We all accept that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone back in 1876. But is this correct?
The United States Congress recently conceded that, whilst Bell clearly patented the world's first telephone, it was likely that an Italian-American named Antonio Meucci constructed the first working telephone.
No matter who invented it, the telephone has become an integral part of our day to day lives. Over the years the telephone has developed from an unreliable expensive novelty in the late 1800's to a cheap everyday appliance used by almost everyone everyday. Over the years many different designers and manufacturers have produced a myriad of interesting variations on the basic telephone and like so many other everyday items, there are those who make a hobby out of collecting, restoring and displaying telephone instruments.
But there's more to collect than just telephone instruments as found in the world's homes and offices. There's telegraph equipment, switching equipment, insulators, telephone books, military phones, test instruments, and lots of other items that entice telephone collectors to pursue their hobby. Just researching communications history is a task in itself.
Telephone collecting is alive and well in Australia and New Zealand with quite a range of old telephones and communications equipment available at reasonable prices available from antique dealers and from collectors.
One of the most popular amongst collectors is the Ericsson "Skeletal" or "Coffee Grinder" table magneto telephone. Made in Sweden from 1892 well into the 1920's, this phone exhibits classic open frame design with ornate floral transfers. In several slightly different versions, it was used extensively in Australia and quite a number survive in collections but prices are rising rapidly.
Also mainly out of Sweden is the Ericsson wall magneto instrument, known as the "Commonwealth Ericsson". Usually made of walnut, this phone was made from the late 1890's until the early 1920's. A few models can be found in oak but many of these were not used by the Post Office but rather were sold for use on private services. A few examples can be found of the "deluxe" version with veneered timber and milk glass writing surface. The standard versions are still to be found and reproduction spare parts are available to complete restorations.
The first Bakelite telephone in common use by the Post Office in Australia was the "pyramid" or 232ATH (Automatic Table Handset). This classic design was introduced about 1933 and is most sought after by collectors particularly the coloured versions in ivory, red and green.
There are a number of telephone and communications equipment collectors throughout Australia and New Zealand and, in fact, throughout the world. They come together through collectors' societies and the Australasian Telephone Collectors Society Inc. serves collectors in this part of the world. There is a bi-monthly newsletter, regular meetings, swap meets, an annual show and an Internet site at http://www.telephonecollecting.org. Membership enables collectors old and new to communicate, help and encourage one another with their hobby.
Inquires should be addressed to email@example.com or by post to ATCS Inc, PO Box 396, Moorebank, NSW, AUSTRALIA, 1875.