Our History

For over 140 years – from ADT messengers and call box operators to automated homes and businesses – we’ve made protecting and connecting the centerpiece of what we do. Today, our mission remains the same – creating customers for life.

1874 - 1890
1891 - 1909
1920 - 1969
1970 - 1997
2001 - 2011
2012 - Present
  • 1874 - 1890


    Most people don’t like to talk about age, but we’re proud of ours! Just two years before the United States celebrated its first centennial, ADT was founded, not as a security company, but as a telegraph company. Surprising – we know! The American District Telegraph Company was in the business of providing a great service to its customers, just as it is nearly 140 years later as ADT.

    Before leading the way in the electronic security industry and moving headquarters to Florida, we began in Baltimore, MD, embracing the most advanced communications technology of the 1800s. While they didn’t have instant messaging back then, they had something similar. A telegraph system! This form of communication was more popular than carrier pigeons in the 1870s because it was faster and more reliable. A hand-written message was provided to a telegraph company from the sender. These messages were transmitted over telegraph lines to a receiving telegraph company at another location. They then decoded, transcribed, and hand delivered the message to the recipient.


    Much like the technology of today, though not quite as fast, there was constant change in the late 1800s. ADT embraced the change by welcoming the call box. With this improved system, we were well on our way to expanding our protection services portfolio. Specific signals could be transmitted by a watchman from a call box to a district office, alerting us to the particular need of a customer. For example, customers could request the assistance of the police, fire department, doctor, coach, and more. We followed through, providing customers with the service they needed.

  • 1891 - 1909

    Late 1800s

    As a telegraph company, we meant business, and the ADT Messenger Boys were proof of this. Promptness, diligence, and speed were important. In cities across the country, ADT Messengers could be seen running from building to building, relaying customers’ messages. "Running" being the key word – they were allowed no more than 1.5 minutes per street block and less than 2 minutes in a customer’s building!                  

    Early 1900s

    We pride ourselves on being able to offer you ADT 24 Hour Alarm Monitoring Service – countrywide we have eight Customer Monitoring Centers (CMC) with 3,000+ employees keeping guard 24/7. Our first CMC came in the form of watchmen’s signal timers which were monitored in an ADT central office. We were just doing what we do best – making sure the people and things you value most are safe.                  


    Did you know ADT’s first president was a colonel in the United States military? With humble beginnings serving as a messenger boy and working his way up to president of Western Union and ADT simultaneously, Colonel Robert C. Clowry led the company for eight years.


    ADT and Western Union came under the control of AT&T, thus beginning our transition to the signal business, which was the forerunner of ADT Security Services.                  

  • 1920 - 1969


    With the invention of cars our telegraph services were "far more effective than before," said a customer during the early years of the automobile. Our drivers had to be more alert though, making way for horses and avoiding dogs in the streets.


    We really got going in the 1940s when we pioneered progressive ADT-branded technological developments, such as the Teletherm automatic fire detection system, Telewave automatic intrusion system, and ultrasonic burglar alarm!                  


    1969 was a big year for us as we became a publically owned company. President at the time, Lawrence J. O’Brien, bought the first 100 shares of ADT stock on the New York Stock Exchange!                  

  • 1970 - 1997


    Happy Birthday, ADT! We made it through the invention of the automobile, the sinking of Titanic, the Great Depression, silent films, two world wars, and Woodstock, making it to 100 years of protecting what matters most to our customers.                  


    The Safewatch residential system was introduced, leading into a solid decade of product announcements, including ADT Focus, a security technology for commercial applications; Unimode fire system; and CentreScan, a computer-based proprietary security system.

    Late 1980s

    The American District Telegraph name is no more. We were approved by our shareholders to change our corporate name to ADT Security Systems, Inc.                   


    We thought we reached a milestone in 1974, but this year may have topped that. We added more than 180,000 new residential systems and surpassed one million customers!


    ADT was purchased by Tyco International.

  • 2001 - 2011


    Talk about staying ahead of the times – we were the first security company to offer a Web-enabled home security system, ADT Safewatch iCenter!


    Welcome ADT Companion Services’ new system! It was understood that people were living longer than ever before, and we wanted to make sure they could live comfortably and safely in their homes for as long as possible. 


    Have a smartphone? We know you do! That’s why we launched ADT Pulse® Interactive Solutions in 2010. ADT Pulse makes it possible for people with any compatible smartphone or laptop to remotely access and control not only a home security system, but several applications including lighting, climate control, small appliances and much more, all in real-time. 


    ADT’s parent company, Tyco International, announces that its Board of Directors has unanimously approved a plan to separate the company into three independent, publicly traded companies. The standalone ADT North America residential business will be the leading provider of security and fire alarm systems in North America, serving more than 6 million residential homes and small businesses.

  • 2012 - Present


    The ADT North America businesses complete their separation, with ADT now focused on its residential, small business and home health business lines. This successful separation prepares ADT for its October 2012 spinoff from Tyco International.

    July 10th

    ADT launched its values of trust, collaboration, service and innovation to all employees. Learn more

    October 1st

    ADT debuts as an independent public company and begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: ADT). Founded nearly 140 years ago, ADT began its next chapter as one of the most well-known and trusted brands in the security industry, with #3.1 billion in 2011 annual revenue and 6.4 million customers.

    October 8th

    ADT rings the Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange! Long-term ADT customers, first responders and front-line employees joined ADT leadership on the podium for this momentous occasion.