The White House Phone

Remember the famous political ad from a recent presidential election, when a particular candidate questioned, “Who do you want taking the (emergency) call at 3 am?” The point was that this candidate was portraying himself/herself as the person to be trusted in matters of national security.

Notice, I didn’t name the candidate. But I’ll give you a hint. It has to be someone who ran for office since Rutherford B. Hayes was president. You see, he was the first president to have a phone in the White House.

It happened this day, May 10, 1877. Hayes had the first telephone installed in the mansion’s telegraph room. President Hayes embraced the new technology, though he rarely received phone calls. In fact, the Treasury Department possessed the only other phone number to the White House at that time. The White House phone number was 1.

Phone service throughout the country was obviously in its infancy in 1877. It was not until a year later that the first telephone exchange was set up in Connecticut, and it would be 50 more years until President Herbert Hoover had the first telephone installed at the president’s desk in the Oval Office.

So President Hayes had this great new invention installed, but it was rarely used. Sounds a lot like prayer. When Jesus came and died a sacrificial death on the cross and was raised the third day, he opened up the line to God. Unfortunately, most of us don’t use it much more than President Rutherford B. Hayes used his phone.

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