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It was during the time that Kellogg was owned by Western Electric (1902 to 1909) that some of the most noteworthy products came out of the Kellogg factory. One such advanced instrument was known as the Graba-phone.

The telephone is claimed to be the first handset or cradle type telephone made in America. It came about due to the influx, into America, of the "French" handset phone which was considered a great new trend. This type of phone was not previously seen in America due to the Bell Co. reluctance to manufacture a handset phone because of poor transmitter performance.

The first model left the Kellogg factory in 1905 and was manufactured, with various modifications, for nearly thirty years. The early years of the century saw the heyday of the silent movies and it was the unique appearance of the Graba-phone that created the great demand for this instrument. One of the advertising slogans for the Graba-phone was "Grabaphone and Talk Right!"

The Graba-phone is not really a complete phone as, in most versions, the actual instrument only comprised tha handset and switchhook assembly, very much like the candlestick phone of the era. The bell, induction coil and any other accesories were mounted in separate boxes connected to the instrument by cords.

The Kellogg Graba-phone was manufactured in many versions. The common battery model came with an enclosed bell box which also housed the induction coil and sold for US$21.50 complete. The magneto version could be obtained with a combined wall mounted bell and generator box which also contained the induction coil. There was also a magneto version where the generator, bells and induction coil were housed in a metal box which formed part of the main instrument. As the years went by an automatic version was released incorporating the standard Kellogg "new automatic calling dial".

There were also wall type Graba-phones. These included extension sets where no bells were needed and also complete sets where the Graba-phone handset hung vertically on the side of a metal box containing all parts.

There was even a large wooden wallset complete with generator. This had the Graba-phone pedestal mounted on the top above the writing slope.

Early versions of the instrument had a pedestal almost as high as the conventional candlestick of the day but as time progressed, the height of the pedestal was reduced and the cradle was simplified to keep up with modern trends. The Graba-phone of the late 1920's and early 1930's was a modern looking instrument and was superseeded mainly by the advent of the bakelite instrument.

Success breeds imitators - at least one American company, specialising in re-building telephones, marketed a "Grab-a-phone" - just spelled differently.

Graba-phones found their way into many parts of the world but none were more striking than one that was "decorated" for its owner in the style of Louis XIV. All exposed metal parts were silver plated and the bakelite handgrip, mouthpiece and earpiece were enameled in old ivory finish. Pink floral decorations covered the base, receiver and handle while the cord was pink with a silver thread wound through it. The green felt base was replaced with pink plush. Truly a phone with great tone!

Originally printed in the September 1992 edition of the Newsletter

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