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 Early Telephone Apparatus


This page is  under construction.  Background information on telephony will be added later.


Hughes Microphone
ca. 1900
 Unsigned  but likely  Pericaud or Radiguet

In 1878, the carbon microphone was invented by David Edward Hughes.  Hughes's microphone was the early model for the various carbon microphones now in use. It relies on the property that the resistance of a carbon rod will vary as it is vibrated by sound.

This apparatus was manufactured to be used for physics experiments in schools and universities.

Blake Transmitter

The Blake transmitter was the first successful telephone transmitter (microphone). It was invented by Francis Blake in 1878 and used a carbon and platinum resistance element.  It was later improved by Berliner and remained the standard for many years.



Bell Liquid Telephone Transmitter and Receiver
Replica of 1876 Invention


Bell "Centennial" Telephone
Replica of 1876 model

Desk Telephones

Ericsson "Eiffel Tower" Telephone
ca. 18

SIT "Trefle" Telephone
ca. 18


Tapered Shaft Oil-Can Candlestick
Stromberg Carlson

Nickel plated, tapered shaft, aka "oil can" desk set. This rare set is known as the oil can because of the way it looks upside down. It is equipped with the ornate, well marked faceplate and the very hard to find "brass bottomed" receiver.  Tapered shaft upright desk sets were the second form of "shaped" candlesticks.

Non-dial Candlestick
Stromberg Carlson

This upright desk telephone was Stromberg Carlson's first straight shaft candlestick telephone.

Chicago Genuine Straight Shaft Non-Dial Oil-Can Candlestick
Chicago Telephone Supply Company

Gray Telephone Pay Station
ca. 1911

Model 102 Round Base
Western Electric

The Western Electric model 102 was the bell system's first handset telephone. This desk set is equipped with the early seamless "spit-cup" E1 handset.

Model 202 Oval base
Western Electric

The Western Electric model 202 was the bell system's second handset telephone. This desk set is equipped with the early seamless "spit-cup" E1 handset.


 11 digit Potbelly Dial Candlestick

 Potbelly upright desk sets were the first form of candlesticks.

 This is the first dial telephone. The inventor, Almon Strowger, was an undertaker in Kansas City in the late 1800’s. The wife of his only competitor worked the switchboard at the local telephone exchange. Whenever a caller asked to be put through to Strowger, she would instead deliberately put the call through to her husband, his competitor.  After spending years complaining to his local telephone company, Strowger found a way to solve this problem by developing the first automated telephone switch out of electromagnets and hat pins. Strowger filed his patent application on March 12, 1889, and it was issued on March 10,1891 as patent No. 447,918.  Strowger formed his company 'Strowger Automatic Telephone Exchange' in October 1891. On November 3, 1892, the first Strowger exchange was opened for public service in LaPorte, IN,  with about seventy-five subscribers.

 When his system made its debut, Almon Strowger bragged that his exchanges were "girl-less, cuss-less, out-of-order-less, and wait-less."1


Straight-Shaft Dial Candlestick
Automatic Electric

The first rotary dial upright desk set used by the independent telephone companies.


Transcontinental Call Telephone

The plaque on the telephone reads: “This instrument used by Maj. Henry L. Higginson at Boston, Mass. To open the Transcontinental telephone line with Thomas A. Watson at San Francisco, Cal. Monday evening January 25, 1915. Transmitter cutout & signal buttons added”

      Higginson, a civil war hero and founder of the Boston Symphony, had long been a financial backer of American Bell (which became American Telephone and Telegraph in 1900) by way of his connection with the financial house of Lee, Higginson & Co.
      AT&T staged several calling ceremonies in 1915. The first call was initiated by Thomas Watson, Alexander Graham Bell's former assistant,  at the opening of the Pan-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.  Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone and co-founder of AT&T, led a group of dignitaries in New York.  AT&T President Theodore Vail spoke from Jekyll Island, Ga. And U.S. President Woodrow Wilson spoke from the White House.
     At one point during the call, someone asked Professor Bell if he would repeat the first words he ever said over the telephone. He obliged, picking up the phone and repeating “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.” To which Watson, in San Francisco, replied, “It would take me a week now.”

The transcontinental telephone line linked the Atlantic seaboard with the West Coast (and is often referred to as the New York-San Francisco line). This was the first line to use DeForest's audion--an early vacuum tube. Thus, it is often regarded as a key event in the history of modern electronics.

Unidentified French Desk Telephone
ca. 1910

Societe Industrielle des Telephones desk telephone
ca. 1919

SIT Grammont Desk Telephone

ca. 1910

Thompson Houston Desk Telephone
ca. 1910


Model 302
Northern Electric Mfg. Co.

Round Base Rotary Dial Monophone
Automated Electric

This model, dubbed the "Shirley Temple" phone by collectors, is the first handset telephone used by the independent telephone companies.


Cabinet Desk Phone
Western Electric
ca. 1890's
Also referred to as a "Vanity Phone"

Wall Telephones

Stromberg Carlson 2-line Magneto Telephone
With "Adjustaphone" scissor attachment made by
Chicago Writing Machine Co,







1 Ron Christianson,



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