Back to the Cavalcade of Phones

Automatic Electric | Western Electric | Other US | International | Intercoms

Phones of the World

One of the things that first motivated me to start collecting phones is a love of design. A well designed, durable, functional machine is a thing of beauty. Industrial design is the only medium that gives the artist the potential for enduring presence in thousands of homes. In every era telephone designs have spanned from purely practical to highly ornate, however the sense of style in other parts of the world is different than here in the States.


Asian Phones


This Phone is an NTT (Nipon Telephone & Telegraph) Type #3. It was made in Japan from the '30s through the early fifties.


This is an NTT 600. Looks a lot like a Western Electric (or Stromberg Carlson or Automatic Electric) 500 set doesn't it? It seems that in the late 50's, 60's and 70's the phone companies were all playing from the same book. There were a lot of ergonomic, usage, and manufacturing studies that all culminated in this basic - dial up front on a slant, heavy based phone with a broad flat handled handset. And guess what, It's a pretty damn functional, durable and comfortable piece of technology.



G.S.T (GoldStar Telephone Company, Limited) Model 70

It's of Korean origin. It's lavishly covered with mother of pearl in designs of cranes, plants, birds, and bunnies, but I don't know the symbolism of any of these designs. It sits on a similarly ornamented lazy susan stand that has two carved frogs



European Phones


This phone was made in Germany in 1959. I don't know anything else about it. I purchased it on-line (can you say eBay?) as I have most of my recent acquisitions.


This Siemens phone appears to be from the late 50's as near as I can tell. I got it in a barn flea market in Nottingham, PA, and it was attatched to a large (100 line) switchboard/intercom system. The back of the phone is stamped "Made in Germany - Radio Corporation of America. Camden NJ."

This is the "Grillo" telephone, designed by Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper for SIT-Siemens of Italy., It is widely recognized as a classic of the "Moderne" era. Mine is dated 1965. Progenitor of more contemporary "flip" phones, it sits on the table looking like a clamshell until it rings (from a buzzer in the plug), then you pick it up, the mouthpiece flips open, and you say "Pronto!".
The dial of the "Grillo" phone employs an interesting solution to the design problem of shrinking the dial while still keeping it usable for adult fingers. The "Grillo" dial doesn't employ a finger stop like the similarly sized dial on the Western Electric "Trimline" phone, but rather has a button within each dial hole (Not a good solution for people with long fingernails) which pushes a pin through the back of the dial. That pin then hits a stop behind the dial when it's been rotated the correct distance.


This phone is from Holland. it is known as a type 1951. The hang-up buttons are impressed with the initials "HEEMAF", a major Dutch electrical equipment manufacturer.

Freerk Kuperus wrote to me from the Netherlands with some history on this and the Ericsson phone below


This is the Ericsson Type 51 (or at least that's what the schematic diagram glued to the inside of the shell says). It's dated 3-64. Like the HEEMAF phone above, it has the "PTT" emblem, and a white button. In the US, this phone is often mistakenly called a "Ruen" due to the confusing logo stamped into the bottom of the phone which in fact says "RIJEN". According to Remco Enthoven (who has a nice web site devoted to Dutch telephones) Rijen is the Village where the Ericsson factory is located.


This is the Ericofon. It's a landmark in telephone design. The Ericofon was produced in Sweden in the late fifties and early sixties, and then produced again in Ohio in the seventies. This particular one is a Swedish model, and has a rotary dial in the base. In the center of the dial is a large red button that hangs up the phone when it's placed on a surface. You can learn everything you want to know about Ericos at Richard Rose's outstanding


As shown on Remco's Dutch Online Telephone Museum, this phone is called a "Diavox IDK". It lived it's useful life at the Polaroid Corporate HQ in Cambridge MA. Now it lives in a box in my mother's junk room.


Northern Telecom is descended from the company established by A.G. Bell's father to bring telephone service to Canada. For most of a century they copied the designs and practices of their progenitor to the south, but in the late 50s the licensing agreement with Western Electric was broken off, and Northern's research division started designing their own equipment. By the mid eighties, they were producing a wide range of stylized telephones, some of which are among the most sought by niche collectors.



Here's a round one. There's an earlier round rotary phone with a tapered (conic section) base, but this isn't one of those.


This one is shaped like the number one. (Bet you never would have figured that out)


Made for Export


I believe this phone was made explicitly for export to the US. On the bottom there's a sticker that says "Price Productions" and "Made in Taiwan". As near as I can tell this was manufactured in 1984. It has a modular plug for the line, but the handset is hardwired. The dial face has a nice picture of a Germanic castle.


Back to the Cavalcade of Phones
Automatic Electric | Western Electric | Other US | International | Intercoms

Tell me about all the factual errors in this page,
or ask me to put up a particular phone.