Before most cables ran underground, all electrical, telephone and telegraph wires were suspended from high poles, creating strange and crowded streetscapes. Here are some typical views of late-19th century Boston, New York, Stockholm, and other wire-filled cities.

The railway station at Pearl Street, Boston, Massachusetts, after a hurricane in January 1881

(via Tekniska museet)

Wires over New York, 1887

(via Retronaut)

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A telephone tower in Stockholm, Sweden, with 5000 connected lines. It was used between 1887 and 1913, but the tower stood there until 1953, when it fell down after a fire.

(via Tekniska museet)

An 1880s postcard of Broadway, New York

(via Ephemeral New York)

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A New York street during the blizzard of 1888, which occurred between 12th and 14th of March and paralyzed the city with 40" of snow and winds up to 60 mph, creating some 50 ft high drifts.

Photos from the Days When Thousands of Cables Crowded the Skies

(Photo by AP)

On a telegraph building in Stockholm, Sweden, 1895

(via Tekniska museet)

70-foot poles were part of the scenery in the early days

(via Classic Rotary Phones)

Dozens of telephone wires on roofs, Stockholm, Sweden, between 1890 and 1900

(via Tekniska museet)

Telephone pole line construction in New York, c. 1903

(via IEEE Global History Network)

Pratt, Kansas, 1911

(via This Is True)

Telephone lines and supporting structure in a lane west of Main Street in Vancouver, British Columbia, March 1914

(via Vanalogue)

Looking north up Albion from 36th Street in Seattle, Washington, 1952

(via Paul Dorpat)