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The (1969) AT&T
Telephone Story Poster


The Western Electric Telephone Story Poster - The AT&T Telephone Story Poster
The Bell System Telephone Story Poster - The AT&T Telephone Story (1990/1993)


This 24" by 20" poster was distributed around 1969 to Bell System customers by AT&T for free to those responding to ads placed in consumer magazines.

In order to be able to read the descriptions that appear under each of the thirty photo images in this poster, I scanned the poster in six sections (that's all that would fit on the scanner at one time!) at 600 dots per inch. I then "spliced" the six cropped sectional scans together and created a HUGE file.

You can view a close-up of each phone shown in the poster below simply move your mouse over the one you want to view and click! You can also "zoom" in on the AT&T description of the poster by clicking on the AT&T logo or the description under the logo.

Keep in mind that this poster was issued about 30 years ago so the wording may sound strange. For instance, for 1968 it says, "Although only ten buttons are needed to take advantage of today's telephone services, the two extra buttons on these sets prepare them for the demands of the future." Obviously, the future is today! The "pound" (#) and "star" (*) keys are used in automated computer banking and other automated telephone services! It sure doesn't seem that long ago that I saw my first Touch-Tone telephone!

The Telephone Story


Picture Descriptions:

Left to Right - First row:

1876 - LIQUID TELEPHONE - "Mr. Watson, come here; I want you!" These historic words, the first articulate sentence ever spoken over an electric telephone, were uttered by Alexander Graham Bell when he spilled on his clothes some sulfuric acid which was part of the transmission apparatus. It was the night of March 10, 1876. The receiver was a tuned reed.

1876 - BELL'S CENTENNIAL MODEL - "My word! It talks!" exclaimed Emperor Dom Pedro of Brazil on June 25, 1876, when he listened to the receiver of this early telephone at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. One of the judges, Sir William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) called Bell's invention "the most wonderful thing in America."

1877 - FIRST COMMERCIAL TELEPHONE - The round, camera-like opening on this box instrument served as transmitter and receiver, needed mouth-to-ear shifts. Developed by Bell in the fall of 1876, it went into service in 1877 when a Boston banker leased two instruments which were attached to a line between his office and his home in Somerville, Mass.

1878 - BUTTERSTAMP - In 1877 Bell designed the first set with a combined receiver an transmitter that could be held in on hand. It was made of wood and resembled a dairy butterstamp, hence its name. It was in service when the world's first commercial switchboard opened in New Haven in 1878. The pushbutton was used to signal the operator.

1878 - WALL SET - People often became confused by using the same device for talking and listening, so a new feature was added - a second wooden transmitter-receiver. You could use either for talking or listening, but you didn't have to move the instrument from mouth to ear. The crank was turned to generate power to signal the operator.

1880 - BLAKE - The Blake transmitter greatly improved telephone service. Here, its walnut case has been mounted on an adjustable stand to make one of the earliest desk sets. This Instrument, invented in 1878 by Francis Blake, Jr., employed carbon - a technique developed by Thomas Edison - and transmitted the voice with increased clarity.


Left to Right - Second row:

1882 - MAGNETO WALL SET - This handsome instrument, encased in oak and using the Blake transmitter and Bell's hand receiver, was the first telephone built for the Bell System by Western Electric. It was in service for many years and was one of the first side-winder models on which you turned the crank to signal the operator.

1886 - LONG DISTANCE TRANSMITTER - The search for better ways of transmitting the voice led to the development of this model which used a platinum diaphragm for better long distance transmission. The instrument shown in this picture actually was used by Bell and late by Theodore N. Vail, organizing genius of the Bell System.

1892 - DESK SET - An early effort to make the telephone more decorative as well as more compact can be seen in this souvenir of the <1890's>. The carbon transmitter is becoming less unwieldy, the receiver has been reduced in size so that it was called a "watch case" receiver and the ornate base reflects the taste of the era.

1897 - DESK SET - In the early 1890's the telephone began to assume the shape in which it was to become familiar to Americans for the next three or four decades. This ancestor of the upright desk set was made in 1897 and represented a refinement of earlier similar models. It was made of cast brass.

1900 - COMMON BATTERY - The effort to make telephoning more convenient is perpetual. The early telephones were voice-powered. Then a wet battery was used which, though an improvement, sometimes resulted in acid on the carpet. Dry batteries came next. The fourth stage was the common battery, with the power supply at the exchange.

1907 - MAGNETO WALL SET - This is a more modern version of the telephone with a built-in generator mechanism to provide current for signaling the operator. Almost exactly similar telephones were in general use from the late 1890's through the 1930's. Some still are in service in rural areas <in 1969>. Note enclosed receiver terminals, an improvement of 1907.


Left to Right - Third row:

1910 - DESK SET - This somewhat streamlined pedestal desk telephone first appeared in black finish in 1910 though its prototype - a nickel plated affair - dates back to the turn of the century <1900>. These telephones were made of cast brass and later steel and were the All-American standard for the next quarter century or so. Some still are in use <1969>.

