Ring, ring! 138 years of history for Island Telephone Company

Posted on June 06, 2022 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments

In 1875, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. A decade later, telephone service on Prince Edward Island began thanks to what later became The Island Telephone Company. From the first telephone exchange to a major merger, P.E.I.’s inaugural telephone company dates back 138 years.


The Telephone Company of Prince Edward Island’s rates in 1888 (photo credit: The Island Register)


Making a call

The first telephone exchange on Prince Edward Island occurred in 1884 in Charlottetown at the J. Angus MacLean Building (then the headquarters of the Union Bank). Robert Angus was credited for the connection, having established a way for lawyers of the firm Palmer and MacLeod to communicate between offices. Managed by Robert, The Telephone Company of Prince Edward Island was incorporated in 1885.


Island Telephone Company employees installing telephone poles (left) and a list of The Telephone Company of Prince Edward Island’s stations (right) from 1890 (photo credit: Prince Edward Island Telephone Museum & The Island Register)


Adding lines

The Telephone Company of Prince Edward Island added a line in Summerside in 1886 and continued to expand services over the years. By 1889, the company needed larger office space and moved to the now historic 57 Queen Street building.

Starting in the 1890s, The Telephone Company began receiving government subsidies to aid with its continued growth.

In 1905, the company announced a change in the format of its number directory, from cards to a book. Being the first phonebook on the Island, it made it easier for Islanders to find contacts. It also provided businesses space to place advertisements on the top and bottom of pages. Initial printing produced 1,000 copies.

In 1911, the Maritime Telephone and Telegraph Company became the majority owner of The Telephone Company of Prince Edward Island. This established shared communications between P.E.I. and Nova Scotia.


The Island Telephone Company’s building in Charlottetown, which was built in the 1930s (photo credit: Prince Edward Island Telephone Museum)


Syncing contacts

There were over 40 telephone companies across P.E.I. by 1919. Over the next 55 years, The Telephone Company slowly began acquiring each privately-owned organization.

In 1929, The Telephone Company of Prince Edward Island was renamed ‘The Island Telephone Company’. In December of that same year, the business reached 4,072 phones in service. By the end of 1950, The Island Telephone Company had installed over 10,000 phones, which grew to 25,000 phones in 1964.

In 1974, the last privately-owned phone company servicing rural P.E.I. was acquired by The Island Telephone Company. The business was renamed to IslandTel in the 1980s and again in 1998 to Island Telecom Inc. to showcase its diverse product offerings that included Internet and mobility services.


A phonebook published by The Telephone Company of Prince Edward Island in 1928 (photo credit: Prince Edward Island Telephone Museum)


Merging networks

Today, Island Telephone Company is part of Bell Aliant.

In 1999, Island Telecom merged with Maritime Telegraph and Telephone Company, Bruncor and NewTel Enterprises (leaders in Atlantic Canada’s telecommunications industry) to form Aliant Inc. Each company continued to operate under its own name until 2003 when all began using ‘Aliant’. This was the first year that phonebooks in P.E.I. were issued with the Aliant name. In 2006, Aliant merged with Bell Canada to form Bell Aliant.

With 138 years since the first call on the Island, Island Telephone Company’s history has gone the distance.


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