American Telephone and Telegraph Company

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

American Telephone and Telegraph Company


(AT&T), or the Bell System, the largest monopoly of the capitalist world in terms of assets and profits and one of the largest companies in the world in telephone communications. In 1966 its assets amounted to $35 billion, exceeding by 2.5 times those of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, the world’s foremost industrial monopoly in terms of this index. Primarily engaged in the field of public service, AT&T is also involved in industry and research through its subsidiaries. The overwhelming proportion of the telephone equipment industry in the USA is owned by AT&T.

AT&T was founded in 1885; in 1900 it absorbed the first American telephone company, founded in 1877 by the inventor of the telephone, A. G. Bell. Subsequently it bought out more than 200 telephone companies and about 9,000 patents. By the end of 1941, AT&T controlled 18.3 million telephone units. The postwar development of this monopoly has been characterized by a constantly increasing volume of operations and a strengthening of its position in the USA. In 1965 it controlled 85 percent of the private telephones in the country, compared to 50 percent in 1945. AT&T has 20 subsidiaries which control the major telephone exchanges and lines in the United States. As of 1966 they owned 76 million telephone units in the country. Since the mid-1950’s, AT&T has been increasing its activities in international communications and has acquired a number of intercontinental lines. It is also involved in radio and television broadcasting.

AT&T’s industrial base is provided by its subsidiary Western Electric, one of the leading producers of communications equipment in the USA. In 1966 about 80 percent of its production went to AT&T. Western Electric also manufactures industrial and military electronic equipment. AT&T and Western Electric share the facilities of the research center, Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc., which receives about half of its business from them. Aside from serving AT&T, the industrial and research subsidiaries primarily fill government orders.

AT&T is one of the major American military-industrial concerns; in 1967 it ranked eighth among suppliers to the military establishment in the USA, receiving orders worth $673 million. Western Electric is one of the leading producers of radio and electronic equipment for military purposes and atomic weaponry in the USA and is the general contractor for the Nike missile. Bell Telephone Laboratories fills major government contracts for weapons research. AT&T also occupies a prominent position in space research and engineering, having figured in the development of the Gemini and Apollo manned space flight programs.

Two giant financial families in the USA, the Morgans and the Rockefellers, control AT&T.

In relation to expenses, AT&T’s gross profit was 66 percent in 1965 (see Table 1).


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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