Strowger, Almon Brown

Strowger, Almon Brown
SUBJECT AREA: Telecommunications
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b. 19 October 1839 Penfield, New York, USA
d. 26 May 1902 St Petersburg, Florida, USA
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American soldier, teacher and undertaker who developed the first commercially successful automatic telephone-switching system.
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Enlisting in the 8th New York Cavalry on his twenty-second birthday at the beginning of the American Civil War, Strowger reached the rank of Second Lieutenant. After the war he taught in a number of schools, including that where he had been a pupil, then bought an undertaking business in North Topeka, Kansas. After the death of his wife, he remarried and moved the business to Kansas City.
In 1887, suspecting that the local telephone operator was diverting his potential clients to a rival, he devised a cardboard mock-up of an automatic switching mechanism comprising ten layers of ten contacts, in which electromagnets would be used to lift and rotate the contact wiper arm and thus connect the caller to any one of 100 telephone destinations. Two years later he filed a patent for a 1,000-line automatic exchange.
With the help of his nephew he made a 100line working demonstration and eventually, with the aid of financial backers, the Strowger Automatic Exchange Company was established on 30 October 1891; its first exchange was installed in La Porte, Indiana, in 1892. By the end of 1896 Strowger exchanges had been established in a number of other towns. That year the Strowger engineers introduced the dial system to replace the confusing push-button mechanism, an innovation that was to survive until relatively recently, and the following year saw development of a "trunking" system. In failing health, Strowger retired to Florida, but the company flourished and eventually became part of General Telephones and Electronics (GTE).
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Strowger's pioneering development was commemorated in 1949 by the telephone industry placing a bronze plaque on his grave in St Petersburg, Florida.
Bibliography
12 March 1889, US patent no. 447, 918.
Further Reading
R.J.Chaphuis, 1982, 100 Years of Telephone Switching 1878–1978. Part I: Manual and Electromechanical Switching 1878–1960.
KF

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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