In addition to my radios, I also have a modest collection of old telephones. This page shows some of the phones I have, some I would like to have, and some of that will probably remain dreams. We use these phones every day and are in the process of converting all our phones to antiques. We will probably keep one modern digital phone with an answering machine as a concession to the twenty-first (ick!) century. In most cases, I have borrowed pictures for this page because there are some very talented photographers out there taking pictures of phones. They certainly look better than I could manage.


Automatic Electric

I used to be strictly a Western Electric guy but I'm now finding that I really like some of the sets produced by other manufacturers, especially AE. I've alway liked the way they look in an academic sense, but the deal was sealed while I was on a recent trip to Disneyland. I was fortunate enough to stay in the Grand Californian Hotel. With Disney's usual incredible attention to detail, they had banks of AE Model 50 wall phones in their telephone areas, along with the rather more prosaic modern digital phones with credit card acceptors. They also had AE Model 40 desk sets placed around the lobby. All these lovely devices are in perfect working order and are used as house phones. You just dial (actually dial!) a four-digit room number and it puts you through. I even tried using one AE50 to call the one hanging next to it, just to hear it ring. Very nice. (The phone at the top of this page is an AE Model 32.)


Automatic Electric Model 50
This phone is often referred to as the "jukebox." I managed to grab one of these recently at a very fair price. It's in excellent condition and will hang on the wall between our living room and our kitchen, in a space currently occupied by a WE 653 Hotel phone. I really like the 653, but my wife is uncomfortable with it so she doesn't use it. This one actually has a handset, so she likes it a lot better.

Automatic Electric made these with the nickel-plated finger wheel and handset trip as shown in the photo, and also with a black finger wheel and handset. Many AE phones are sold today with brass trim but this was not an option on the originals. I got the plated version because it's just cooler looking. This model was manufactured between 1937 and 1956. AE didn't usually date stamp their phones, so mine could have been made anytime during that period. Pure Deco!


Automatic Electric Model 34
This is the next set on my shopping list. It looks quite similar to its successor, the Model 40 but a bit more pleasing to my eye. As with the AE 50 shown above, this model came with nickel plated trim or black. It was built between 1934 and 1938. It will look great on my nightstand.


Automatic Electric Model 40
I included this one mainly to have a visual comparison with the Model 34 above. This is a very nice phone, but I like the 34 even better.


Western Electric

Western Electric was the dominant manufacturer in the telephone business back in the day. All of the regional Bell companies used WE equipment exclusively. I have a couple of Western Electric phones in daily service.


Western Electric Model 202
I have one of these in my living room. Although a lot of "restorers" put a modern electronic network inside of these, I prefer the original setup. Mine is all original with a bulky bakelite ringer box that is screwed to the wall behind the sofa. It makes a very nice sound and could almost wake the dead. The ringer box contains most of the electronics for the phone (though these were pretty simple devices, electronically). The phone itself basically holds the dial as well as the transmitter and receiver in the handset. The handset can also be used to build your biceps!

This model was manufactured from 1930 to 1937. Unlike AE, Western Electric put date stamps on all the major sub-assemblies in their telephones, making it easy to zero in on a manufacturing date. Mine was made in 1931. The body of the phone is a metal casting (aluminum, I think) while the handset is bakelite. I got my 202 at a deep discount because it "didn't work," according to the guy I bought it from. I replaced the cords, found a schematic, and went to work. In about 15 minutes, I had a fully operational WE 202 in original condition. Later 202s came with the more symmetrical handset that was used on the Model 302. The illustration above is a WE promotional photo.


Western Electric Model 653
This is commonly known as the "hotel" phone because it was often found in hotel rooms (and appartments). It shows up in about a million movies from the 30s and 40s. Mine is currently hanging on the wall between our living room and kitchen but it's about to be replaced by an AE 50. I love the phone but my wife finds it awkward to use, so I will have to find another spot for it.

Essentially, this is a ringer box with a dial, transmitter, and receiver grafted directly onto it. I have always loved these and was able to pick mine up on the cheap. They were made from the early 30s through the early 50s. Mine was made in 1940.


Western Electric Model 302
This set was Western Electric's first to contain the bell and all the electronics within the body of the phone, with no external subset. It was made between 1937 and 1958, so it had a good, long production run. The 302 had a cast metal body. However, because of war needs, WE switched to thermoplastic (not bakelite!) around the end of 1941. The handset was bakelite. I don't have one of these yet but I want to eventually pick up a pre-war metal example.


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