Automatic Electric Wall Phone

These were one of the earliest dial phones, built by the company that held the patents for Almon Strowger's automatic telephone system.

Note the "knuckleduster" dial with the extra fingerhole to dial the Operator. In these days of direct-dialled calls it is easy to forget that there was a time when you could only dial direct within your exchange. If you wanted to call further, you had to request the operator to place the call for you. The Telephone Operator was an important person in the community. In Australia, dialling "0" would get you a line out of your local exchange and onto the manual operators in the nearest town, so these phones were not used in Australia. In spite of this a long-running local television show had an automatic exchange with "Beverley", a manual operator, as well. Too many American scriptwriters I think.

The phones were quite well-made, and they are reasonably easy for a collector to get. You will pay a fair amount for them, though - they are, after all, nearly 100 years old and an important item in telephone history. A good example is uncommon. Most will have cracked woodwork or flaking nickel. The cardboard dial centre is usually missing, torn or badly discolored. My example is in pretty good condition although the nickel is starting to show its age.

 

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