A number of international phone connections were established a little before or just after 1900:

Prior to these, the first ever international call was apparently made in 1881 (New Brunswick, Canada - Maine, USA).

With President Rutherford B. Hayes installing the White House's first telephone in 1877 and British Prime Minister William Gladstone doing likewise at 10 Downing Street in around 1884, at least two world leaders saw the potential for rapid communication early on. William McKinley (1897 - 1901) was also keen on the new gadget, being the first to use it for a US presidential campaign.

As the first transatlantic call was not possible until January 1927, these leaders would obviously not have been able to talk to each other but there were other (early) possibilities, most obviously perhaps in Europe. One or more calls between, for example, the British and French leaders during World War I seems a distinct possibility but I haven't been able to find any evidence.

Churchill and Roosevelt were phoning each other even before Churchill became Prime Minister in May 1940, but this was 50 years after the first international phone lines were laid down, and more than ten years after transatlantic calls started. There were several major events (not least World War I) during these years and thus potentially plenty of reasons for leaders to want to communicate quickly and personally.

When was the first (known) time the leaders of two countries spoke to each other, either by radiotelephone or telephone?

Note: I'm only interested in spoken communication. In countries with a monarchy, either the monarch or the prime minister, chancellor, etc. (i.e. Head of Government) would be acceptable as a 'leader' for the purposes of this question. A governor-general or representative of a dominion or colony would be of secondary interest.

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    Just to be sure, I assume you mean that the telegraph (or anything without voice reproduction) does not count, but "etc" would include people like the Governor-general of Canada, who technically is just a representative of the British monarch?
    – Spencer
    Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 14:55
  • 1
    @Spencer Edited. Hope it's clear now. Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 15:36
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    ccording to the Smithsonian Magazine the first time a US President made called a foreign leader was when Coolidge called Alfonso III of Spain in around 1929. But presumably leaders in Europe talked to each other before that.
    – user15620
    Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 17:28
  • @StevenBurnap Maybe worth posting as an answer if there are any more details. That may well be the first transatlantic one. Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 22:35
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    @Lars Bosteen - Your title mentions heads of state but you say: "For 'leaders' or 'heads of state' in countries with a monarchy, either the monarch or the prime minister, chancellor, e.t.c. would be acceptable for the purposes of this question". A head of state is the sovereign or the most prestigious official, a head of government is the leader of the government. Prime ministers are usually heads of government but almost never heads of state. Your terms need defining.
    – MAGolding
    Commented Mar 31, 2018 at 1:34

2 Answers 2


In early 1887, a telephone line between Brussels and Paris was completed, and at the opening of the line on February 2nd, King Leopold II of Belgium and President Jules Grévy of France spoke over the phone.

This was reported in the New York Tribune the day after (newspaper images available through the Library of Congress):

Paris, Feb. 2 - The Elysee and the royal palace at Brussels were to-day connected by telephone. President Grevy and King Leopold conversed over the wire.

There was also a write-up in the Sydney Morning Herald a month later:

While war rumours are agitating the world, and causing such alarm and distress as conclusively proves that no country desires any more war, a first application of the telephone to the interchange of verbal communication between the capitals of different nations has just taken place in Paris and Brussels. A gathering of members of the press had been invited to the office of this first International Telephone in both cities; and communication having been established in Paris with the Elysee, in Brussels with the Royal Palace, M. Grevy and King Leopold exchanged compliments, congratulations, good wishes for the continuance of the good understanding between the two countries, and for the services which this intimate communion between them should render in the future. The King's voice was most clear and distinct; all the remarks interchanged between the two companies of journalists were, of course, enthusiastically courteous and friendly, and also most perfectly and distinctly audible.

Given the reported number of journalists at the event, I'm quite sure the conversation must have been covered in local newspapers as well.

  • Thanks for this. It's the sort of answer I expected to find when I did my research but couldn't. Commented Apr 18 at 11:59

First Presidential Call to a foreign leader

enter image description here President Coolidge conducts the first transatlantic phone call with a foreign leader, the King of Spain in 1927 (Library of Congress)

The first official transatlantic phone call happened on January 7, 1927, between New York and London. A year and a half later (June of 1928 ?), Calvin Coolidge became the first president to connect with a foreign official in Europe, Alfonso III of Spain.

After thanking the king for Spain’s support of the Kellog-Briand Pact, an international treaty meant to prevent the use of war as a method for resolving disputes, Coolidge launched into a soliloquy on the value of the new technological wonder:

First off planet phone call 1969
In 1969, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, and soon after their moon shoes touched the lunar surface, they received a phone call from the President of the United States, Richard Nixon. “Hello Neil and Buzz, I am talking to you by telephone from the Oval Room at the White House, and this certainly has to be the most historic telephone call ever made from the White House.”

1878, Queen victoria's first Call
Bell demonstrated the telephone to Queen Victoria on 14 January 1878 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight with calls to London, Cowes and Southampton. These were the first long-distance calls in the UK.


1879 British thoughts on the Telephone
This year, Mr. William Preece (later Sir William Preece) of the Post Office Engineering staff, when asked whether the telephone would be an instrument of the future which would be largely taken up by the public, replied “I think not”. Questioned further he said “I fancy the descriptions we get of its use in America are a little exaggerated; but there are conditions in America which necessitate the use of instruments of this kind more than here. Here we have a superabundance of messengers, errand boys, and things of that kind.”


April 1, 1891: First cross-Channel telephone cable between England and France opened to the public

  • (Available only between )specially-equipped booths in London and Paris.
  • (Used) mostly by the London and Paris stock exchanges, journalists and commercial organizations.
  • it could enable only two simultaneous calls at one time

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