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    Fort McCoy ArtiFACT: Telephone token

    Fort McCoy ArtiFACT: Telephone token

    Courtesy Photo | The front and back of a telephone token found at an archaeological site at Fort McCoy...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office           

    It is increasingly rare these days to see a public telephone on the street. Cellular phones have become ubiquitous, and many individuals and families have transitioned away from landline telephones completely in their homes.

    The first pay phone in the United States was installed in a bank in Hartford, Conn., in 1889, and while that pay phone has since been removed, there is a plaque on the wall that commemorates its original location. A century after that first pay phone, there were more than 2 million pay phones and phone booths throughout the country. Today, that number has dwindled to approximately 100,000. But pay phones are still available in some areas, and there are even websites devoted entirely to their location and use.

    Pay phones today are more frequently used with calling cards than spare change, but in some areas of the country and places abroad, early pay phones employed telephone tokens. These tokens often had grooves that assured that only these specialized coins could fit in the slots designed to accept them.

    Archaeological researchers with the Colorado State University Center for the Environmental Management of Military Lands (CEMML) discovered a telephone token while investigating an archaeological site near South Post Family Housing in 2016. This particular token would have been used in the Chicago area during the first half of the 20th century.

    It is likely that the token was brought to the area by someone from the Chicago area working at this location as a part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The area that is now South Post family housing was the district headquarters of the CCC in the 1930s.

    A Chicago druggist named Henry Goetz filed a patent in 1907 for the first telephone token with grooves, and the intent was to prevent the use of fake coins, also known as slugs. Another benefit of using telephone tokens was that the coin slots would not need to be changed when the cost of a phone call increased. Goetz tokens like the one recovered by CEMML archaeologists were used in Chicago until about 1944. Other designs followed the grooved tokens, including tokens with a hole in the center and tokens with a scalloped edge. The tokens could be specialized to work in a specific location by changing the spacing between the grooves or the design of the open space in the center, and the numbering or lettering on the token would indicate where they could be used.

    Telephone tokens became popular outside the United States, as well, in places like Europe, Israel, Japan, and South America. In Europe, the tokens were especially useful. Whereas Chicago tokens were specialized to work in a specific area or individual store, pay phones in Europe would often be standardized for multiple countries.

    This allowed someone to use the same token from their homeland across the border in another country without having to obtain the neighboring country’s currency. In some parts of Europe, the tokens were so ubiquitous that they could be used in place of actual money.

    All archaeological work conducted at Fort McCoy was sponsored by the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch.

    Visitors and employees are reminded they should not collect artifacts on Fort McCoy or other government lands and leave the digging to the professionals. Any person who excavates, removes, damages, or otherwise alters or defaces any historic or prehistoric site, artifact, or object of antiquity on Fort McCoy is in violation of federal law.
    The discovery of any archaeological artifact should be reported to the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch at 608-388-8214.

    (Article prepared by the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch.)



    Date Taken: 08.27.2021
    Date Posted: 08.27.2021 13:41
    Story ID: 404047
    Location: FORT MCCOY, WI, US

    Web Views: 216
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