is directly related to the history of the telephone. See more in our Science of Phones
Heroes are also a key ingredient in
history. See more heroes in our Heroes
Absorbed into the Tri-State Telephone Co., 1929
This company began as the Mississippi Valley Telephone Company in 1898. Its name was changed in 1901 after being purchased by partners L. A. Towbridge and D. R. Niver.
The first commercial exchange in Northwestern Bell territory was opened at Keokuk, Iowa in September 1878. It was owned by Western Union, and under patent agreements, could not use Bell equipment. When the Bell patents expired in 1893, many exchanges were formed to compete with existing companies. In some cities two or three companies competed, so in order to be connected to all his neighbors, a telephone user had to have two or more telephones, directories, and bills. One of these in Keokuk, was begun by J.C. Hubinger.
AT&T managers recognized Hubinger as a formidable opponent. According to O. C. Michelman, "In Minnesota, competition of sizeable dimension came from the Mississippi Valley Telephone Company . . .a Mr. Hubinger, a Burlington, Iowa starch manufacturer and financier, was the backer of this company which had telephone exchanges in Muscatine, Keokuk and Burlington, Iowa as well as St. Paul and Minneapolis."*
In the spring of 1897, Casper E. Yost, President of Northwestern Bell, wrote, "Our friends of the Mississippi Valley Telephone Company are active, vigilant and determined." By June, Hubinger was in Omaha, soliciting for subscribers on five-year contracts, promising metallic circuits and long-distance transmitters. (The Omaha Telephone Company won out over both Mississippi Valley and Bell.)
The J.C. Hubinger Company was incorporated in Iowa and Illinois and was owned in equal partnership by three brothers: J. C., Nick and Joe Hubinger. In 1898, it was the largest manufacturer of prepared starch in the United States. Besides the starch factory, the brothers (through the Hubinger Company) owned the Electric Street Railway (Trolley Company) in Keokuk, Iowa, the Keokuk Electric Light Plant, real estate and telephone properties.
The Mississippi Valley Telephone Company began business in Keokuk on April 1, 1897. The Burlington exchange opened October 1 of that same year and those in Ft. Madison and Muscatine followed on October 1, 1898. There was a 45 mile-long toll line between Keokuk and Burlington, and agreements with other telephone companies in the area, which allowed interconnection between over 200 towns in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri. The company also operated franchises in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The Keokuk exchange began business with 440 subscribers, Ft. Madison with 140, Burlington 400, and Muscatine with 16. All increased rapidly. Most subscribers agreed to a five-year subscription, with rates of $24 per year for businesses and $18 per year for a residential line. Rates in Minneapolis and St. Paul were $48 for businesses and $30 for residential.
The Articles of Incorporation for the company were dated February 24, 1898, and were signed by John C. Hubinger, V. M. Hubinger (his wife), D.R. Craig, A.E. Gregory, and J.P. Christy in the presence of Wm. Getty and Chas. F. Weismann (Hubinger's son-in-law). Authorized capital was $1 million. By March 1901, J.C. Hubinger had himself invested another million dollars in the company.
In June 1897, Hubinger applied for and was granted franchises to compete against Northwestern Bell (the AT&T company) in Minneapolis and St. Paul. According to an unpublished history written in 1945 by Geo. Robinson of Northwestern Bell, "lack of sufficient capital necessitated a reorganization."
The Minnesota Valley Telephone Company was purchased by Tri-State in December 1905 for $82,998.78. They continued to do business in Iowa as "The Minnesota Valley Telephone Company" until purchased by the Iowa Telephone Company (Northwestern Bell's predecessor) upon order of the U.S. District Court in 1913. (According to some documents, this occurred in 1910).
At a Board of Directors meeting on March 5, 1901, the name of the corporation was changed to "Twin City Telephone Company," and the principal office was changed from Keokuk to Minneapolis. Authorized capitalization of the new company was $2.5 million.
* It's possible that Hubinger's starch factory was actually in Keokuk. We have two conflicting sources, the quote above and a note received from Steve Schack, Aug. 20, 2007, saying the factory was in Keokuk.
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