Photograph of Women Working at a Bell System Telephone Switchboard

    Newer Older

    Original Caption: Photograph of Women Working at a Bell System Telephone Switchboard

    U.S. National Archives' Local Identifier: 86-WWT-28-3

    World War, 1939-1945

    Persistent URL:

    For more information about records related to women and women’s issues at the U.S. National Archives, visit:

    Repository: Still Picture Records Section, Special Media Archives Services Division (NWCS-S), National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD, 20740-6001.

    For information about ordering reproductions of photographs held by the U.S. National Archives' Still Picture Unit, visit:

    Reproductions may be ordered via an independent vendor. The U.S. National Archives maintains a list of vendors at

    Access Restrictions: Unrestricted
    Use Restrictions: Unrestricted

    waegnoi, amorrow7, tgsuttle, and 84 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    1. Enric Martinez 109 months ago | reply

      Fantastic image.
      I simply love this weird tech they used in these days.

    2. stoppuller 108 months ago | reply

      Before Direct Dial, any Long Distance call was handled by operators like these -- including inter-city calls in the U.S. Nearly every tiny town had someone operating a switcfhboard, often in a private residence. Night calls were handled by an operator who had a bedroom adjacent to the switchboard.
      And LD calls took a long time if they had to go through several relays, or if the receiving party did not have a dial phone.
      Furthermore, as recent as the 1960s, it often took up to a half hour to call from America to parts of Europe. An international operator in New York received a verbal request, and usually, the operator would call back when finally ther was an open line.
      Times have changed so in recent decades; but somehow the old "wierd" methods were more interesting than today's instantaneous automatic worldwide phone calls "untouched by human hands."

    3. The U.S. National Archives 108 months ago | reply

      Thanks for sharing your fascinating insight with us, stoppuller!

      Jerry (U.S. National Archives)

    4. O B McClintock bank vault burglar alarm 101 months ago | reply

      This is an overseas 3CH board on the east coast. I was one of the first men hired about 40 years ago on the 3CL board.When I started with Bell I had to start on switchboards such as this. Rear cord for answer and front to key pulse out on. I also remember MX routing, npa, nxx, and terns like DA and BY. On the route and rate board I remember terms such as these; for numbers "218 plus 7D or for operators 218 plus 065 plus", as an example. Or for a ring down we said: 218 plus 065, Springfield will answer." Its been over 40 years ago but it seems like just the other day. Good memories!!!

    5. to&fro_uponthe_earth 19 months ago | reply

      With this picture I have discovered a third one on Flickr with operators wearing the apparatus where a woman had a mouthpiece to speak into right in front of her mouth. The scale is too small to see clearly, except fair with the nearest seated operator. The near-distance standing supervisor is holding on to her equipment.
      Operators having this kind of equipment stayed in my mind, and somehow I regretted changes. When I grew old enough, the position in front of her mouth seemed sexy, and in recent days I've wanted to search Flickr for the old equipment as a fetish. I discussed two other pictures I found yesterday, and this joins them in my faves. Tom Hart, Nashville, Tennessee, US

    keyboard shortcuts: previous photo next photo L view in light box F favorite < scroll film strip left > scroll film strip right ? show all shortcuts