Stromberg-Carlson twin-box telephoneWhat makes antiquing an adventure is the mystery of it, as I never know what sort of crazy stuff I’ll come home with. Well, I’ve surprised myself again. Having recently acquired a model 1243, I’ve been thinking about Stromberg-Carlson quite a bit lately, hoping to learn more about the company and its products. I discovered that they were the premier manufacturer of phones for the independent (read, non-Bell) companies in the earlier years of the 20th Century, their phones proving well suited for the long distances encountered with rural use. I found one of those early phones this past Saturday at an antique mall in Cleburne, Texas. My knowledge of telephones of this vintage is nil, and I almost certainly paid too much, but I just couldn’t leave it behind. I’ve grown accustomed to messing around with old phones, but compared to the others this one is ancient! To use the vernacular of the antique phone hobby, it is a twin-box fiddleback telephone, the term “fiddleback” seemingly applied to any vintage wood phone whose backboard is anything other than straight-sided. [Note: I have been informed by Tom Adams that this backboard style is actually more of a "Gibson Girl" design] Once I got it home a little research was in order, so I scanned through my books and did some ‘net surfing, hoping to find some particulars regarding this early twin-box Stromberg-Carlson. I found several images of similar S-C’s, but all were different in certain aspects, with none matching mine exactly. I’ve not found much that outlines the progression of changes in their early phones, only a few tantalizing clues. Let’s go over the particulars of my new acquisition and, while we’re at it, examine the aspects that I’ve not seen on similar telephones.
Before explore inside I want to point out the switch hook location, which is different from other examples I found pictured. I’ve read that in 1899 Stromberg-Carlson started using a “triplet”, a component that combined the coil, switch hook, transmitter and arm assembly into a single unit. The triplet was widely accepted, often being retrofitted to older two or three box phones. The other phones I’ve seen all have a triplet, whereas this one has the switch hook mounted to the top box. Does that mean that this telephone predates 1899? I seriously doubt it, in part because of the Rochester, N.Y. marking. Stromberg-Carlson had no ties to Rochester until, I believe, 1903, but the fact that it lacks a triplet can probably be explained. I suspect that the triplet wasn’t suitable for all applications, so both designs were used simultaneously. But that’s just the Sherlock Holmes in me coming out, I really have no idea. Besides the whole triplet thing, another obvious difference is the orientation of the hinges and locking mechanism on the top box, the hinges being on the right in this case. All the others I could find were hinged on the left, and I’ve heard that right-side hinges denote earlier telephones, but I can’t say for certain. Located on the very top of the box is a… well, I don’t know what it is. Some sort of lightning arrestor perhaps?
Inside the top box we have a 5-bar magneto. I’ve heard it said that Stromberg-Carlson phones with 5-bar generators predate those with a fewer number of magnets, so this could provide a clue as to the phone’s age. But I must emphasize, I cannot confirm (or deny) the “count the magnets” theory! I don’t know if this would mean anything to anyone, but I also find numbers and markings of various types. The largest marking is on the magneto itself, consisting of a plaque that reads, Stromberg-Carlson Tel. Mfg. Co. Rochester, N.Y.  Chicago, Ill. This plaque is considered to be only on the early phones, but I’ve not found what constitutes “early”. On the receiver, around the opening, is Stromberg-Carlson Tel. Mfg. Co. and that is immediately followed by an odd symbol that appears to be a backwards capital B followed by a normal capital B-1. So, it’s BB-1, except the first B is backwards, get it? Then, on the “wire end” of the receiver is the same S-C stuff and another mystery marking, C-BB, with the first B reversed. On the front of the transmitter cup is the number, 978655-L, and on the back it again says, Stromberg-Carlson Tel. Mfg. Co. The wood has markings as well, but very difficult to read. The opened face of the top box, along the top edge, is 2500 towards the left and OH X more towards the right. The “OH” could easily have another letter or two following, but it’s just too faint. On the bottom of the opened box is PAT on the extreme left and APL’D FOR on the extreme right. Many old wooden phones don’t have a name to be found anywhere, but S-C clearly wasn’t shooting for anonymity.
So there it is. I haven’t so much as cleaned it, but it doesn’t appear that I did too bad for my money. It’s not 100% original, with certain hardware pieces clearly having been replaced, but the major bits appear genuine, at least to my amateur eyes. If anyone that’s savvy to these phones would like to enlighten me, I’m all ears!

I stated from the beginning that this website would chronicle my exploits, good or bad, as I threw myself into the old phone hobby. Well, this seems to be one of those bad times! Tom Adams, a man that really knows his wood phones, believes that the phone might in fact be by Williams Telephone & Supply Co., and fitted with Stromberg-Carlson components at some point. All vintage stuff, but perhaps not the original piece I had hoped for. Live and learn, eh?