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by Bob Estreich

There are supposed to be over 200 different candlestick models, and quite a few of these have appeared in Australia. This guide will help identify the more common models. If your candlestick is not shown here, it could be a scarce model, or a hybrid . Like so many phones, the candlesticks had other bits grafted onto them in an effort to keep them in service as long as possible.

Australian Post Office
Type 38/Type 138

This was the standard Australian candlestick, in auto (Type 38AT), magneto (Type 38MT), or CB (Type 38CBT) form. The early models had the solid back transmitter With the later bakelite inset transmitter they were renumbered Type 138. They were manufactured by Ericsson, STC and others to a British Post Office design as the Telephone No. 2. The phone would usually be accompanied by a bell box (and a separate generator box on the magneto model). Finish was nearly always black japan. Height was about 12 inches.

The base is almost flat with a small centre rise to support the column. There is a single bolt on the bottom to hold the phone together. The dial was mounted on the surface of the base, not recessed into it like the Western Electric shown later. Similar British models have found their way to Australia. These will often have a small aluminium plate riveted to the front of the transmitter housing to hold a phone number card.

LM Ericsson Candlestick

There are many varieties from this company, but the one most likely to be found is similar to the APO model, with the early Ericsson drum transmitter. It was used in Britain as the BPO Tele No 4, but was replaced with the solid back transmitter model. Note the slightly different crown and the optional hook for an extra earpiece. The base is almost conical. It was issued in CB only.

The second example shown here is the original LM Ericsson model with LME transmitter and outside terminal receiver. This model was used in Europe and possibly in the United States, but is rare in Australia.

Western Electric No. 20 desk stand, 1904

This model was used worldwide through a number of upgrades. It was around 11 inches high. The earliest models had an outside terminal receiver and a thumbscrew lock on the crown, and are rare. The No.20 was the first mass-production model, in a somewhat simplified style. In Australia it saw service as the APO Type 36. After upgrading to the inset transmitter, it was renumbered Type 136. The main visible difference from the APO Type 38 is the typical WE conical crown on the column. The patent date is nearly always stamped into the face of the US transmitters, another distinguishing feature. The base is a flattened cone with three screws holding it together. The crown is a spearpoint style, which allowed a limited range of adjustment to the transmitter. This is similar to the one on the Type 38. A wire comes out of the top of the stand and enters the transmitter through a hole in the rear in the earliest model, but from around 1915 on the wires were internal. There are slight differences in the WE receiver from the APO model. The ridge around the top of the receiver is more pronounced on the WE. The screw-on cap has a raised ridge around the centre hole which is absent in the Ericsson earpiece. Finish was either black japan, nickel, or a combination of these. The japan finish was a baked-on bitumen-based varnish. WE called it "rubber finish". Many restorers, unable to reproduce the finish, have polished the metal back to brass. A later model , the No. 40-AL , was made of steel and was given a steely dark grey finish by a chemical process. The phones may be found with WE identification , or American Telephone & Telegraph markings.

Western Electric No. 50 and No. 51

These were introduced in 1920. Their obvious difference was that the shaft was now mounted off centre to accommodate the recessed dial housing.. All wires were now internal. The finish was always black enamel, but many have been polished back to brass.

Reproductions of this model are common.

Western Electric "Bulldog" Candlestick, late 1930s.

With the advent of bakelite mouldings and smaller transmitters, WE refitted many of their candlesticks with the new "bulldog" transmitter. It was so called because of its squashed up appearance. These models were redesignated No. 120-AL, No. 150-AL, etc.

The bulldog transmitter mounted on the older style No. 20 base in the second picture is a common conversion.

Stromberg Carlson

SC was one of many companies who produced Western Electric look-alikes. Their phones are quite attractive, with many nickel plated brass parts. The column and base were usually black-painted steel. They were similar in appearance to the Western Electric, but about an inch shorter. The transmitter housing is mounted on a ball-and-socket joint, with the transmitter held at the selected angle by friction washers.


Many of these phones have turned up in Australia. Their early CB and magneto models are distinctively shorter than the WE, and were produced in a wide range of finishes including black paint, brass and nickel. The crown was also distinctive, tapering to a rounded point. Many of the early metal Kellogg transmitters have the company name stamped into the transmitter faceplate. Others are found with the patent dates stamped into the back of the transmitter housing. The base on the later automatic models was deeper to accommodate the dial. On these later ones the column is a bakelite sleeve (called "Kellite" by Kellogg) over a steel shaft.

Strowger / Automatic Electric

These phones were used in the first automatic exchange in Australia at Geelong. The 1916 model is notable for its small "mercedes" dial, so called because of the three spokes like a Mercedes badge in the centre. Another common feature is the "A" cut into the rounded ends of the switchhook. The transmitter is small and delicate-looking, perhaps more like a European Ericsson. On the later models, the base is a high conical shape to allow for the depth of the dial. On CB models the dial hole was blanked over. The second picture shows yet another type of base, which is rather like a Kellogg. The dates for each of these styles are uncertain.

The third picture shows the "potbelly" model that is much earlier, going back to about 1904. Although not officially used in Australia, it is attractive and highly prized. A collector will eventually come up with one.


The long life and popularity of the candlestick led to many accessories being created for it. The simplest include pencil holders and notepads which clipped to the column. These usually carried advertising.
Glass "hygenic" mouthpieces were also produced which could be boiled to kill germs. There were other hygienic mouthpieces, mainly using disinfectant-soaked paper fitted into dispensers or holders. "Acoustic" mouthpieces were produced to variously increase the sound, provide privacy, etc.
The "Telephone Doll" was a beautifully made hollow doll shape whose skirts could cover up an unattractive telephone. ,br /> Nearly all of these attachments are rare. There is one remaining accessory which is fairly common. In many locations a phone was inconvenient on a desk, so the candlestick was built onto a folding or pivoting metal arm. This could be attached to a wall. The phone could be mounted complete except for the base, or, as illustrated, with a headset instead of an earpiece". This model is a Western Electric.


Clear Across Australia Ann Moyal
Course of Technical Instruction Postmaster Generals Dept, 1958
History of the Telephone in NSW Jim Bateman
Magneto telephones Bulletin No. 2 Western Electric (catalogue)
Old Time Telephones! Ralph O Meyer
Telephony Vol. 1 Postmaster Generals Dept., 1950
The Telephone Book H M Boettinger R Freshwater (Internet site)

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