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Carlos Skinner and the People's Telephone Company

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telephone.jpgThe early history of the Eastern Townships Telephone Company is also the story of Carlos Skinner. A jeweller and watchmaker by trade, and a native of Waterloo, Skinner, according to writer Paul Delaney, was a "man of boundless energy with an abiding curiosity in new scientific developments."

Skinner first became interested in the telephone when he read about Alexander Graham Bell's invention in Scientific American in October 1877, writes Delaney. With the assistance of a friend, William Farber, he built a telephone in ten days. At this time, Skinner had a telegraph agency in his jewellery store. It is reported that he connected his telephone to the telegraph line, placed a call to Montreal, and spoke to the Montreal office sixty miles away. This, the first long distance phone call made in Canada, took place three years before the establishment of the Bell Telephone Company of Canada in 1880.

Skinner opened a jewellery and watchmaking store after moving to Sherbrooke in 1878. His fascination with the telephone continued, and he helped form an independent telephone company, whose name later became the People's Telephone Company, and finally the Eastern Townships Telephone Company.

In spite of the many difficulties, such as the erection of poles and lines in Sherbrooke, a lack of funds, and having to learn how to manufacture component parts, the company operated independently for many years in and around Sherbrooke and competed successfully with Bell Telephone.

When Skinner retired in 1912, the Eastern Townships Telephone Company was one of the largest and oldest independent telephone companies. To many residents, the company was known as "Skinner Telephone." It was so well established and so effectively run that Bell Telephone abandoned any idea of competing and eventually purchased the company in 1953.

Paul Delaney, "The Eastern Townships Telephone Company," in Annals of Richmond County and Vicinity, Volume 2, 1980, 48-50.