Author Topic: Apartment Telephone Mystery  (Read 672 times)

Offline cihensley@aol.com

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Apartment Telephone Mystery
« on: March 14, 2017, 05:16:29 PM »
There is a lot of missing information on what is commonly known as the Western Electric "apartment phone."

It does not appear to be completely Western Electric manufactured. It is a WE 5XX series telephone (manual or dial) with something identified as an H-1542 subset, mounted on a single piece backboard. The subset is made of wood, painted black. There is no BSP covering the apartment telephone as a single unit or for the H-1542 subset.

The sole documentation, discovered to date, for the apartment telephone is a hand-drawn schematic of the H-1542 wiring that is mounted on the inside of the subset. The 501B and 493B keys identified on the schematic have not been found in anyWestern Electric, Graybar, or electrical catalogs.

Instructions for using the 501B key are mounted on the subset above the key. Two versions of the instructions have been seen. One with a Bell System logo (mostly seen) and one with no logo. In all cases seen so far the logo is from the Pacific Telephone Company ( which at the time of the apartment telephone included Oregon and Washington).

It seems the apartment telephone was designed and fabricated by Pacific Telephone to meet a need not meet by any Western Electric offering?? Was the apartment phone used by any other Bell companies??

Obviously, Pacific Telephone did not fabricate or manufacture a whole line of telephone apparatus. So what was the specific objective of designating the subset as H-1542? Was it just the whimsical choice of the designer?

Chuck
« Last Edit: March 14, 2017, 05:41:43 PM by cihensley@aol.com »

unbeldi

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Re: Apartment Telephone Mystery
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2017, 05:55:56 PM »
Have you seen this topic:  http://www.classicrotaryphones.com/forum/index.php?topic=17171.0

I drew some diagrams for this and wrote about its function.
I do think I have seen similar ones with addresses in NYC.  [PS:  I thought I had pictures of an NYC address on the board, but I can't find them.]
I wouldn't be surprised if these were actually not installed by telephone companies, but by third-party suppliers, because half the unit is really an intercom/annunciator system.

The telephone was a standard 553 or 653, indeed.  The intercom function simply borrowed the basics of the subscriber set, the receiver and transmitter, with a switch that was inserted into the unit.

« Last Edit: March 14, 2017, 06:27:32 PM by unbeldi »

Offline HarrySmith

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Re: Apartment Telephone Mystery
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2017, 06:10:44 PM »
I have seen a few of those, I kinda like them! I may add one to my collection eventually.
Question: was the WE 5XX always with a bulldog transmitter or werte thay made with a mouthpiece?
Harry Smith
ATCA 4434
TCI

"There is no try,
there is only
do or do not"

unbeldi

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Re: Apartment Telephone Mystery
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2017, 06:15:25 PM »
I have seen a few of those, I kinda like them! I may add one to my collection eventually.
Question: was the WE 5XX always with a bulldog transmitter or werte thay made with a mouthpiece?

A 553 would likely not have this transmitter, but the original solid-back transmitter.  The 635A transmitter was typically installed when the 553s were upgraded to 653s after ca. 1936.

unbeldi

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Re: Apartment Telephone Mystery
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2017, 10:48:41 PM »
The 501B and 493B keys identified on the schematic have not been found in anyWestern Electric, Graybar, or electrical catalogs.


I had no trouble finding them in the NE card catalog, and if they are there, they will be in the WE catalog too.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2017, 07:33:28 AM by unbeldi »

Offline cihensley@aol.com

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Re: Apartment Telephone Mystery
« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2017, 10:35:11 AM »
Karl:

I will appreciate your identifying in which number WE catalog they are listed.

Chuck

unbeldi

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Re: Apartment Telephone Mystery
« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2017, 01:22:36 PM »
Karl:

I will appreciate your identifying in which number WE catalog they are listed.

Chuck

Not every part is listed in the sales catalogs, only those that they sold to independents.  But every part should be in the card catalog.  There is rumor that someone has one, but no-one is ready to scan it, or arrange the scanning, or what ever, I don't know.
But the NECo/Nortel card catalog is in the TCI library and it contains these keys.

I just looked at WECo catalog No. 6 of 1925 and No. 7 of 1929, and both have a general section on 501 keys without detailing exact configurations or pictures, but referring to 479 keys as being similar.

...Ditto in Catalog No. 9 of 1935.



« Last Edit: March 15, 2017, 01:25:06 PM by unbeldi »

Offline cihensley@aol.com

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Re: Apartment Telephone Mystery
« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2017, 06:48:59 PM »
The technical details are more than interesting, but I was hoping that someone would have some information on the history of the phone.

Chuck

unbeldi

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Re: Apartment Telephone Mystery
« Reply #8 on: March 27, 2017, 09:47:03 PM »
Has anyone even seen what the other pieces of the system look like?  I haven't.
We are missing the janitor & supervisor stations (buzzer equipment), the front door intercom unit, and the intercom power supply box.  I suppose those could be some of the standard WECo or Graybar intercom parts as seen in many of the available catalogs, if the system was supplied by a Bell System company.

Offline poplar1

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Re: Apartment Telephone Mystery
« Reply #9 on: March 28, 2017, 09:55:28 AM »
Has anyone even seen what the other pieces of the system look like?  I haven't.
We are missing the janitor & supervisor stations (buzzer equipment), the front door intercom unit, and the intercom power supply box.  I suppose those could be some of the standard WECo or Graybar intercom parts as seen in many of the available catalogs, if the system was supplied by a Bell System company.


http://www.classicrotaryphones.com/forum/index.php?topic=17171.msg177124#msg177124
"C'est pas une restauration, c'est une rénovation."--François Martin.

Offline poplar1

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Re: Apartment Telephone Mystery
« Reply #10 on: March 28, 2017, 10:04:40 AM »
This 293-type may be the forerunner of the 553-E/H-1542.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/142308075625
"C'est pas une restauration, c'est une rénovation."--François Martin.

unbeldi

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Re: Apartment Telephone Mystery
« Reply #11 on: March 28, 2017, 10:16:38 AM »
Ah yes, I did see those.  Thanks.

As far as history is concerned, I don't know of any comprehensive compilations.  These types of systems were so common in the large cities, though. Perhaps it was a novel aspect of these that they shared the transmitter and receiver with the telephone set to reduce the need for equipment and space in the tight man caves of NYC, etc.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2017, 10:30:18 AM by unbeldi »