Odds & Ends of the Bell System
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Odds & Ends of the Bell System


Side 1 of a collector's coin produced by the Bell System in its last days.


Side 2 of the same coin. It states,
"The Bell System as we have known it will exist
only in our memories and in the history books."


The Western Electric Store


Southern Bell Employee Service Pin, possibly from the 1970's.
Photo contributed by Les Phillips, Atlanta, GA


Found in an old park in Michigan by Jim Lewis


Back in the days when the Bell System was still around, there were many kids that wanted to be a "Telephone Man" or "Operator" when they grew up.  The following three photos from eBay auctions are proof of this widespread desire:




Man Hole Bell System Lid

Bell System
Man Hole Lid

Old Tools of the Bell System Repairman

Old tools used to
repair telephones

Bell System Key used to replace light in phone booth

Bell System Key
used to replace light
in phone booths

Southwestern Bell glass globe. It is identical on both sides.
Courtesy of Pete D'Acosta



Photo of Bell lamp shade courtesy of Gary Goff

Photo of Bell lamp shade courtesy of Gary Goff



BLUE BELL Paperweight Collection

Courtesy of R. L. Jacobsen

Antique Blue Bells Paperweight Image 1
Antique Blue Bells Paperweights Image 2


A visitor to my website contributed this photo above of what appears to be a pitcher used in the cafeteria of a Bell Telephone company.  It is 9 1/2 inches tall.  Made by Mayer China. Click on the Bell logo in the middle of the pitcher and see an enlarged view of the logo.  A big thanks to Dan Allen for the photo!


Bell Logo patch for applying to clothing
such as uniforms of Bell employees.
Click on image above to enlarge.




This tie was bought at an estate sale and belonged to Angus S. Alston former Chairman and Chief Executive of Southwestern Bell Telephone Company and was on the board of directors of AT&T and Pepsico. - Photo and description from eBay auction seller "tip-and-ring".




Photo 1
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Bell System Kettle

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Photo 2
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We received these photos of a Bell System kettle from a web site visitor, Robin Bodiford.   Photo 1 shows the kettle on top of an old gas burner.  The interesting piece is the kettle, because on the bottom of the kettle (Photo 2), it is marked "BELL SYSTEM."  At first I thought it was used to cook food when linemen were working in remote areas and couldn't drive to a far-away town to eat.  But some members of the ATCA and TCI clubs informed me of the real use for them!  Their comments follow:

It was used to melt lead and wipe lead cable sheathing. Probably from the '50s.  They were commonly used to melt lead by plumbers to seal cast iron soil pipe at least into the 1960s. - Steve Schlink - ATCA #1168, TCI

"Your "kettle" looks like a lead pot to me. it was used for melting lead to use in soldering splice cases in sewers (manholes) where no open flames could be used. The pot was heated by propane above ground by the splicer's helper and then lowered down into the hole where the splicer would use a ladle to pour the molten lead on the case and use a wipe to put the lead where he wanted it. If I recall correctly this was called the "pour and wipe" (naturally) method of sealing a splice case.

I could tell of one very scary incident where I almost spilled a pot of molten solder in the face of a splicer who just happened to look up as I was about to lower the pot and it hit the manhole ring and I caught it just in time. I still shudder about that incident." - Robert H Evans - ATCA

The "kettle" was a lead pot used to melt solder to "wipe" lead sleeves in the old days when the Bell System used lead sheath cables. The furnace was used to melt the solder.  The cable splicer would place a lead sleeve over the splice, beat the edges of the sleeve down so that it would fit snuggly around the cable then use the heated solder to seal the opening between the sleeve and cable. He would use a ladle to pour the melted solder into a catch pad that he held under the sleeve and then wipe it smooth with a smaller pad. This procedure is a lot easier to understand if you have done it, which I have but it has been about 35 years. - Bob Holland - ATCA #3222

And a website visitor contributed his personal story on the kettle:

The " tea pot" shown at your site is actually a pot used for boiling paraffin. Back in the "old days" the lead cables had paper insulated conductors, in order to keep them waterproof in case someone's "pot wipe" failed we would boil parafin and pour it in to the splice before closing it. In order to get back into the splice later you would have to boil the paraffin out by pouring more paraffin in and having a paraffin tray beneath the splice to catch the drippings. You would then carefully spread the pairs apart. I have "wiped" lead sleeves as recently as last year [2002]. There is still a lot in use in rural areas and on military bases. When I worked in Alaska back in the 80's I used the "boil" method with jelly filled cable in the winter except I would boil "orange juice" or jelly cable cleaning agent to remove the frozen jelly. - Steve Hearon; Applied Quality Comm. Inc.

An ex-Bell Canada employee named Pierre adds:

"Both lead and paraffin were [used]. As a Cable Repair for more than 25 years I opened many lead splice “wiped”. Technician used to stamp their employee number on them after wiping them.

And inside, all copper pairs were covered with muslin and paraffin poured on it to prevent “shiner” (degradation of the pulp covering the copper wires)"

Steve Hilsz contributed the following photos of his Bell System natural gas burner used to heat the Bell System kettle:

Ron Christianson contributed this photo of a Bell System tea pot.

eBay Item #3636071934 - Seller ID: danerf

Keychain stating, "The System is the Solution" - ebay seller danerf

This is what the Bell System employees would
take when dealing with abusive customers!


Bell System and Post-Bell System Manhole Covers

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A thank you to Daniel Farkas from Nutmeg Technologies for sending us these various manhole covers of the Bell System and more recent ones.



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