Sunday, October 6, 2013

Candlestick Phone: Writer's Notes

I am writing a book based in the early 1900s.  Not everyone had a phone, but if you did, it would have looked like this one.

I wasn't around to use one of these phone, but I had a vague idea.  I need more information.

The Basics

The candlestick telephone is a style of telephone that was common from the late 1890s to the 1930s. A candlestick telephone is also often referred to as a desk stand, an upright, or a stick phone. Candlestick telephones featured a mouth piece (transmitter) mounted at the top of the stand, and a receiver (ear phone) that was held by the user to the ear during a call. When the telephone was not in use, the receiver rested in the fork of the switch hook protruding to the side of the stand, thereby disconnecting the audio circuit from the telephone network.

Design and Features

Candlestick telephones were designed in a great variety of styles with varying features.
Most recognizable, candlesticks featured a base with a vertical cylindrical neck extending upright for up to 10 inches in length. At the top of the stand was mounted a carbon microphone (transmitter) to speak into, and a switchhook extending sideways upon which an ear piece (receiver) was hung. In order to make or answer a telephone call, the user lifted the receiver off the switchhook, thereby activating an internal switch connecting the telephone to the telephone line.
Candlestick telephones required the nearby installation of a subscriber set (subset, ringer box), which housed the ringer to announce incoming calls and the electric circuitry (capacitor, induction coil, signaling generator, connection terminals) to connect the set to the telephone network.
When automatic telephone exchanges were introduced, the base of a candlestick also featured a rotary dial, used for signaling the telephone number of an intended call recipient.


The popular “potbelly” style was named for its beveled stem shape, which included an enlarged central lobe, and was produced by companies like Williams, Wilhelm, Montgomery Ward, Connecticut, Acme, Elliott, and B-R Electric. Other candlestick designs gained nicknames like “pencil shaft,” “oil can,” “rope shaft,” or “Roman column” for their distinctive stem shapes. Common designs made by different companies were often hard to tell apart, as manufacturers were primarily identified by small markings around the phone’s receiver and mouthpiece, indicating the maker, style number, and copyright date.
The majority of early candlesticks had only a single switch for dialing an operator, though some intercom or office phones had additional buttons for calling between locally networked telephones. The candlestick’s workplace prominence inspired a variety of accessories, from “Courtesy Coin Boxes” to writing pads, which attached directly to the stem.

Hope this helps you develop your writing!