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Social functions at the Ulysses S. Grant White House attracted so many visitors that the Red, Blue, and Green parlors became extremely hot and stuffy. For this reason, a special ventilation system was added to circulate the air. Exactly how the system worked is not known, but it was operated from the ceiling by a pair of long tasseled cords-like bellpulls-in each room, near the fireplace; one opened the ventilator and the other closed it. The device became indispensable when there were thousands of callers. The first White House telephone was installed for Rutherford B. Hayes in 1879, but it was used rarely as there were so few telephones in Washington. His telephone number was "1."

Telephones in the White House executive offices, c. 1890.

Library of Congress

Footnotes & Resources

William Seale, The President's House, 477, 494.

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