SHORPY Historic Photo Archive & Fine-Art Prints
The Shorpy Archive
9000+ fine-art prints suitable for framing. Desk-size to sofa-size and larger, on archival paper or canvas.
Join and Share

Support Shorpy

Shorpy is funded by you. Help by purchasing a print or contributing. Learn more.

Social Shorpy


Join our mailing list (enter email):

Member Photos

Photos submitted by Shorpy members.

Colorized Photos

Colorized photos submitted by members.

About the Photos

Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2019 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Wired: 1921

Wired: 1921

Washington, D.C., circa 1921. "Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co." National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5
To stay online without a paywall or a lot of pop-up ads, Shorpy needs your help. (Our server rental alone is $3,000 a year.) You can contribute by becoming a Patron, or by purchasing a print from the Shorpy Archive. Or both! Read more about our 2019 pledge drive here. Our last word on the subject is: Thanks!


Of course no desk is complete without a spittoon.

Phone System Power

Telephone central offices are still battery powered but with wet cells, not the dry cells pictured above. The power to your land-line phone is 48 volts direct current. Ringing voltage is 105 volts alternating current (20 cycles).

The reason batteries are used is so the phone system can continue operating in the event of a power failure.

The Thing

The thing under the table that looks like a giant ignition distributor -- what is it?

Telephony 101

The banks of #6 ignitor cells on the top shelves appear to be wired up in groups of 30 cells (15 each in two rows front-to-back), which would make the necessary 48V to power a telephone system. They'd use batteries so the students could play around without breaking the actual phone system.

The thing at the left is a test set. I can make out the words OSCILLATOR and FILTER on the central switch bank. The round items at the top are early vacuum tubes, so it has actual electronics in it.

The wiring panel on the right appears to be part of infrastructure for the building. It connects to the main trunk lines via the fat cable in the middle, and the smaller wire pairs are for individual phones.

Those huge metal lumps under the table (in the middle of the photo) might be used for pressurization of buried cables.

A little nip between calls?

What do you suppose is in that bottle on top of the bookcase?

[Ink. - Dave]

Learn Telephone Repair!

I think it's a classroom. The in-box on the desk is labeled "experiments," and those look like people studying rather actually working. I suspect the equipment you see is a small scale, and probably self-contained, telephone system used for teaching.

Floor covering by Walter Christaller

in the "Central Place Theory" pattern.

Family tree of wire

That wiring panel thing on the right wall is a direct ancestor of the wiring done for our new server at work.

Phone Cells

It looks like there are a whole bunch of batteries involved in the operation of this telephone company. Surely a knowledgeable Shorpster knows this and can identify the other equipment in this fascinating photo.

SHORPY OLD 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.

Syndicate content RSS | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Photo Use | © 2019 Shorpy Inc.