in Ohio and Indiana can be found on SC&A’s Pinterest board.