1913 - WALL SET - The wall telephone is becoming more compact. Instruments like these were in general service and were also forerunners of today's Home Interphone System. They provided intercommunication within the home and were advertised by Western Electric as "the greatest little step-savers that ever helped a housewife."

1919 - DIAL TELEPHONE - The first dial telephone exchange is credited to Almon B. Strowger who introduced it in LaPorte, Indiana, in 1892. It was many years, however, before switching equipment was sufficiently developed to permit dial installation in larger cities. New York City, for instance, began to get the dial in 1922.

1928 - DESK SET - America got a new look in telephones in 1927 when the combined receiver an transmitter idea, used since 1878 by telephone linesmen, was sufficiently improved to be adapted for general service. It was popularly known as the "French phone" because it resembled continental instruments.

1930 - DESK SET - This telephone like the 1928 set came with or without dial and resembled its predecessor except that instead of a round base it had an elliptical or oval base. Within a few years after its introduction it was being offered in a variety of finishes including ivory, gray, statuary bronze, oxidized silver and in gold.

1937 - "300" TYPE DESK SET - An innovation in desk set design was the placing of the bell in the base of this model. Earlier versions had housings made of metal but plastic was substituted in the early 1940's. The "300" served throughout World War II while the energies of most telephone people were devoted to defense work.


Left to Right - Fourth row:

1938 - TELEPHONE KEY SET - Here is an early model of a widely used business telephone, with one "hold" button and five others for calling, signaling or access to other extensions. During more than a quarter of a century <to 1969> of service, this type of telephone has proved very useful for both internal and external communications.

1949 - "500" TYPE DESK SET - First in the new "500" series, which later would include a variety of colors. Rugged and functional, the "500" is the most commonly used telephone in the United States today <1969>. Standard with all the sets in this series is an adjustable volume control for the bell located in the base of he telephone.

1954 - "500" TYPE COLOR DESK SET - In 1954 the telephone started to become a decorative house hold item. Although some colored telephones were available much earlier, they did not gain widespread popularity until the advent of the "500" color series. The five basic colors currently <1969> available are white, beige, green, pink and blue.

1956 - WALL TELEPHONE - The telephone returns to the wall in this companion piece to the "500" desk set. Designed for convenience, the wall set is most often used in the kitchen where counter and table space is at a premium. It is also popular in such areas as basements, garages, and covered patios. Colors: White, beige, yellow, and pink.

1958 - SPEAKERPHONE SET - Microphone and speaker units free the user's hands to make notes or look up reference material. It also permits conference conversations between groups at different locations. If privacy is desired, it may be used as a conventional telephone. Colors: White, beige, green, gray, pink and blue.

1958 - CALL DIRECTOR TELEPHONE - Used in a variety of business office applications, the Call Director set was designed to handle several incoming, outgoing, and inter-office calls at the same time. There are two main type = the 18- and 30-button models - which can be used with handset, headset, or speakerphone. Colors: White, beige, green and gray.


Left to Right - Fifth row:

1959 - PRINCESS TELEPHONE - "It's little, it's lovely, it lights…" The desk set gets a smart new look. Compactness, attractive styling and illuminated dial (it lights up when you lift the handset or you can keep it on as a night light) contributed to the all-round usefulness of the Princess telephone which comes in white, beige, pink, blue and turquoise.

1960 - HOME INTERPHONE SYSTEM - An outgrowth of the inter-communicating services offered to businesses for many years, Home Interphone service employs specially equipped telephones and speakers to handle regular telephone calls, communicate between rooms, talk with someone at the door, check on children, even call a dog to his dinner.

1962 - PANEL PHONE - Latest in the line of wall telephones, the Panel Phone mounts flush with the wall. A special feature is a retractable handset cord that winds up automatically within the set. There are two color combinations: Copper faceplate with beige handset, and anodized aluminum faceplate with white handset.

1964 - TOUCH-TONE TELEPHONE - Heralding a new era in communications, the dial is replaced by pushbuttons. As each button is pressed, two simultaneous musical tones are generated and transmitted to a central switching office, then translated into a series of pulses similar to those made by the standard telephone <rotary> dial. It is now <1969> in production by Western Electric.

1968 - TOUCH-TONE TRIMLINE TELEPHONE - Latest in the line telephones is the 12 button Touch-Tone Trimline set which combines handset and pushbuttons in one lightweight unit. Although only ten buttons are needed to take advantage of today's <1969> telephone services, the two extra buttons on these sets prepare them for the demands of the future.

1969 - PICTUREPHONE SET - See the person you're talking to? It's the newest step in telephone equipment. This is the Mod II Picturephone set now in pilot production at Western Electric. The picture unit has a "zoom" feature which permits individual or group viewing. Mod II includes a new 12 button Touch-Tone telephone.


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