A Conversation Piece

One of my favorite antiques we’ve acquired, by far, is this lovely old phone. I can’t help but imagine all the conversations it once facilitated by voices long silenced by the passing of time.

“Hello, Emma? Sarah just had her sixth baby! Yes! It’s a girl this time!”

“Hello, doctor? Come quick! Our little William isn’t doing well and we’re so worried!”

“Hello, mother. Yes, I know it’s been ages since I rang…”

When we found it we were pleasantly surprised at the condition and the fact that it has all of its innards, which means, theoretically, it still works.

It even has the schematic on the inside door should we ever want to give it a try:

The name plate on it looks almost new, still, too:

I did a bit of research on the Northern Electric company and found out that they operated for almost 100 years, from the 1880’s to the 1970’s. In that time, they made and sold quite a few different phone models but this one in particular is one of their earliest.

Which makes it about 130 years old! Which means it is in extremely good condition for its age.

They made another model around that time, the rural toll phone, which had a timer on it. You would just pull the little lever to the right of the dial:

I’m not quite sure why you’d need to time your calls, but I’m sure it had to do with either the cost being so high to use it and/or if it was on a party line. I’m sure the other parties didn’t want you hogging all the best hours to yourself. Apparently party lines were the only option in rural areas for decades.

My word, imagine all the gossip overheard on a party line back in the day! Who needed tabloids when you could just tune in to your neighbor, Cynthia, chatting to her sister in Cincinnati? Ah, the good old days, indeed.

If what they say is true about antiques being haunted by former owners, then my ghosts are certainly quiet here. For now, that is. I half expect that phone to ring and to pick it up to hear a voice from the past:

“Hello? Marge? Were you listening in on Cynthia’s call to her sister last night??”

9 thoughts on “A Conversation Piece

  1. What a lovely find! I remember the days when to have a phone was a real novelty – but in our house it was never used for flippant chats. Only for essential talks. In fact, I don’t think I ever used it when I was young. Calls outside of the UK had to be booked well in advance through the operator, they cost a lot and no one trusted the operator not to listen in. When I moved to London, I found that I could ring the operator at any time of night when I couldn’t sleep. They loved to have someone to talk to as the night shift was boring!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t imagine sharing my phone line! Of course I mostly only get spammers wanting to sell me extended warranties on my car so maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if the whole neighborhood could get on the line and gang up on them. 😄


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