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Communications in Seattle in our Virtual Museum Partners
For more about the equipment
described in this exhibit, see the Science of Phones
See our other exhibits! Visit our
Including Hush-a-phone, colored 300 types, and the Golden Phone story
This display is an evolution of telephone sets. From replicas of the very first Alexander Bell “Liquid Phone” up to the Trimline, we have telephones! Some may be very familiar to you—others you may only have seen in movies or old photographs.
The Liquid phone
This is a replica of the famous Liquid Telephone Transmitter that Alexander Graham Bell used in 1876. Speaking into the top of the funnel-shaped horn moved a small wire suspended in a vial of dilute acid. This changed the resistance of an electrical circuit. Below this is a replica of the reed receiver that was used with the liquid transmitter. It was through a receiver like this that the famous words, “Mr. Watson, come here” were first heard. On the evening of March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell spilled acid as he was preparing to test the newly assembled liquid transmitter. To his surprise, his assistant Thomas Watson clearly heard Bell say, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.” Although Watson could not answer Bell using the reed receiver (as this primitive system could transmit only in one direction), it was nonetheless the first verified example of intelligible speech transmitted by electricity. (For more, see How Phones Work
in our Science wing.)
Western Electric coin collector
Western Electric made also made coin collectors. This photo is their # 7 coin collector. It collects 5-cent coins and features the ability to either collect or return coins. The collectors were attachments for various types of telephone sets.
Due to their shape this type of sets are known as “fiddlebacks” This “fiddleback” wall set dates back to 1895. The large box below the writing shelf contained wet cell batteries. The top box houses the magneto, ringer and switch hook. The base of the No. 5 transmitter arm includes the induction coil. This set is one of the oldest in our museum collection.
Coin collecting attachment
Paying for the use of the telephone required coin collectors. This attachment for a “deskstand” collected nickels. It was just that, once a coin was deposited it was collected. In the days of operators, the call would be established prior to asking for the coin to be deposited.
The A1 phone
From the early “deskstand” or “candlestick” sets to today’s modern sets required several design changes. This set, known as an A1 or AA1, was the start of Western Electric’s transition. Using the base of a dial deskstand set, a cradle mounting was added along with a “handset”. The handset combined both the transmitter and receiver into a common unit.
Magneto wall set
The Western Electric, model 1317, magneto wall set was one of the most used telephones in the magneto era.
The kitchen phone
Another wall set was known as the “kitchen phone”. Utilizing the same subscriber’s subset as the deskstand, the kitchen phone is mounted on the wall saving counter space.
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