The telephone was introduced by Alexander Graham Bell at a world's fair, the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The first commercial telephone followed shortly thereafter in 1877. Resembling a wood box camera, these camera or box phones, as they were variously called, lacked separate receivers and transmitters.

In fact, Bell’s failure to develop a powerful enough transmitter for his telephone allowed others to gain a toehold in this burgeoning market, which is why many late-19th-century wood telephones bear multiple patent numbers and names, including Emile Berliner, who would go on to invent the gramophone in 1887, and Thomas Edison, who was hired by Bell competitor Western Union.

Wood wall-mounted “coffin” telephones were the first phones put into wide circulation. Typically tall and bulky, they needed several compartments to hold the batteries and magneto (a hand cranked generator to signal an operator who actually placed the call). The earliest and most valuable wood phones were made by Charles Williams, Jr. of Boston. Williams had been an early telegraph manufacturer, and also made hardware for Edison and Bell. Coffin phones from the late 1870s produced by Williams for Bell were frequently made of mahogany and sometimes featured Blake transmitters and Roosevelt automatic switch hooks.

Another type of wood wall phone was the three-box telephone, which featured a receiver and bells on the top box, a transmitter in the middle box, and a battery box at the bottom, with a flat or inclined horizontal surface for jotting down notes. One of Bell’s former suppliers, Western Electric, made wood wall phones. Later, in 1882, Bell took over the company and turned it into its manufacturing division.

By the end of the 1880s, handsome hardwoods such as walnut and cherry were used to manufacture the housings for wood phones, but in the 1890s, phones were being mass-produced of oak. New shapes such as the fiddleback were also gaining popularity as a more stylish alternative to the boxy coffin. But as technology improved, wall phones were pushed aside by newer, more compact candlestick telephones, although wood phones continued to be manufactured until World War II.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Telephone Archive

The Telephone Archive

If you're into old phones, check out this 600-page repository of images and historical information. Includes an ext… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Beautiful Vintage 1915 Montgomery Ward Candlestick Telephone And Oak Ringer BoxAntique Western Electric Candle Stick Phone With Wooden Ringer BoxAntique Holtzer Cabot Electric Co. Oak Wall Telephone Antique Kellogg Oak Wood Hand Crank Bell Box & Telephone ***no Reserve**11 Type Coin Collector For Wood Wall PhoneWestern Electric €Antique Wall Phone Parts Wooden Telephone Pieces For RepairAntique Oak Wall Mount Orig. Phone Telephone Mfg. Co. Sumter S.c. Parts RestoreBeautiful Antique Kellogg Tiger Oak Wall Mount Crank Telephone W/note Desk 1901 Vintage 1900's Western Electric Candlestick Telephone + Oak Ringer Box Northern Electric Telephone With Oak Ringer BoxBeautiful Chicago Oak Wall Phone Telephone Complete Per Pictures 1930 MagnetoKellogg Antique Wall Phone Telephone Railroad Wooden Wood Antique Replica Wall Mount Telephone- Vintage Country Wood Rotary Dial PhoneAntique Kellogg Phone 1901 Wall Mount Telephonetiger OakAntique Northern Electric Wood Wall Telephone.Antique Wood Oak Kellogg Telephone Wall Phone Hand Crank Ringer 3 Bar MagnetoNorthern Electric Oak Ringer BoxAntique Oak External Telephone Ringer BoxPp Antique Rare Swedish L.m Ericsson & Co Stockholm Wooden Wall TelephoneVintage Stromberg Carlson Oak Telephone. Beautiful Antique Wall DecorBlack Oak Ringer BoxVtg. Antique 1900s Kellogg Oak Wood Hand Crank Bell Generator Wall TelephoneAntique Double Bell Box Telephone Ringer - WalnutAntique Telephone Wooden Bell Box - OakLarge Oak Stromberg-carlson Ringer BoxAntique Wood Oak Telephone Wall Phone Hand Crank Ringer Box Western Electric2 Antique Oak Handcrank Wall Phone Boxes 1 With HardwareVintage Gte Hand Made Wood Mallard Duck Phone Quacks When Ring /eyes Lit WorkingWall Telephone Box Only Quatersawn Oak Western Electric