Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

July 12, 1930

On July 12, 1930, the Norfolk Journal and Guide included an advertisement from the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company of Virginia. The ad compared the speed of telephone communication favorably to cross-country air travel: “2,112 miles in 13 hours and 55 minutes—a flight from one end of the country to the other—the fastest long journey man has ever made—a journey that took our pioneer forefathers from 3 to 5 months of weary travel at a snail’s pace, over vast expanses of prairie, across turbulent rivers, through perilous mountain passes. To skim over these vast expanses in a little less than 14 hours seems incredible. Yet, even speed such as this becomes as nothing over the telephone wires. By means of the telephone this journey can now be made not one way but both ways, within the space of MINUTES.”

In 1930, about 40 percent of Americans owned a telephone, and this percentage declined during the Depression. I was not able to find telephone adoption rates for African Americans in the 1930s, but based on socioeconomic status, black telephone ownership rates were likely less than the national average. This advertisement in the Norfolk Journal and Guide was therefore targeting early technology adopters.

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