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History of the Candlestick Telephone

The invention of the telephone was a major breakthrough in the late 1800s. Without it, we would not have the mobile phones we walk around with today, and lots of other technology, such as the Internet, would not be possible. The candlestick or upright desk phone, very popular in the early 1900s, had many manufacturers, and thus a lot of competition on the market. These phones are still searched for by telephone collectors all over the world.


The original inventor of the telephone is disputable. Innocenzo Manzetti was a man who first came about with the idea of a "speaking telegraph," which was a telephone, in 1844 but did not pursue the idea at that point, building it in 1864. He did not patent his idea, although many knew about it through the press. The word even got around to English technicians who are said to have been Alexander Graham Bell and his family. Antonio Meucci was an Italian inventor just like Manzetti, and he formed a device for voice communication in 1857. Many sources credit him for the invention of the telephone. The United States House of Representatives passed a bill in 2002 recognizing his accomplishment and stating that if Meucci had paid the $10 to maintain the patent, Alexander Graham Bell would have never been able to patent his telephone. Although there were many other inventors and scientists dedicated to creating a speaking telegraph or telephone, it was Alexander Graham Bell who was first granted a patent for his invention in 1876. The actual inventor of the candlestick telephone model is disputable. Some say that it was Stromberg Carlson, whereas others believe that it was Almon Strowger.


The candlestick telephone was manufactured from the early 1890s through the 1920s. There were hundreds of phone companies then, and there were many candlestick telephones being produced. The candlestick telephone was very similar to other telephones at the time, but the style was different. The candlestick telephone was officially known as the "upright desk stand." It worked roughly in the same manner and was created with the same materials. The materials used to create the Western Electric candlestick telephone included flax, nickel, mica, coal, shellac, gold, platinum, silver, cotton, zinc, asphalt, lead, tin, wool, rubber, copper, iron, silk and aluminum. In some candlestick models, there was also rubber and steel present. The telephone consisted of various transmitting devices, a receiver, extension cords, coils, screws, soldered joints, springs, cotton to cover the cords and an asphalt finish. The candlestick telephones were connected to a bell box that was mounted on a nearby wall. Later models included a dial on the base of the transmitter.


The candlestick telephone was common in the early 1900s, and many companies made these phones. The companies included American Electric, Automatic Electric, Century Telephone Construction, Couch and Seeley, and Electric Engineering. The candlestick model was very popular until the introduction of the one-piece handset. By the summer of 1878, the telephone became a business. There were private telephone lines placed in service, and Alexander Graham Bell and a few friends created the Bell Telephone Company. The Bell Telephone Company eventually became AT&T.


In 1900, Couch and Seeley manufactured a "potbelly" upright desk phone, or candlestick phone. It was nickel-plated bronze and contained a "corn plaster" transmitter. Also in 1900, Stromberg-Carlson created a candlestick telephone called the "Tapered Shaft Desk Set." This phone was nicknamed "oilcan" because of its odd shape. In 1905, the Chicago company created a desk set or candlestick telephone. It was also called a "potbelly" type because it had a bulge in the center like the Couch and Seeley candlestick phone. This set was created so that the user could have a better handle on the phone as he spoke. The same year, Almon B. Strowger created an 11-digit candlestick telephone. This one looked different than the others, as it had 11 numbers in a circle form on the shaft of the phone. In creating his phone, his intentions were to do away with operators. He got a patent for his phone in 1891. In 1910, S.H. Couch and Company created a candlestick phone that they called "Inter-Phone." The phone was mainly used for office communications. The company created both candlestick and wall set telephones.

Today's Candlestick Phones

Today's phones are very different from the candlestick and crank telephones that were used back in the day. Not only do we have digital telephones, but we also have mobile phones, and we even watch television using telephone lines. Telecommunication has come a very long way since the days of Alexander Graham Bell. However, one can still purchase a modernized candlestick telephone that has push buttons for tone or pulse operation and a center medallion that can be pressed to redial. They come complete with ringer volume, on and off switch and volume control, just like other modern phones.

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