Cheyenne Wells, Colorado
People living on the far eastern edge of Colorado's Central Plains in the pioneer days were isolated from the world, being some 200 miles away from Denver and about 400 miles away from Kansas City. In many cases, they were even isolated from each other, sometimes living miles apart. Trips to town for supplies often required a couple of days or more, depending on the weather.
This is why the Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Museum in the 80-year-old local phone company building commemorates the radio wave telephone system at Cheyenne Wells, Colorado—the first in the United States.
That first radio wave telephone system in the country made Cheyenne County, Colorado the technological center of the modern telephone world in the 1940s. The Bell Telephone System had struggled to provide service to remote areas because of shortages of copper wire and qualified installers. In August 1946, the company experimented with the nation's first radio-telephone technology as a way to provide communication service to a few rural farmers in the Cheyenne Wells area without running any new lines. The success of this short-wave radio solution provided the know-how to install other systems in Utah, Idaho, and Montana.
Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Museum
50 South 1st Street, Cheyenne Wells, CO 80810
Call for appointment - Memorial Day-Labor Day 719-767-5170.
24-hour notice needed
There was some telephone service in the area prior to the radio wave telephone; local telephone service became a reality in March 1904. A few rural residents could talk to their neighbors via fence wires, and in Cheyenne Wells, the Cheyenne County Telephone Company connected local residents via a switchboard and operator.
In April 1927, the Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company purchased the Cheyenne County Telephone Company. Seven months later the business opened a new building in Cheyenne Wells. This modest brick structure represented a big change for the community: 161 telephone lines were brought in and the operator was now available 24 hours a day.
Today, that same building is home to the Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Museum. While the museum commemorates the era of the later radio wave technology, it also interprets the earlier telecommunications in the county, featuring a 1920s era original phone booth and switchboard, a 12-foot telephone pole, and even a pre-rotary telephone that connected immediately with the operator.
Mountain Bell sold the historically significant telephone building to the town of Cheyenne Wells in 1968. The structure served as a library from 1969 to 1996, then was unoccupied until recently. A few years ago, Cheyenne County and the Eastern Colorado Historical Society were able to restore the building and develop the new museum with the help of State Historic Fund and other program dollars. Like most museums in the region, this museum is staffed entirely by volunteers.
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