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411 -- Telephones
They are so much a part of our lives that it is hard to picture what life would have been like before they were invented, but, in fact, they have only been around since 1876 when the first telephone patent was granted to Alexander Graham Bell. The dial system came not too long after that with the patent being granted to Almon Strowger in 1891, and it wasn't until the Bell Company established the first major switching exchange in Norfolk, Virginia in 1921, that phones, as we know them, became a part of our lives. If you stop to think for a moment: What did people do without telephones? Probably they lived within their own spheres rather than intersecting with the lives of others dozens of times each day. And, it follows, that without social interchange there couldn't have been an interchange of ideas. In the United States alone, in the course of one business day today, there are over 2 billion calls made. That's a mind boggling number and it gives rise to a lot of questions, the first in my mind being: how great a part has this form of communication played in the changes we see in the world in the brief period in which we have had the use of the telephone? An interesting question that is not going to be answered here. Here is where questions regarding Limoges box phones may be answered.

A. The Wall Phone Box. Western Electric first manufactured this phone in 1907 and continued it, with only slight changes, through 1937. I can remember, as a child at summer camp, speaking to my parents each week when they called, on a phone that looked exactly like this. It was high on the wall, for the convenience of an adult, and I had to stand on a chair in order to speak on it. The portion of the box that looks like wood was actually wood on the real phone. The little handle on the right of the box was the ringer and it was how you got the operator's attention. You turned that and it rang a bell that was heard by the operator. When she responded to you, you then gave her the number you wanted. (At summer camp there were only 3 digits in phone numbers then.) You can see the receiver on the left side of the phone box, the two bells on the upper portion of the box are one for incoming and one for outgoing calls, the mouthpiece is the device in the center of the box and the base of the box was meant for a writing surface. Inside, another kind of bell, painted, this one was used as the Bell Company's Insignia. The clasp is unimportant to the box. Retail: About $223.00. Our price: $201.90.

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B. The Desk Set Phone Box.
Also called the Candlestick Phone, this was the first major change in the appearance of the telephone. It was a much smaller unit, able to be moved from one place to another, and was the phone that appeared in homes and offices from about 1904 through the 1920's. In the early part of it's life it was made of nickel and brass but after World War 1 they coated it in a black substance, kind of like hard rubber, which became the standard phone finish. (There were no colored phones then.) Retail: About $207.00. Our price: $186.90. NEW

C. The Desk Set Phone II Box. This was the second major change in the appearance of the telephone and, as you can see, it was vastly different from it's predecessors. Notice that it had a dial because by the time this phone appeared almost all calls were dialed--automation had started although we did not think of it that way. In those days telephone operators were all women, it was one of the few jobs that a man would not even consider. It was thought of as women's work. Bell Telephone's slogan was "The Voice That Smiles." Telephone operators were extremely polite and very helpful. There were no extra charges for information or for the operator helping you to get a number. Inside, painted, a Candlestick Phone. The clasp is unimportant to the box. Retail: About $165.00. Our price: $148.90.

D. The Touchtone Princess Phone Box. This phone arrived in 1964 when the touchtone system was first introduced and there was not a young girl anywhere who didn't want it for her own. They marketed it in pink and it was one of the great marketing successes of the time. It had been preceded by the dial style Princess in 1959 but that didn't get nearly the attention that this model received. Something about this phone struck a chord with the teenagers and they drove their parents mad until they were given a Pink Touchtone Princess Phone. The receiver on this one lifts off. Inside is the Princess' crown, painted. The clasp is unimportant to the box. Retail: About $165.00. Our price: $148.90.

E. The Cell Phone Box. Is there anyone, anywhere, excepting me, who does not have one of these. This has been the greatest boon to the communications industry ever. Every body and their uncle has one. You walk down the street and you see people with one of these little boxes glued to their ear, talking. Walk into a supermarket and there are husband's checking with wives for last minute shopping, on their cel phones. Kids, wherever they happen to be, talking on their cel phones. People in cars talking on their cel phones. People in airplanes talking on their cel phones. This invention has connected everyone to everyone else no matter where they are. Our version has an antenna that can be raised or lowered. The box lid closes over the keyboard and the screen says, "Hello" and in very small print, " New York". Retail: About $215.00. Our price $184.90.

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