Today in 1877, President Rutherford B. Hayes got a phone installed at the White House.

There’s been a rumor for years that Hayes didn’t like the phone, though he actually liked new technology.

The White House telephone was installed so soon after the invention that it had the phone number “1.”

But while there was a White House phone, there wasn’t a White House phone line; they had to connect through the Treasury Department.

There weren’t a huge number of phone users in Washington at the time, anyway, so the Hayes White House kept using the telegraph most of the time.

There’s also a funny story about the time Hayes was on a trip to Rhode Island when he got a phone call from Alexander Graham Bell.

The sound quality wasn’t great, so the president had to keep asking the inventor to speak more slowly.

When he still couldn’t hear everything Bell was saying, he simply replied, “That is wonderful.”

But as technology and infrastructure improved, the White House phone got plenty of use.

Our leaders have called leaders in other countries to make landmark deals, shape the course of world events, even say hi to astronauts on the moon.

Some of them have also used the phone to get themselves into trouble, and a few have learned why you maybe don’t want to record all of your phone conversations.

Like the tape of Lyndon Johnson calling a clothing company to order pants, going deep into detail about how if the pants are too tight near a certain area of the body “they’re just like riding a wire fence.”

If President Hayes had known what LBJ was going to use the phone for, would he have reconsidered installing that White House phone back in 1877?

Today in 1491, the birthday of Henry VIII.

Interesting fact about the English king: he was so worried about being assassinated that when he traveled, he brought along his personal locksmith, who would then put a special lock on the bedchamber where he slept.

A clambake, slurs and phone sex: The long, strange history of presidential calls (Washington Post)


We’re calling on you to back our show on Patreon

Photo by Abbie Rowe via Wikicommons