Something Doing in the Telephone Business

If you wanted to know who visited whom, when the next ice cream social would be held, how the Skidmore baseball team fared that week, what trips the owner of the paper had taken, or what was on sale at the Spot Cash Store, you had only to wait for the twice-a-week Skidmore Standard. In-depth business news reporting was a rarity, to say the least, but this story was too good to pass up in June 1902.

From the June 24, 1902 Skidmore Standard, page 4 (page 1 had a piece reprinted from the Saturday Evening Post, and this must have been late-breaking news):

Something Doing in the Telephone Business.
Rumor of a Big Deal on Foot.
A Bit of News That Has Not Yet Been “Nosed Out” by the Daily Papers.

It is rumored that there is a good big deal on foot in the independent telephone field. Rumor has it that a large eastern corporation is negotiating for the purchase of the independent toll lines in the Missouri Valley, and that the deal contemplates the merging of the toll lines with the exchanges of St. Joseph, Leavenworth and Kansas City, and the connection of St. Louis with the cities named.

H. E. Ralston, manager and promoter of the Hanamo system, was interviewed by a Standard reporter on the matter, but seemed to evade the subject. While he admitted that the Hanamo Toll Line Co. had been asked to name a price on their property, and also that an option had been negotiated for by some gentlemen with good financial standing, and that such an option is likely to be given on the property of the company, he would give nothing for publication and claimed to know nothing of the merger deal or of the promoters of any such scheme.

“No” he said, “I don’t think there is a deal to buy out competition by the Bell Co., I know of no such deal. In the case of the Hanamo and several of our connecting companies, it would do them no good to buy us out as we have term contracts that run for three and four years that we must fulfill, and any person or corporation buying our property would stand in our place. These contracts could not be converted into “Bell” property to any profit. Any option we might give on our property would be given with the distinct understanding that all our contracts must be fulfilled to the letter, and we would demand a bond guaranteeing that this would be done. No I couldn’t say as to the report you have. If we sellwe will be out of the business. I see no good reason why we should not sell if we get a price that is satisfactory to ourselves. Yes I am satisfied that a large corporation could more satisfactorily handle the business of the country than so many small ones, as it takes capital and lots of it. That is what the small companies have had to contend with.

A company like the one you speak of would surely make rapid progress towards making complete and first-class connections between the large cities in the Missouri Valley. I should think the scheme a good one even if it is never promoted.”