SAN ANGELO, Texas - Nine years before Alexander Graham Bell successfully tested his new invention by calling out, "Mr. Watson, come here, I want you," to his assistant, Thomas Watson, West Texas settlers and the Fourth U.S. Cavalry established Fort Concho to defend against hostile enemies who rode the range on horseback.
Much as Bell's invention of the telephone in 1876 changed the way the world communicates, the formation of Fort Concho in 1867 along the banks of the Concho River dramatically shaped how the mighty Texas frontier was settled.
And now, thanks to Verizon, Fort Concho, 140 years after its creation, will be the permanent home for one of the most famous telephones ever made, along with a collection of other historical pieces of telephone equipment, photos and memorabilia of Texas telephone pioneers who paved a path for future industry leaders.
This Saturday (June 9), Verizon will transfer to the city of San Angelo ownership of the antique telephone equipment and related artifacts that make up the E.H. Danner Museum of Telephony. The city manages the museum, housed inside former officers' quarters at Fort Concho, which is listed as a National Historic Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Verizon Roots Run Deep in Texas
"Verizon's predecessor-company roots run long and deep in the heart of Texas, and we're very proud of our positive, long-standing relationship with the city of San Angelo," said Trinidad Aguirre, senior vice president and general manager for Verizon Communications' Texas division. In 2000, GTE Corp. and Bell Atlantic Corp. merged to form Verizon, but for many years the headquarters for the then-General Telephone Company of the Southwest was based in San Angelo. Today San Angelo is home to more than 1,400 Verizon employees, the second-highest concentration of company employees in the Lone Star State.
Aguirre, who began his career in 1980 as a central office technician in San Angelo, calls the E. H. Danner Museum - named on behalf of former General Telephone Company of the Southwest president E.H. Danner - a "lasting legacy to the pioneer spirit that formed our great state and our great company."
"I am a true believer that San Angelo people have the capability to do anything they aspire to do," said Aguirre. He will be joined by officials from the Fort Concho National Historic Landmark, San Angelo, Concho Valley Telephone Pioneers Association and the Fort Concho Museum at an 8:30 a.m. outdoor ceremony at the Fort Concho National Historic Landmark, 630 S. Oakes St., to commemorate the Verizon donation as part of the annual Fort Concho Frontier Day celebration.
"We know the historical items that trace our industry and company's past are in good hands, and future visitors to the E. H. Danner Museum of Telephony will enjoy walking and talking down memory lane," Aguirre said.
In addition to possessing one of the two known models of Bell's Gallows Frame telephone still in existence, the museum features other novel items such as a Kellogg single-position manual magneto switchboard from 1910; an 1898 solid oak hotel lobby telephone; the Independent Telephone Pioneers Association Hall of Fame, which features photos and biographies of former company leaders; and a personal collection of former GTE Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rocky Johnson's career memorabilia. For years, Johnson worked in San Angelo.
Verizon Investment in San Angelo Museum Tops $250,000 to Date;
Museum Assets Top $100,000
Since 1990 when the E. H. Danner Museum was rededicated at its present location at Fort Concho, Verizon has invested more than $250,000 to establish, maintain and operate the telephone museum. The museum telephone equipment and related artifacts are valued at more than $100,000, according to Verizon.
Much has changed since Bell transmitted those first well-known words via telephone after accidentally spilling acid in his Boston workshop and reaching out for help to Watson, who was in another room; but some things remain the same, said Aguirre.
"In Alexander Graham Bell's day, people didn't have the convenience we have now of picking up the phone and knowing we can speak to a friend or family member during even the worst of thunderstorms, thanks to our network reliability," said Aguirre. "The one constant that remains through the years is the need for people to communicate. No matter when or how people communicate - either by landline or wireless phone; a local or long-distance call; an e-mail, text or video message - Verizon helps people enjoy life and be productive by connecting with others."
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), headquartered in New York, is a leader in delivering broadband and other wireline and wireless communication innovations to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers. Verizon Wireless operates America's most reliable wireless network, serving 60.7 million customers nationwide. Verizon's Wireline operations include Verizon Business, which delivers innovative and seamless business solutions to customers around the world, and Verizon Telecom, which brings customers the benefits of converged communications, information and entertainment services over the nation's most advanced fiber-optic network. A Dow 30 company, Verizon has a diverse workforce of more than 238,000 and last year generated consolidated operating revenues of more than $88 billion. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.