Vintage Ads: Dumb Phone, 1907

There is no caller ID, call forwarding, speed dial, or personal directory.

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The “Upright Desk Stand” phone, commonly referred to as a “candlestick” phone, was the model most frequently used between 1904 and 1940. This model was made by Western Electric, a manufacturer of electrical equipment for the Bell Telephone Company.

Notice there’s no dial. You placed a call by lifting the earphone, which sent a signal to an operator. She would ask for the number you wanted and make the connection. If you were impatient, you might tap the metal arm holding the receiver several times. (It’s unclear whether this actually brought the operator online any quicker.) It was suggested you use two hands to hold the base and earphone, but with practice you could hold the latter between your ear and shoulder.

You ended the call by “hanging up” the earphone back on its cradle.

There was no ringer mechanism on this phone to announce an incoming call. This was done by a separate “ringer box” that was usually attached to the wall where the phone line entered the room.

We might also mention there is no caller ID, call forwarding, speed dial, or personal directory. And telemarketing lay 50 years in the future.

This article is featured in the May/June 2024 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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  1. It was state of the art in 1907. May I have one for my home now, with no landline anymore?


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