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Mystery 1939 metal housing 302 telephone

Started by TelePlay, July 31, 2022, 08:23:04 PM

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Opened up my next project box to find a 1939 WE metal 302 with an F1W handset and interesting red stampings on the bottom of the base. It's a date matching phone except for the dial which looks to be early 1940.

The base is stamped with a D-number and 66 2/3 which is the original frequency ringer installed by whatever company bought the housing. F1W handset and base from WE.

1 Outside Base.jpg

The base also has penciled on 33 1/3 and S/L under the inked D# and 66 2/3 frequency spec.

The ringer and normal 302 mount were missing and seems someone put some sort of ringer in using double sided foam tape.

1 Inside base.jpg

The F1W handset, which has 1939 elements, included a condenser in the transmitter end

1 Handset.jpg

which was explained in this reply by poplar1:

The dial appears to be a WE 5H dial dated 1940 (can't tell exactly without removing it from the housing)

1 Dial.jpg

Finally, along with the D# on the bottom of the base, the mounting code is "AB1"

1 Housing.jpg

and on the other side of the back mouse hole the characters "L293" are stamped into the metal.

I hooked it up to a POTS line and it dialed out and the transmitter and receiver elements worked just fine. It's a working phone except for not having a ringer.

So the question is, what do I have here? What is/was this phone back in 1939? And, is it worth anything (rare) or just scrap metal with components I could part out?

I could probably get $50 or more from the parts and will do that (due to the exterior paint condition, the poor number plate letters and the missing ringer.

A mysterious telephone from 1939 . . .


The markings suggest the phone was originally built as a AB1, which was intended to be sold without ringer.

The D2993-H was for an added 66 2/3 Hz ringer.

For some background, see:

and search the forum for 2993 for photos and descriptions, including:
Visit:         WE  500  Design_Line



Thanks for the leads. Had no idea of the numbering shown. That phone has some history that will never be known, where it was, when and why the changes and conversions given its early life spanned WE-II.

Just found some B1A mounts on eBay and have had the grommets and rivets for years. Will put a B1A ringer that I have in it and clean it up as is. With that history, a bit less than NOS condition means historical character, and mystery.

Will add to this after I get the mounts and clean it up. It always amazes me that these decades old phones still work when barn fresh. Will check the dial speed tomorrow to see how the lubrication is doing after 80 years.


Quote from: TelePlay on July 31, 2022, 11:48:09 PMWill check the dial speed tomorrow to see how the lubrication is doing after 80 years.

With no post production field lubrication dates on the phone, it tested at 10.23 PPS, not bad for 82 years after being put into use.

Dial Specs as found.jpg

However, the Break/Make ratio is out of WE spec coming in at 67.4/32.6. Did independent telcos use a different BM ratio than WE? I've see SC dials have BM ratios similar to this. The testing wave form shows, to the eye, that the Break period is too long (wide) compared to the Make period (which is too narrow, short).

Dial Waveform as found.jpg

The phone's home (location of usage) was Shelby, Ohio which is about 16 miles northeast of Galion, Ohio, the home of North Electric manufacturing facility. A small city half way between Columbus and Lake Eerie. Would a small, independent telco in that area be using a frequency based ringer system in the 1940s?

From looking at the markings on the bottom of the base, the D2993-H was stamped OVER the SL hand written with a marker AND the 3 mounting holes in the base are for a newer (3 rivet) B1A ringer mount. Seems the phone was changed to a 66 2/3 Hz ringer and then a 33 1/3 ringer (also hand written with a marker).

One of those Fire/Police red stickers is between the cradle ears and it was furnished by the Barkdull Funeral Home in Shelby which exists and is operation to this day at the address on the sticker with the same phone number, plus area code (419).


The phone did not come with a number card so no idea of who owned/rented the phone.


My replacement B1A ringer mounts for a 302 came today. The rivet holes in the mount exactly match the 3 mounting holes in the metal base.

From what I found on the forum about D2993-X set ups, the frequency ringers had a special mount that did not look like the B1A mount, but there are no holes in this phone's base indicating that one of these special mounts was ever installed. It seems the B1A mount originally on the base was removed and double sided foam tape was used to hold the frequency ringer. However, the patent date for this tape is 1987. So, this could have been an independent telco straight line ringer until some time after 1987 when it was converted to a 66 2/3 Hz frequency ringer to be latter changed to a 33 1/3 Hz frequency ringer.

The AB1 mount and F1W handset indicate it was made by Western Electric without a ringer and may or may not have had a B1A mount installed. The capacitor in the phone as 4 wires, one capacitor for the talk circuit and another for the ringer. The area around the 3 holes in the base, when looking at it from the bottom, seem to show that there were rivets holding the mount onto the base at some time in the past.

These are the parts I have on hand to install the ringer mount. The grommets that fit the mount holes have an ID that is too large for the right length but too small head (not exactly the same as WE original parts. I have smaller grommets that fit the rivet shank diameter well and just fit inside the larger grommet taking up the space, centering the rivet. The inner grommet also keeps the rivet head from pulling through the larger grommet.

Ringer Mounts Parts.jpg

The rivets ground out to get the mount out of its original base are shown. The bases I bought to get the mounts were totally stripped of coil, feet, condenser and ringer. Only the mount was left on the scavenged base.

When inserted into the mount, as shown in the second image, the mount is ready to be placed on the phone's base and the rivets set with a hollow rivet setting tool. A spacer will have to be placed between the mount and the base to make sure the rivets are set to the correct length and removed after installation.

Ringer Mount before Installation into Base.jpg

Won't install the ringer mount until the base has been cleaned. Someday it will be a fully functioning 302 with paint missing from the cradle ears, a common thing for a phone this old.