The former Shanghai International Settlement (上海公共租界 or Shànghǎi gōnggòng zūjiè) was governed by the Shanghai Municipal Council (上海工部局 or Shànghǎi gōng bùjú) from 1854 – December 1941. The Shanghai Municipal Council (S.M.C.) was mainly controlled by the British although it was an international settlement with foreign residents from all over the world. Chinese were not permitted seats on the council until 1928.

Shanghai's French Concession or La Concession Française de Shanghai [Changhai] (上海法租界 or Shànghǎi Fǎ Zūjiè) existed from 1849 until 1946. Much as it was in the Concession's glory days when it was considered by some to be the "Paris of the East", the former French Concession is still known for its romantic tree-lined streets and art-deco buildings. The French Concession was separate for the International Settlement and was responsible to the French Consulate General in Shanghai.

Shanghai Telephone Company

Old telephone poles and manhole covers originally installed by the many telephone companies that operated in Shanghai during the former International Settlement’s and French Concession’s administration over the city can still be found today.

While determining the time frame and, subsequently, which company installed the telephone poles is difficult as there are no markings on the poles, manhole covers installed by the Shanghai Telephone Company (S.T.C.) can be easily identified as they are marked in English.

The original telephone company was the American-backed Oriental Telephone Company which, according to some accounts, was poorly run by its British managers in the city. The S.M.C. awarded Shanghai Mutual Telephone Company (which was a newly created company) the rights to take over the telephone market in Shanghai around the turn of the 20th century. The manager of this company was a man named Gustaf Öberg (more about him later as he is an interesting character and has a great story).

Shanghai Mutual Telephone Company controlled the Shanghai telephone market until S.T.C. was incorporated in 1929 by the American-based International Telephone & Telegraph Company - still operating today as ITT Corporation and listed on the NYSE. Once S.T.C. took over Shanghai Mutual Telephone Company it set out to convert Shanghai’s manual phone system to an automatic system. S.T.C., controlled by its American investors, serviced both the International Settlement and the French Concession. According to an online reference to an article originally published by the China Journal News in 1934, Shanghai's International Settlement and French Concession had a total of 50,588 telephones in use that year. This is compared to 34,700 users in 1930.

Now a quick bit about Gustaf Öberg (Born in Stockolm, Sweden 1850-1920). Gustaf Öberg was a Swedish marine captain based in Shanghai with his wife and two children. To make a long story short, Gustaf Öberg sold weapons to the Chinese when, between 1884 & 1885, France was at war with China. He was arrested by the French and sentenced to death. After his arrest his wife and children returned to Sweden. However, his death sentence was delayed and in June 1889 he escaped from a French-controlled prison in Indochina and disappeared (thought to be dead) until December 1892 when he contacted his wife wishing her a Merry Christmas and requesting that she return to Shanghai (via America) and reunite with him. He was later acquitted by a French court of his arms dealing crimes (after supposedly bribing an official to pin the crime on an already captured Chinese pirate) and then went on to rule the Shanghai telephone market.

For more information on S.T.C. and to see one of the company's American-issued bank notes from 1933 Click Here)
For more information on Shanghai Mutual Telephone Company Click Here)
For Gustaf Öberg's full story Click Here)

International Settlement, Telephone Pole - Jiaozhou Lu & Nanchang Lu (胶州路 南昌路)

International Settlement, Telephone Pole - Nanjing Xi Lu & Chengdu Bei Lu (南京西路 成都北路)

International Settlement, Telephone Pole - Shimen Er Lu & Dagu Lu (石门二路 大沽路)

International Settlement, Telephone Pole - Lane 79, Shenping Jie (升平街79弄)

International Settlement, S.T.C. Manhole - Nanjing Xi Lu & Shimen Yi Lu (南京西路 石门一路)

International Settlement, S.T.C. Manhole - Maoming Lu & Weihai Lu (茂名路 威海路)

International Settlement, S.T.C. Manhole - Jiangxi Zhong Lu & Beijing Dong Lu (江西中路 北京东路)

International Settlement, S.T.C. Manhole - Hongqiao Lu & Shuicheng Nan Lu (虹桥路 水成南路)

International Settlement, S.T.C. Manhole - Nanjing Xi Lu & Shimen Yi Lu (南京西路 石门一路)

French Concession, S.T.C. Manhole - 472 Huaihai Zhong Lu (淮海中路472号)

French Concession, S.T.C. Manhole - Maoming Lu & Hauihai Lu (茂名路 淮海路)

French Concession, S.T.C. Manhole - Maoming Lu & Jinxian Lu (茂名路 进贤路)

French Concession, S.T.C. Manhole - Julu Lu & Maoming Lu (巨鹿路 茂名路)

French Concession, S.T.C. Manhole - Fuxing Zhong Lu & Fenyang Lu (复兴中路 汾阳路)

French Concession, S.T.C. Manhole - Fuxing Zhong Lu & Sinan Lu (复兴中路 思南路)

French Concession, S.T.C. Manhole - Huaihai Xi Lu & Wanping Lu (淮海中路 宛平路)

French Concession, S.T.C. Manhole - Huaihai Xi Lu & Wanping Lu (淮海中路 宛平路)

French Concession, Telephone Pole - Shaanxi Nan Lu & Fuxing Zhong Lu (陕西南路 复兴中路)

French Concession, Telephone Pole - Jianguo Lu & Ruijian Er Lu (建国路 瑞金二路)

French Concession, Telephone Pole - Huashan Lu Lane 1100 (华山路 1100弄)

French Concession, Telephone Pole - Huashan Lu Lane 1100 (华山路 1100弄)

French Concession, Telephone Pole - Yongjia Lu & Shanxi Nan Lu (永嘉路 陕西南路)

French Concession, Telephone Pole - Maoming Nan Lu & Fuxing Xi Lu (茂名南路 复兴西路)