Old Telephone FAQ   


I really like one of your phones, what is your price?

None of the phones I have featured on my web site is for sale.

I have an old telephone, I can dial out and answer and be heard, but it won't ring.  What's wrong?

Most old telephones were wired for what was called grounded ringing.  One side of the ringer connection was connected to one side of the phone line, the other side was connected to a ground connection in the telephone set.  It is rare these days to find a ground connection at the jack in your house, and that will keep your old phone from ringing.  However, all is not lost.  A simple wiring change in the phone is needed to change it over to bridged ringing.  There are wiring diagrams for many older telephones in the Technical Library of the Telephone Collectors International group.  The Technical Library is at this address: http://www.telephonecollectors.org/library/.  Look for your make and model and you'll find what you need to change your phone to bridged ringing.
I have an old phone, I want to know how old it is.

Western Electric telephones made after the early 1920s are very easy to date.  Western Electric (WE) was almost obsessive about dating every single component that went into a piece of equipment.  It won't be very hard to find manufacture dates on individual components within a phone, and on the base of the phone itself.  WE used two different dating schemes.  Early on the dates took the form of a Roman numeral followed by Arabic figures, like II-37.  The Roman numerals indicated the quarter of the year indicated by the two digits.  In the example here, it indicates the second quarter of 1937. A date code like IV-40 would mean fourth quarter of 1940.   Later, WE started using two Arabic numerals to indicate month and date of manufacture.  A date code of 5-51 would indicate May of 1951.

Automatic Electric (AE) was the complete opposite of WE.  You have to look long and hard to find a date on an AE phone, and most likely you won't find one.  A lot of other telephone manufacturers were like AE: no dates.  In those cases you have to rely on catalogs of the manufacturer in question, but then you'd only get a range of years that the set was made, you won't get a specific date for the individual set that you have.
I have an old Spacesaver-like phone, how do I know if it was made by Automatic Electric or Western Electric?

In general, Western Electric Spacesaver phones were boxy things, early sets were rectangular in shape, later ones were square.  Weatern Electric Spacesavers contain no induction coil or network.  WE Spacesavers always require an external subset.

Automatic Electric Spacesavers contained an induction coil or network, and had more "shapely" bodies.  The later AE Spacesavers had a rounded front and the overall case is a kind of triangular shape, when viewed from the bottom of the set.

I have an old three-slot payphone like the one you have on your web site.  How can I wire it up like an extension phone?

Almost all of the older three-slot phones require an external subset like the old desk sets, as they have no induction coil or network or a ringer.  You will need to obtain a subset before you do anything.  There are various old telephone parts suppliers on the Internet from whom you can purchase a subset.  I do not have any subsets for sale.  There is a wiring diagram for the WE 233/234 payphone on the page with my payphone.  I do not have wiring diagrams for other models of payphones.

I have an old candlestick phone and am trying to wire it up, how do I do that?

All old candlestick phones, of any manufacture, require the use of an external subset that contains the induction coil, capacitor(s) and ringer needed to make your phone complete.  You will likely find sites on the web that show you how to wire a candlestick (or other older desk set) without using a subset, but it is unsafe to do that both to the telephone and more importantly, your hearing.  The large amount of current passing suddenly through the receiver coils and the resulting "pop" in the receiver diaphragm can damage your hearing.  Shop around on the web for a proper subset for your phone.

As for wiring them up, diagrams for many old telephones can be found in the Technical Library of the Telephone Collectors International group.  The Technical Library is at this address: http://www.telephonecollectors.org/library/.  Information specific to Kellogg telephones can be found here: http://www.telephonearchive.com/kelloggtelephone/index.html.

I have a phone that doesn't work, can I send it to you to fix?

I do not have the time to do repairs for others.  I have enough to do with a day job, keeping a house running and in decent condition, and do the hobby stuff.  Depending on what needs repair, I might be able to point you toward a parts supplier or someone who does do repairs, but not always.



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Updated October 3, 2007