How the Early Amish Strung Telephone Wires Across Their Barns and Homes


The Amish relationship with technology has always been complex. On one hand, they seek to live simple, agrarian lives free of modern conveniences. On the other hand, they recognize the need to adapt and utilize some innovations for safety, business purposes, and connection with the outside world. This delicate balance is exemplified in their history with the telephone.

I found this aspect of Amish history fascinating. As an outsider looking in, I wanted to understand how and why the Amish overcame their initial objections to adopt this technology to a limited extent. In this article, I will explore when telephones first appeared in Amish communities, how they were utilized and regulated, and the lasting impact these early decisions had on Amish life today.

The Origin of Telephones Among the Amish

The first telephones began popping up in Amish homes and businesses around the early 1900s. Prior to this, the Amish had avoided adopting many new technologies that emerged during the Industrial Revolution, such as electricity, automobiles, and radio communication. However, the telephone presented some unique advantages that aligned with Amish values:

So while the telephone was not an absolute necessity, some Amish leaders permitted its adoption for specific uses under strict limitations.

How the Amish Adopted Telephones

In the early 20th century, public phone lines expanded into rural areas near Amish communities. Some Amish farmers allowed wires to be strung across their properties, connecting Amish homes to the public phone network. But there were restrictions:

Phone Booths in Homes and Businesses

Community Phone Shacks

Party Lines

Phone Equipment Options

How Phone Use Was Regulated

Amish leaders created oral rules, or ordnungs, to govern telephone adoption in their church districts:

These ordnungs varied between districts but reflected a balanced adoption of this new technology.

Lasting Impact on Amish Life

The early Amish rulings on telephone use set important precedents that impacted Amish relations with technology long-term:

So the early telephone rulings paved the way for the selective and constrained, yet beneficial, use of technology that the Amish still practice today. Examining this history provides important lessons on how technology can be harnessed without losing sight of core values.


The Amish approach to adopting the telephone in the early 20th century provides fascinating insight into their values. It dispels the myth that they are simply averse to all modern technology. Instead, they aim for thoughtful balance between pragmatic utilization and preserving their idea of community. This nuanced relationship still evolves today as the Amish continue evaluating and carefully integrating aspects of technology. Their history with the telephone represents just one chapter in this complex story, but an important one.