Author Topic: Western Electric 591 (Found in an old warehouse)  (Read 3902 times)

Offline SidneyEllen

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Western Electric 591 (Found in an old warehouse)
« on: April 24, 2010, 10:07:56 PM »
Hello everyone, I'm new to this place. :)

I have been looking around everywhere trying to find props for the play my students are performing in a couple of weeks, and I was on the hunt for a rotary telephone from 8-3 today (9 consignment shops and several yard sales).

Finally, I happened across a cardboard sign that said "Furniture and Antiques" with an arrow pointing to what looked like an abandoned cotton mill (complete with busted out windows...) I ran the risk and went inside. I then had to go home and get a flashlight, because this huge building completely filled with antiques had never been wired with electricity... ANYWAY, long story short, I asked the old man who was selling the massive amounts of ancient things (mainly furniture and clocks) if he had any rotary phones. He said he didn't think he did, but I could look. Low and behold, I did find one, buried under broken pieces of a table and covered in an extremely thick layer of dust. The old man was shocked I had actually found one, but he sold it to me for six dollars. (His wife saw the phone number on it and recognized it as the old manager of the factory, so it must have been left behind.)

I took it home and began wiping off the ridiculously thick layer of dust (the phone had appeared brown). Underneath all of that, it looked REALLY quite nice. Now I want to know a lot more about it (especially since the receiver says "ITT" but the base says "Western Electric." Also, the plastic casing says "Made in the USA" while the heavy, metal bottom says "Made in Canada." The phone definitely appears to have had the cord to the wall replaced at some point. I was rather surprised when I picked it up with how heavy it was. (My scale says it weighs 8lbs.)

If any of you could help me out, I would greatly appreciate it! This is what I found:

Offline Jim S.

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Re: Western Electric 591 (Found in an old warehouse)
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2010, 10:20:17 PM »
The qwest and reward was well worth $6.00.
Glad you found what you needed.
JMO,
Jim
You live, You learn,
You die, you forget it all.

Offline Brinybay

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Re: Western Electric 591 (Found in an old warehouse)
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2010, 11:43:21 PM »
If you could take the cover off and post a couple pics of the innards it would help us more in determining what you have.  It's just two or three screws on the bottom.  Also if you could unscrew the handset caps and shoot those too.

I want to go dig around in that warehouse too, but I see by the area code it's somewhere in SC. 

BTW, welcome to the group!
« Last Edit: April 24, 2010, 11:46:19 PM by Brinybay »
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Offline McHeath

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Re: Western Electric 591 (Found in an old warehouse)
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2010, 12:31:32 AM »
Welcome!  You have a very interesting phone that has been assembled from parts of several companies made in the US and Canada.  The handset is from ITT, and could have a date code inside it behind the receiver, ITT was once called Kellogg and is now called Cortelco, they still make phones.  The handset probably dates from no sooner than 1965 and no later than 1990, as that was the dates it could have read "ITT" only. 

The shell reads only "Western Electric, made in USA" which means it was made for an independent phone company and not part of the Bell System.  The rectangular shape of the logo indentation dates it before 1968, I think, when they switched to rounded off corners.  Western Electric was the main telephone maker for the Bell System and had plants around the US.

The chassis was made in Canada by Northern Electric, once part of the Bell System and then spun off after the early 50's to it's own company.  They basically copied the Western Electric phones of their US sister organization.  A model 591 was made with no ringer, and one was then supplied by the operating company, called a frequency ringer for party line use.  If it still has the frequency ringer it can't be made to ring on today's lines and the ringer will have to be replaced with what's called a straight line ringer.  (an easy job and they are common)

The dial has a clear lucite fingerwheel, which would not have been original as it would have had a black metal fingerwheel. 

Overall it's an interesting phone, well worth 6 bucks.  It testifies to the kind of reuse it and recycle it mentality that the phone companies had back in the day, nothing was tossed.


Offline SidneyEllen

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Re: Western Electric 591 (Found in an old warehouse)
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2010, 12:39:03 AM »
Okay, so I opened it up and, "OY!"

