No image so faithfully captures telephone employees' devotion to duty as does "The Spirit of Service." The man who posed for the sketch was Angus Macdonald, who himself epitomized the commitment to the telephone company and its customers so common in the early days of telephony.
In March 1888, a severe snowstorm threatened the newly installed long distance line between Boston and New York City. Macdonald's crew in West Boylston, Massachusetts and other crews along the line began patrolling on snowshoes, repairing any downed and broken lines they came across, and maintaining service throughout the blizzard. At one point, Macdonald and his crew came upon a train that had been stalled for two days. They were able to reach town on their snowshoes and return with food and drink for the passengers.
The Bell Company recognized an opportunity when it saw one, and commissioned an artist to commemorate the occurrence with a drawing of a lineman patrolling the lines. Angus was chosen to be the model. An advertising campaign featuring "The Spirit of Service" stressed the dependability and importance of maintaining service. This demonstration of the stability of Bell lines and service resulted in a great number of new orders. In future years, the drawing (and a later painting based on it) became an inspiration to generations of Bell System employees.
Angus Macdonald was born in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, on December 13, 1864. At age 20, he moved to Boston, where he found work at the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company. He was to stay with the Bell Telephone System for the next fifty years.
He married Catharine Boland in August 1901, and they had six children--Ronald, George, Eleanor, Frances, Mary and Marion. Both Angus and Catharine were musicians, so the family reveled in regular musical evenings. According to his daughter Eleanor, religion, education and a love of nature were all important features of their family life.*
Along with Alexander Graham Bell, Angus became one of the first Telephone Pioneers when the organization was formed in 1911. He retired in 1934, and lived an active and vigorous life until shortly before his death at age 94, in 1958.
*In the forward to
The Spirit of Service, Macdonald, Angus. 1988. Eleanor J. Macdonald, Houston, Texas.
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