Home The House October 1902

The House   | October 1902

Vintage Electric Bell-Push Telephones for the Home Decorator

Wall style push-bell telephone
illustration 1   Classic Victorian era wall telephone

The telephone as an article of everyday use within the house seems to some people impossible, if they ever trouble even to think of the matter. They look on the telephone, firstly, as a great mystery requiring special training to be properly used and understood. Secondly, it is considered an expensive luxury, for businessmen only, and for those rich husbands who have more money than they know what to do with, and who wish to communicate with their wives from the city.

Again, there is a feeling which is hard to eradicate, to the effect that there is some special law which provides that no one can fix a telephone except those to whom a monopoly has been granted by the Post Office.

Owing largely to the above facts, telephones for the house have been greatly neglected. It need hardly be said that these facts are based on entirely mistaken premises: that domestic telephones, at any rate, are not expensive; that their users require no special training; and that as every individual may do exactly as he or she likes in their own house and grounds (regarding telephones), no thought need be paid to legal enactments.

A discreet Victorian era telephone
illustrations 5 & 2   discreet Victorian era telephone that looks like a push-bell

But, the question may be asked, What do we want telephones in the house for? Can we not call to each other or ring a bell? Well, do you think it very satisfactory to shout about a house or to bring a servant up from her work to take an order? In some large houses speaking tubes are provided, but at considerable expense, and then there is always the unpleasant sound of the whistle, which may or may not be put back into the mouthpiece by the last user. In the latter case the person at the other end can blow till he is blue in the face before receiving a reply.

If those who live in houses without the convenience of domestic telephones could only experience the sense of comfort known to those who are at present the small minority, they would wonder how it is that they could live so long without this convenience. The servant question is writ large on the heart of every lady in these days, and yet here we have a means of considerably adding to the solution of the question, especially in those houses where there are many stairs, and thereby tending to more general contentment on both sides.

In other countries, and in America especially, domestic as well as public telephones enter so largely into the everyday life of the householder, that no one would ever think of giving any order to servants or tradespeople except through the medium of this instrument. Even in English provincial towns most respectable shops have a telephone, and take the orders from the cooks by this means every morning.

The difference between the domestic and the long-distance telephone is only a technical one, involving less expensive parts; indeed, the former is chiefly remarkable for its cheapness and simplicity. It has one very important advantage as well, on which we wish specially to enlarge, and this is that it can be fitted, at almost nominal cost, to any system of electric bells. Very few houses are now without electric bells, and certainly none of those built in the last few years. These have a push in every room, with a bell, indicator and battery in the kitchen or pantry, and in the ordinary course of events whenever a push is pressed someone answers the call-in person. Bell-push telephones are used to overcome this trouble, which means a great saving of time, not only for the servants but for the employer who gives the signal. With the ordinary electric bell signal only, the servant has to leave her work and come upstairs, sometimes to the second or third floor; this wastes her time, causes wear and tear to the carpets, etc.—and all the while the person who rang the bell has to wait.

Wall style push-bell telephone
illustration 3   push-bell telephone that that looks great when fitted to a wall

With bell-push telephones all that is necessary is to place one of these small instruments in the kitchen or pantry and one next to each or any bellpush. No new wiring has to be done ; no new battery, indicator or bell is used; everything is the same as before, except that one can speak to the kitchen instrument from the various rooms. The telephone which is placed in the kitchen is shown by Illustration 1, and three varieties of room telephones are illustrated by Illustrations 2, 3, and 4. When it is required to speak to a servant, all that it is necessary to do is to press the ordinary push, say, three times (to distinguish from one ring when a personal reply may be required). Then the telephone is lifted off the hook and the speaker waits till he or she hears the "hello" from the other end. These telephones are just connected to the ordinary existing bellpush with a little piece of flexible twisted wire, and almost anyone can do the fixing. One important advantage connected with their use is that the servants in the kitchen cannot call up a room; they can only be called up from the room.

A short description of the illustrations will show further how useful these instruments are. Illustration 2 is a telephone not much larger than an ordinary bellpush; it can be stowed away out of sight behind a curtain, or under the mantel-border, and can be used anywhere. Illustrations 3 and 4 are slightly more expensive and are for use on the wall and writing desk, respectively. For these a special cheap bellpush is supplied, having two small holes in the top. The telephone cord is provided with a two-pin plug which fits into these holes, and it can easily be seen that the instrument can be carried about, if necessary, from one room to another and used at any bellpush having the two holes described. Existing bell-pushes of special design can also be adapted for this purpose. In the case of Illustration. 3, the plug is provided with a hook, as shown, for hanging the telephone; the latter has a mouth and earpiece combined on one handle and two keys in the handle, one for ringing and the other for speaking.

General Electric Geeko portable telephone
illustration 4   push-bell telephone that can be taken from room to room

Reclining in his easy chair, the master of the house can reach down this telephone off the hook, press the ringing key, wait for the answer, and then order whiskey and soda, coffee, or have a message sent to the coachman to get the trap ready; and the lady can order fresh tea in the drawing room without calling the servant. Or, if the pear-push, shown by Illustration 5, is used behind the bed instead of those usually supplied, and the telephone is connected thereto (and hanging from a hook on the bed rail, which can also be supplied), the mistress can give her daily orders when lying in bed, or communicate with the servants on any other subject. Illustration 4 can also be carried from room to room, and used on any table.

It will thus be seen what a w ide field of usefulness is opened by attaching these telephones to existing bell wires, in fact, one quite out of proportion to their cost. For employers, servants, and invalids their general use in a house is invaluable, and the only wonder is that they are not more known. Those we have been able to illustrate through the courtesy of the General Electric Co. Ltd., are known as the "Geeko" telephones, and besides the advantages already mentioned, they possess one other, namely, that they are of British manufacture.

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