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Western Electric: 1917

Oakland circa 1917. "Western Electric Co. -- looking east toward Pacific Tel." For more than a century, the company was the manufacturing arm of Bell Telephone. 8x6 glass negative by the Cheney Photo Advertising Co. View full size.

Oakland circa 1917. "Western Electric Co. -- looking east toward Pacific Tel." For more than a century, the company was the manufacturing arm of Bell Telephone. 8x6 glass negative by the Cheney Photo Advertising Co. View full size.


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At the time this photograph was taken, the Oakland branch of the Western Electric Company was at 1900 Telegraph Avenue. Pacific Telephone and Telegraph is behind this building—a block east and half a long block south at 1751 Franklin Street.

1912 Indian

The motorcycle is a 1912 Indian TT Model, so named for the marque's 1-2-3 place finish in the 1911 International Isle of Man Tourist Trophy race. It can be identified by the straight-down exhaust pipe coming out of the front cylinder. The photo below is of a two-speed model (the shifter is on the top frame tube where it starts to slope downward), and shows the exhaust routing that was unique to the 1912 Indian V-Twin. The long lever with the ball on top controls the clutch—despite factory advertising, not all of the 1912 production bikes had one.

TT two speed

The 61 cubic-inch engine developed 7hp and in racing trim could power the cycle over 80 mph. This year Indian Red paint became standard, although Royal Blue could still be ordered as an option. Other new features on the 1912 Indian were no more bicycle pedals, an extended front fender, an improved coaster band brake, footboards, and the first kick-starter (forward throw) as seen in the bottom photo of a single-speed version that—except for the luggage rack—matches the motorcycle in the main photo.

TT single speed

Beyond the Harley

The two cars look to be a 1916 Dodge and a 1915 Type B Saxon

Mystery location

Does anyone know where this is? I've trolled all kinds of old manuscripts via Google and can't find any reference to where this exactly was.

Could it be? No

The motorcycle in an Indian v-twin

The motorcycle

The flat box on top of the fuel tank, the box behind the engine, and the engine shape make it look to me like an early Indian, like this one:

Built to last and they have

I still use 1960s Western Electric phones for our (hardly used) land lines. The wall phone and desk phone were whatever models first had the # and * on the touch pads.

Yet, in this iPhone age, I still keep my old baby-blue Cap'n Crunch whistle in case it all goes South.

No job is so important


The telephone industry has always stressed safety from Day One. From the earliest days, the telephone company was safety-minded. Throughout the Bell System, this motto was displayed everywhere:

"No job is so important and no service is so urgent that we cannot take time to perform our work safely."

I do remember the signs, and we had mandatory "safety meetings" every month.

Western Electric became AT&T Technologies 1984, Lucent in 1996 and then was et up by Alcatel (France) to become Alcatel-Lucent. Their stuff was legendary for reliability, though some thought it a hidden "profit center"' for rate-regulated AT&T.

Built to Last

I still use my 40 year old Trimline Touchtone in my home office. Built like a tank in the USA (until the early 80s and the breakup) and lasts forever. I get the same tactile satisfaction from it as when I use my Nikon and Canon F bodies.

Ma Bell

They built good stuff. I miss the old Bell System, monolithic and overpriced as it was. Now, we have fiber to the home, Skype, too-cheap-to-measure worldwide communications from a pocket phone. All of which was unlikely under Ma's loving embrace (remember Picturephone?).

But Ma brought us UNIX, the cellphone and Telstar.

Thanks, Ma, for getting us started.

Could it Be?

A C 1909 Harley V Twin?

(The Motor Bike that is. Thanks Everyone. I just knew Shorpyites would have the answer.)

The Parapets are Adorned -

...with barrels of vegetation, mayhaps to soften the harshness of the stretch metal screens on the windows?

[Sand-filled barrels were placed atop factory roofs for use in case of fire or cartoon violence. - Dave]

In the next photo

The wagon, motorcycle, and both cars are involved in an accident. Shorpy taught us this is what happens in Oakland.

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