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AT&T Corporation

This article is about the current subsidiary of AT&T, Inc which was originally known as American Telephone and Telegraph Company. For the 2005 company currently known as "AT&T", see AT&T.

AT&T Corp.
Formerly called
American Telephone and Telegraph Company
Industry Telecommunications
Fate Became subsidiary of AT&T Inc. in 2005
Successor AT&T
Founded New York, New York, United States (March 3, 1885 (1885-03-03))
Founder Alexander Graham Bell
Headquarters Bedminster, New Jersey, United States
Area served
United States
Products Long distance
Parent American Bell (1885-1899)
AT&T (2005-present)

AT&T Corp., originally the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, is the subsidiary of AT&T that provides voice, video, data, and Internet telecommunications and professional services to businesses, consumers, and government agencies. During its long history, AT&T was at times the world's largest telephone company, the world's largest cable television operator, and a regulated monopoly. At its peak in the 1950s and 1960s, it employed one million people and its revenue was roughly $3 billion annually.

In 2005, AT&T was purchased by Baby Bell SBC Communications for more than $16 billion ($19.3 billion in present-day terms[1]). SBC then rebranded itself as AT&T Inc. Today, AT&T Corporation continues to exist as the long distance subsidiary of AT&T Inc., and its name occasionally shows up in AT&T press releases.[2]


Main article: History of AT&T


File:Bell System hires 1889 logo.PNG
A Bell System logo (called the Blue/Black Bell) used from 1889 to 1900.
AT&T Corporate Logo, 1964–1969

AT&T started with Bell Patent Association, a legal entity established in 1874 to protect the patent rights of Alexander Graham Bell after he invented the telephone system. Originally a verbal agreement, it was formalized in writing in 1875 as Bell Telephone Company.[3][4]

In 1880 the management of American Bell had created what would become AT&T Long Lines. The project was the first of its kind to create a nationwide long-distance network with a commercially viable cost-structure. The project was formally incorporated in New York State as a separate company named American Telephone and Telegraph Company on March 3, 1885. Starting from New York, its long-distance telephone network reached Chicago, Illinois, in 1892,[5] with its multitudes of local exchanges continuing to stretch further and further yearly, eventually creating a continent-wide telephone system. On December 30, 1899, the assets of American Bell were transferred into its subsidiary American Telephone and Telegraph Company (formerly AT&T Long Lines); this was because Massachusetts corporate laws were very restrictive, and limited capitalization to ten million dollars, forestalling American Bell's further growth. With this assets transfer on the second to last day of the 19th Century, AT&T became the parent of both American Bell and the Bell System.[6]

AT&T was involved mainly in the telephone business and, although it was a partner with RCA, was reluctant to see radio grow because such growth might diminish the demand for wired services. It established station WEAF in New York as what was termed a toll station AT&T could provide no programming, but anyone who wished to broadcast a message could pay a "toll" to AT&T and then air the message publicly. The original studio was the size of a telephone booth. The idea however did not take hold, they realized that people would pay to be heard only if they were sure that someone was listening. As a result, WEAF began broadcasting entertainment material, drawing amateur talent found among its employees. Opposition to AT&T's expansion into radio and an agreement with the National Broadcasting Company to lease long distance lines for their broadcasts resulted in the sale of the station and its developing network of affiliates to NBC.[7]


Throughout most of the 20th century, AT&T held a monopoly on phone service in the United States through a network of companies called the Bell System. At this time, the company was nicknamed Ma Bell.

On April 30, 1907, Theodore Newton Vail became President of AT&T.[8][9] Vail believed in the superiority of one phone system and AT&T adopted the slogan "One Policy, One System, Universal Service."[8][9] This would be the company's philosophy for the next 70 years.[9]

Under Vail, AT&T began buying up many of the smaller telephone companies including Western Union telegraph.[8][9] Anxious to avoid action from government antitrust suits, AT&T and the federal government entered into an agreement known as the Kingsbury Commitment.[8][9] These actions brought unwanted attention from antitrust regulators. In the Kingsbury Commitment, AT&T and the government reached an agreement that allowed AT&T to continue operating as a monopoly. While AT&T periodically faced scrutiny from regulators, this state of affairs continued until the company's breakup in 1984.

The Break-up

The United States Justice Department opened the case United States v. AT&T in 1974. This was prompted by suspicion that AT&T was using monopoly profits from its Western Electric subsidiary to subsidize the cost of its network, a violation of anti-trust law.[10] A settlement to this case was finalized in 1982, leading to the company's forced split in 1984 into seven Regional Bell Operating Companies, commonly known as Baby Bells. These companies are:

Acquisition by SBC

Main article: AT&T
File:AT&T logo (1984).svg
AT&T Corporate Logo, 1983–1999
AT&T Corporate Logo, 1999-2005

On January 31, 2005, the "Baby Bell" company SBC Communications announced its plans to acquire "Ma Bell" AT&T Corp. for $16 billion. SBC announced in October 2005 that it would shed the "SBC" brand and take the AT&T brand along with the "T" NYSE ticker symbol.

Merger approval concluded on November 18, 2005; SBC Communications began rebranding the following Monday, November 21 as "AT&T Inc." and began trading as AT&T on December 1 under the "T" symbol.

