Herbert Hoover was the first president to actually have a telephone on his desk. Although the White House had installed a phone system in 1878, under Rutherford B. Hayes, it was rarely used because most other places did not yet have phones. The first telephone in the Oval Office was installed in 1929; before that, the president had to step into a foyer to take calls.
More facts about the White House phone system:
- In the earliest Washington, D.C., phone books, the White House's number was simply listed as "1."
- The White House has two main lines now — one for comments, which is manned by volunteers, and one for actually contacting people, manned by trained switchboard operators. Only a privileged few operators know the number that actually goes to the president.
- The phone in the Oval Office wasn't a private line until 1993, when President Bill Clinton revamped the White House phone system. Before that, anyone could listen in by picking up an extension.