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The History Behind ADT


ADT is North America’s #1 security provider and has over 140 years under its belt. Here is our history and how we got to where we are today.


1874 – 1890

1870: A telegraph-based alert system is invented, setting the stage for the American District Telegraph Company (ADT) to be created.


1874: ADT is founded in Baltimore, MD. The company is a leader in communications technologies, using the newly invented telegraph-based alert system to relay messages.


1890s: A call box was introduced, which allowed a telegraph signal to be sent to a designated office (could be the fire department, police, doctor, carriages, etc.). This was revolutionary for the time.


1891 – 1909

Early 1900s: ADT Messenger Boys or messenger watchmen are used around neighborhoods. They swiftly delivered messages via bicycle. They were allowed to spend only 1.5 minutes on a street block. They essentially patrolled the neighborhood, making sure it was safe and operating smoothly.


1901: ADT is purchased by Western Union and gets its first president, Colonel Robert C. Clowry.


1909: Western Union (and subsequently ADT) are purchased by AT&T. The merger helps expand the company’s communication network.


1920 - 1969

1914: AT&T is officially declared a monopoly and is forced to sell both Western Union and ADT.


1920: The invention of the car makes delivering messages much quicker and efficient.


1940: ADT-branded tech products are created. These included an automatic fire detection system, an automatic intrusion system and a burglar alarm.


1964: ADT is declared a monopoly, controlling over 80% of the security business. The company must set up national prices and establish a service list of what services are provided.


1969: ADT becomes a publically owned company. Company stock is available on the New York Stock Exchange.


1970 - 1997

1970s: ADT creates a “central station”. It is the first automated central station call center.


1974: Microcomputer-based systems are introduced. It replaces the formerly used telephone-based call boxes. This same year marks the 100th anniversary of ADT.


1981: ADT introduces the Safewatch residential system, Unimode fire systems and CentreScan (central station monitoring). These essentially make ADT the company that it is presently.


1984: The American District Telegraph company gets renamed to ADT Security Systems, Inc.


1994: After 120 years in operation, ADT reaches the one million-customer mark.


1997: ADT is purchased by Tyco International Ltd.


2001 - 2011

2001: ADT rolls out the first web-enabled home security center.


2010: The Company launches ADT Pulse, which does remote home monitoring.


2011: Tyco International decides to separate, which lets ADT become a publically traded company once again.



2016: Protection 1 and ADT merge together. To date, ADT currently has 6.4+ million home and business customers.

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