Antique and vintage Western Electric telephones


2015-06-26 11:15:03


Antique and vintage Western Electric telephones are telephones manufactured by the Western Electric Corporation, the manufacturing arm of the AT&T Corporation.

History of Western Electric

Western Electric was established in 1872 by Elisha Gray and Enos M. Barton, and began to manufacture electrical products of all types along with supplying equipment to the Western Union telegraph company.

Western Union acquired part of the company in 1875, and set about challenging the legal patents held by Alexander Graham Bell and the Bell Telephone Company. When these challenges proved unsuccessful, Western Electric was in turn acquired by the Bell Telephone Company.

By 1899 Bell have evolved through its subsidiary business to become AT&T (American Telephone and Telegraph Company), and Western Electric became a subsidiary of AT&T in 1915. The company subsequently manufactured all telephones used by AT&T customers.

In 1984 the company was replaced by AT&T Technologies, Inc., who continued to manufacture models under the Western Electric name, until 1995 when AT&T Technologies became Lucent Technologies and its assets were sold to a number of different companies.

Notable Western Electric telephones

The most notable Western Electric telephone models include:

  • Model 50AL – the first free-standing dial telephone, released in 1919
  • Model A1 – the first telephone with an integrated handset, released in 1925
  • Model 102 – the first widely distributed integrated handset model, released in 1927
  • Model 202 – released in 1930
  • Model 302 – the first model with an entirely self-contained housing, released in 1937
  • Model 500 – the first phone to be offered to customers in a range of different colours, released in 1949
  • Princess Model – the first phone to be marketed directly as a second ‘bedside’ phone, released in 1959
  • Model 220 Trimline – the last Western Electric phone to feature a rotary dial, released in 1965

Collecting antique and vintage Western Electric telephones

Today old Western Electric models are highly popular with collectors, as many of the earliest models from the 102 onwards can still be used as practical phones. Amongst the most popular with collectors are the 302 models and 500 models, as they were available in a large number of colours. Many of these colours are now extremely rare, and 500 models can sell for several hundred dollars.

Coloured 302 models are even rarer, and in recent years a blue plastic version unused in a box sold for $5,000 on eBay.

Other highly sought after models include the early A1 and the 102, although most models made before 1950 can sell often for more than $100 if in good working condition.

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