The AT&T headquarters buildings

From 1885 to 1910, AT&T was headquartered at 125 Milk Street in Boston. With its expansion it moved to New York City, to a headquarters on 195 Broadway (close to what is now the World Trade Center site). The property originally belonged to Western Union, of which AT&T held a controlling interest until 1913 when AT&T divested its interest as part of the Kingsbury Commitment.[9] Construction of the current building began in 1912. Designed by William Welles Bosworth, who played a significant role in designing Kykuit, the Rockefeller mansion north of Tarrytown, New York, it was a modern steel structure clad top to bottom in a Greek-styled exterior, the three-story-high Ionic columns of Vermont granite forming eight registers over a Doric base.[11] The lobby of the AT&T Building was one of the most unusual ones of the era. Instead of a large double-high space, similar to the nearby Woolworth Building, Bosworth designed what is called a "hypostyle hall", with full-bodied Doric columns modeled on the Parthenon, marking out a grid. Bosworth was seeking to coordinate the classical tradition with the requirements of a modern building. Columns were not merely the decorative elements they had become in the hands of other architects but created all the illusion of being real supports. Bosworth also designed the campus of MIT as well as Theodore N. Vail's mansion in Morristown, New Jersey.

In 1978, AT&T commissioned a new building at 550 Madison Avenue. This new AT&T Building was designed by Philip Johnson and quickly became an icon of the new Postmodern architectural style. The building was completed in 1984, the very year of the divestiture of the Bell System. The building proved to be too large for the post-divestiture corporation and in 1993, AT&T leased the building to Sony, which now owns it.[12][13]


AT&T, prior to its merger with SBC Communications, had three core companies:

AT&T Alascom continues to sell service in Alaska. AT&T Communications was renamed AT&T Communications - East, Inc. and sold long distance telephone service and operated as a CLEC outside of the borders of the Bell Operating Companies that AT&T owns. It has now been absorbed into AT&T Corp. and all but 4 of the original 22 subsidiaries that formed AT&T Communications continue to exist. AT&T Laboratories has been integrated into AT&T Labs, formerly named SBC Laboratories.

Nicknames and branding

AT&T was also known as "Ma Bell" and affectionately called "Mother" by phone phreaks. During some strikes by its employees, picketers would wear T-shirts reading, "Ma Bell is a real mother." It is worth noting too that, before the break-up, there was greater consumer recognition of the "Bell System" name, in comparison to the name AT&T. This prompted the company to launch an advertising campaign after the break-up to increase its name recognition. Spinoffs like the Regional Bell Operating Companies or RBOCs were often called "Baby Bells". Ironically, "Ma Bell" was acquired by one of its "Baby Bells", SBC Communications, in 2005.

The AT&T Globe Symbol,[14] the corporate logo designed by Saul Bass in 1983, has been nicknamed the "Death Star" in reference to Star Wars. In 1999 it was changed from the 12-line design to the 8-line design. Again in 2005 it was changed to the 3D transparent "marble" design created by Interbrand for use by the parent company AT&T Inc. This name was also given to the iconic Bell Labs facility in Holmdel, New Jersey, now vacant.

List of AT&T Chief Executive Officers

The following is a list of the 16 CEOs of AT&T Corporation, from its incorporation in 1885 until its purchase by SBC Communications in 2005.[15]

# Chief Executive Officer Years in office Title
1 100px Theodore Newton Vail 1885 - 1887 President
2 John E. Hudson 1887 - 1900 President
3 100px Frederick Perry Fish 1901 - 1907 President
4 100px Theodore Newton Vail 1907 - 1919 President
5 Harry Bates Thayer 1919 - 1925 President
6 Walter Sherman Gifford 1925 - 1948 President
7 Leroy A. Wilson 1948 - 1951 President
8 Cleo F. Craig 1951 - 1956 President
9 Frederick Kappel 1956 - 1961
1961 - 1967
10 H.I. Romnes 1967 - 1972 Chairman
11 John D. deButts 1972 - 1979 Chairman
12 Charles L. Brown 1979 - 1986 Chairman
13 James E. Olson 1986 - 1988 Chairman
14 Robert Eugene Allen 1988 - 1997 Chairman
15 C. Michael Armstrong 1997 - 2002 Chairman
16 David Dorman 2002 - 2005 Chairman

See also



  1. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  2. ^ "AT&T Corp Restructured its Asia Pacific Operations" (Press release). AT&T. October 31, 2007. 
  3. ^ Bruce 1990, p. 291.[full citation needed]
  4. ^ Pizer 2009, pp. 120–124.Bruce 1990, p. 291[full citation needed]
  5. ^ Bruce 1990.Bruce 1990, p. 291[full citation needed]
  6. ^ Brooks 1976, p. 107.Bruce 1990, p. 291[full citation needed]
  7. ^ Perry, S. D. (2004). A Consolidated History of Media (3rd ed.). Bloomington, IL: Epistelogic. [page needed]
  8. ^ a b c d "Unnatural Monopoly: Critical Moments". Cato Institute. Archived from the original on September 10, 2008. Retrieved September 17, 2008. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f "AT&T Milestones in AT&T History". AT&T. Archived from the original on September 28, 2008. Retrieved September 17, 2008. 
  10. ^ Yurick, p. 7.Bruce 1990, p. 291[full citation needed]
  11. ^ Jarzombek, Mark (2004). Designing MIT: Bosworth's New Tech. Northeastern University Press. pp. 65–68. 
  12. ^ Popik, Barry (September 25, 2005). "Chippendale Building (SONY building)". The Big Apple. 
  13. ^ Stoler, Michael (September 8, 2005). "Fortune 100 Companies Capitalize on Record Prices". The Stoler Report (First American Title Insurance Company of New York). Archived from the original on December 26, 2007. 
  14. ^ Massey, David. "Bell Logo History". Bell System Memorial. The Porticus Centre. 
  15. ^ Focus magazine (internal AT&T company publication), sidebar titled "AT&T's chief executives", 1988

Works cited

External links