Berkeley fun facts Great Depression edition — did you know the city had 27,421 telephones in 1930?

berkeley ptt 1930b

In 1930 Pacific Telephone & Telegraph welcomed visitors to its central office (pictured below).

Berkeley had an estimated population of 85,000 in 1930 and the University of California was the largest institution of its type in the world, boasting almost 10,000 students attending daily. The city was served by competing streetcar systems and had two auto ferries, had two independent hospitals and a “per capita wealth” of more than $2,000. At the time the city had 268 industries employing some 5,000 people (1928 figures).

The are just some of the “Facts About Berkeley” compiled by the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce and the Berkeley Daily Gazette for a 1930 promotional yearbook (see below).

The city was also up to date technologically, with telephone installations totaling 27,421. That might not seem like much, but phone service was still far from universal in 1930 and would become even more of a luxury to some households as the Great Depression continued to roll out. Seven years earlier about 750 phone installations were lost in the 1923 Berkeley fire. By 1930 there were more than 6,000 phone customers “in the burn area.” Pacific Telephone & Telegraph estimated that more than 266,000 calls were made in the city each day.

facts about berkeley gazette yearbook 1930


berkeley ptt 1930a

The old and new (1925, left) Pacific Telephone and Telegraph buildings in Berkeley. The
original PT&T building on the right is gone, but the 1925 building is still standing. Do you
recognize the location?

berkeley yearbook 1930

Like the rest of the East Bay, smokestack jobs were welcome in Berkeley in 1930.


Chris Treadway