You can still call a phone number and be told the time by the U.S. Naval Observatory

The U.S. Naval Observatory still sponsors a telephone number that will tell you the time and temperature when you call. Dial 202-762-1401 and you will get a recording of the time from the "Master Clock." Yes, a phone number to tell you what time it is. This concept is familiar if you grew up in the US during the first 90 years of the 20th century. And apparently, a few local numbers still exist.

Beginning in the 1920s, phone operators, who often worked in sweatshop-like conditions, would give out the time to customers who called and requested the service. Automation, as Karl Marx predicted, changed the business model.

According to this July 18, 1957 article in The Mountain Democrat, published in Placerville, Californiare published at Click Americana, Pacific Telephone introduced the automated voice in 1948, but

"…don't bother to say thank you when the girl tells you the time. Her voice is recorded, and is broadcast by an electronic time machine called an audichron that isn't even in Placerville. The audichron is kept in Pacific Telephone's San Francisco office, and gives out the time, via a special long-distance circuit, to almost everyone who asks from Oregon to Bakersfield. The company figures it is easier that way than to supply a time machine to every town. The audichron is manufacturing in Atlanta, Georgia, and the recorded voice belongs to an Atlanta housewife named Mary Moore. People who work around the telephone company call her Audie."

In 1963, Jane Barbe took over the role of "The Time Lady." Then, in 1983, Pat Fleet ("AT&T Lady") replaced Barbe, with Joan Daniels then replacing Fleet. The automated time service officially ended in 2007.

Click here for Pat Fleet's "Disconnected" or "No Long in Service Message." Click here for Jane Barbe's messages or here for Joan Daniels. The showman Dick Clark had a bit called Friday Night Surprise, and here is a video of Jane Barbe revealing her role in keeping people on time. In 1996, Ted Koppel interviewed Fleet and Barbe here.