The Whitaker Telephone Line

In 1891 or 1893 (believe 1893 to be the correct date) Furman went to Chicago to study medicine, graduating in 1895 from Hahnemann Medical College. Before he left Sarasota, in order to give his wife Nellie and his mother Mary closer contact, he purchased from a northern mail order company an acoustic telephone and installed it between the two houses, probably about 1/8 mile apart. It is believed that this was the first telephone on the Florida West Coast.

It consisted of a conical metal disc mounted in each house with a tightly strung copper wire connecting the apex of each metal cone. Along the way the wire was supported on posts or trees six or eight feet above the ground, resting on or attached to in some way, a glass-bottle or jar, fastened to each post which acted as insulators.

This telephone was entirely acoustic and is described by the writer from memory of conversations with the family about it. My concept of it would be as shown by the attached sketch. One member of the family seems to remember that there was also another wire or cord, supported loosely on the same posts or trees, extending between the houses with a hanging bell attached to each end. When one party called the other she pulled the bell cord to attract attention. The voice transmission was said to be clear and loud enough to be readily understood.

This telephone served during the time Furman was away at medical school.

Sketch of Whitaker Acoustic Telephone
Yellow Bluffs, Sarasota, Florida
About 1893
By A.K. Whitaker