Gong Bell Mfg. catalog coverYou may have already read about a nifty phone that I picked up while on vacation in Reno (its identity is still a closely-guarded secret), but that wasn’t the only phone that followed me home. I also got an interesting toy phone/bank combo made by The Gong Bell Manufacturing Company of East Hampton, Connecticut. I’ve recently begun the study of toy phones and the companies that made them, and one of the most important of those companies was definitely The Gong Bell Manufacturing Company. Gong Bell was founded in 1866 as a manufacturer of door bells, with toys being added to the lineup in 1872. Toys, made of cast iron, wood or stamped steel, eventually became their primary product. The company was probably associated with, and possibly a subsidiary of, the N.N. Hill Brass Company. Among the numerous phone models produced by Gong Bell were the Speedphone, Dial Phone, Dial Pla Phone, Wall Phone, Ranch Phone, Pla Phone, Pla Pay Phone, TV Pay Phone, Jumbo Pay Phone, Country Phone, Pay Bank Phone, Voice Phone, Unitphone, Duchess Phone, Electric Dial Hand Phone, Future Phone, and the Disney-themed “mousekaphone”. Whew!1937 Gong Bell Advertisement While they didn’t invent them, Gong Bell was almost certainly the first company to make extensive use of bells, gongs and chimes that were actuated mechanically during play, typically ringing with the turning of a wheel. Gong Bell made many types of toys, including hobby horses and other riding, pushing and pulling toys, but phones were always a major part of their production. Toy phones were in fact invented at Gong Bell, by Clifford M. Watrous in 1921. They made good use of an extraordinarily compact ringer, a clever design that was awarded several patents. With this simple technology they were in position to capitalize on the growth of an important household item, the telephone. Read the rest of this entry »