1877 brought a new President to the White House and a new presidential perk: the Executive Mansion’s first telephone. President Rutherford B. Hayes had the phone installed in the White House telegraph room. The first White House phone number was “1.”
Alexander Graham Bell had just invented the telephone a year earlier, so it should not be surprising that there were not a lot of telephones out there for the President to call or from which to receive calls. Practically speaking, the only one of significance connected to that first White House phone was in the nearby Treasury Department.
It would take years for this to become anything close to the vital means of communication it is today. It wasn’t until the administration of President Herbert Hoover, fifty years later, that a phone was installed in the Oval Office, itself.
Since then, telephone access to and from the White House has grown exponentially. Today, between 2,500 and 3,500 phone calls are received at the White House each day.