Some people are born with a deep sense of history, recognizing that it is the everyday events of life that eventually add up to the really interesting stories.
   George Tanner began his career with the Mount Vernon Telephone Company as a young man in 1938. Throughout his long career he preserved photographs, memories, and a wonderful collection of telephones and related equipment that tell the story of more than a century of telephone communications in Knox County.  


   It was in 1876 that Alexander Graham Bell unveiled his newly patented “speaking device” at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Just a few years later, in 1883, the Midland Telephone Co. established the first telephone service in Mount Vernon, licensed under the Bell patents. When those patents expired in 1894 three separate groups combined forces to form the Mount Vernon Telephone Co., which continued to flourish and eventually acquired its local competitors.

   Mr. Tanner’s personal collection of Knox County telephone history grew over the years, and many school children and friends were given tours of his “phone museum” in the Tanner home. The collection includes many early wooden wall phones from the 1890’s, a wide variety of “candlestick” style phones of the early 1900’s, and numerous desk and dial phones from the 1920’s to the present day. Several switchboards illustrate the changes in that technology over the years, and early pay phones and long distance timing devices add to the variety of the collection.

   After Mr. Tanner’s passing, Mrs. Tanner decided to donate the entire collection to the Knox County Historical Society Museum. In August, 2000, the collection was moved from their home to the new 6000 sq. ft. addition to our Museum, where a special program was held to dedicate the new exhibit, honoring the Tanner family and recognizing Sprint for their sponsorship of this outstanding collection.