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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Hello: 1925

Hello: 1925

Handset assembly (or maybe rehabilitation) at the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company circa 1925. National Photo glass negative. View full size. Who can spot the clues that might tell us when this photo was taken?

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The fellows at the front table are overhauling 20AL and/or 40AL desk stands, which had a transmitter, a hand-held receiver, and a switch hook. I suspect the primary reason to do this would be to replace the cloth cords, which were rather fragile. The transmitters were a bit flaky as well. There's a pile of cords next to the post in the front, with a little paper band around each one with the part number and date code. Those may also be cords draped over a pipe in the back on the right side of the fire extinguisher.

Those are 534A "bell boxes" on the second bench with the holes in them. More than just the bells, they also had the network -- a transformer and a capacitor. (If they were for party lines, the letter suffix would be different, and they would have extra parts.)

On the third bench, they are working on payphones.

Not a dial in sight here.

Ringer boxes

The black metal boxes with the holes on the table appear to be the ringer boxes for the telephones. The phones themselves did not have bells, and the boxes contained the ringer. The box would be attached to the wall where the phone was plugged in. Interestingly enough, phones then were not owned as they are today, they were rented from the phone company. In some old houses you can still still the phone shelf in the hallway with its little shelf underneath for the phone book.

The lathe

The lever on the lathe drive slips the leather belt between the three steps on the "cone" pulley. I'm not sure what the short central belt is, though a brake is possible. The lever moves left and right for the speed change, it may also press in towards the wall to actuate the brake. Also note the bench grinder (probably a buffer) to the right of the lathe. And the pay phones on the far right.


Looks like a whole lot of leaves out the little slice of window in the frame at the extreme left, which would tend to favor October.

[dingdingding. tterrace nails it! Plus the phone boys are not really dressed for January. - Dave]


Would it be that the fans aren't running because it's cold outside?

[Noop. - Dave]

Mabel, get me Klondike 5-3210

Boy, I sure would love to get my hands on one of those beautiful old Candlesticks.

January or October 1925

My best guest would be January 1925 because January 3rd, 1925, was a Saturday.

The only other month with 31 days and a long name with a Saturday the 3rd, within a 2-3 year window is October of '25.

Since this picture was likely taken around the same time as the Telco Xmas picture, I would say it was January 1925 and someone in the office pictured in the Telco pic neglected to put up a new calendar!

[There's at least one other clue here that lets us narrow it down to either January or October. Who can spot it? - Dave]


There's a calendar in the background, but I can't read it. at this resolution.

Belt Drive

That's quite the lathe by the window. Big iron straps and supports bolted to the wall. The long handle looks like it controlled a type of clutch to get it going or a brake to make it stop. That center wheel is the mysterious part and looks like a brake made by tightening the belt against it. I also like how they never clean the place. Look at that thick layer of dust under the nearest bench. Now that's a shop.

Definitely rehabilitation

This is not an assembly line. It is most definitely a rehab shop.

[Rehab or parts scavenging or whatever, assembly (attaching mouthpiece to handset, for example) shouldn't be confused with manufacture. - Dave]

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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