I've already mentioned that the handset is labeled ITT and that the plastic shell is marked as Western Electric. Now, on the inside (I couldn't get a good picture of it, but you can sort of see it in the fourth picture) it says "Northern Electric Made in Canada" and "1955". Nowhere does it say anything about Bell Telephone like several websites I've checked have talked about. On what appears to be a battery, it says patented 1954. On the inside of the shell, it says 7D. I unscrewed the ear and mouth pieces as well: the ear says 9-3-58, while the mouth says 12-8-65L. I hope this helps! If you've got any more questions, let me know!

Offline McHeath

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Re: Western Electric 591 (Found in an old warehouse)
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2010, 12:51:57 AM »
Ah, the plot thickens! 

The shell is date coded 1968, it's the little roundel above the 7D.

The ringer is a straight line, it's a C4A model which was the standard ringer for the model 500 type desk phones.  Wired up correctly it should ring nice and clear.

The thing that looks like a battery is actually the "network" and is where all the parts are contained that make the phone work, it's filled with a goo like substance and is sealed forever, it will probably last nearly forever as well.  The model is 425B and it was made in 1958, that's pretty much what nails the date of the original phone, the date on the network and the bottom of the chassis are both 1958.

The dates in the handset, ranging from 58 to 65, further confirm that the phone had several visits to the factory refurb shop, got parts replaced, and was sent back into service.  Sometimes this was done multiple times, often a date code was stamped on the bottom but not always.

I've got a phone that started out as a Northern Electric 554 wall phone made in 1965.  It's final visit to the refurb shop was in 1998, when it was given a new handset and cord, and it's got parts from all the decades in between.  Of course it still works fine and I'm betting that your 591 will also.

Offline paul-f

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Re: Western Electric 591 (Found in an old warehouse)
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2010, 01:02:17 AM »
There should also be a date and model number on the back of the dial.  It looks like 11- (for November) is visible in one photo.

For reference, there are photos of an WE 591 showing a typical frequency ringer here: 
   http://www.paul-f.com/we591.htm

and a chart showing many of the numerous variations of the basic 500 set is here:
   http://www.paul-f.com/we500typ.htm
Visit: paul-f.com         WE 500  Design_Line

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Offline SidneyEllen

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Re: Western Electric 591 (Found in an old warehouse)
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2010, 01:11:03 AM »
Okay, so I looked at the back of the dial, and it says 7D 11-58, so I guess that would just be yet more confirmation for 1958.  Thanks! :)

Offline SidneyEllen

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Re: Western Electric 591 (Found in an old warehouse)
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2010, 07:54:01 AM »
Oh, I forgot to ask in the last reply: Could the earpiece be original but put into a later handset with a new mouthpiece? If the part still worked, was that a normal practice? (It just seems rather odd to me that if all the insides date to 1958 that the earpiece would be 1958 as well--inside of a 1965 handset or later handset with a 1965 mouthpiece!)

Offline JorgeAmely

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Re: Western Electric 591 (Found in an old warehouse)
« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2010, 11:09:19 AM »
I think the base is for a 591 from Canada. The giveaway is the "Patented ..." caption on the network. The base is shiny and the font rather small,  also Canadian features.


« Last Edit: April 25, 2010, 11:17:06 AM by JorgeAmely »
Jorge

Offline McHeath

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Re: Western Electric 591 (Found in an old warehouse)
« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2010, 12:52:16 PM »
Quote
Oh, I forgot to ask in the last reply: Could the earpiece be original but put into a later handset with a new mouthpiece? If the part still worked, was that a normal practice? (It just seems rather odd to me that if all the insides date to 1958 that the earpiece would be 1958 as well--inside of a 1965 handset or later handset with a 1965 mouthpiece!)

Yeah it does seem odd that they would do that, but in reality it was anything goes when they mixed and matched parts to refurb a phone.  Parts can be all over the board, dating from the beginning to the end of production, roughly 1950 to 1986.  Third party refurb shops continued working these phones over until recently, as my 554 with the 1998 handset shows, and I'm guessing that it still continues to this day as you can still rent them monthly just like in the old days.  (someone has to be refurbishing those rentals when they come back in)  Sometimes the mix and match makes no sense at all, I've got a phone with a 1972 chassis and 1965 plastics, which is weird as it's usually the other way around.