From the beginning of telephone development until recent times the Postal and Electric Telegraph Department, later the Postmaster–General's Department, and now Telecom Australia, imported most of its telephone instruments. In the 1880's these came from the United States and Great Britain (such as Bell, Blake, Edison, and Western Electric) and France (Berthon Ader). By the 1890's instruments were being imported from Sweden (Ericsson) Great Britain (Peel Connor, Crossley, National, Consolidated) and the United States (Western Electric, Automatic Electric, Kellogg, Stromberg Carlson) and Canada (Independent). There were too many makers to list them all here.
Although the importation of instruments has gone on since the beginning from various countries it could be said that this policy took advantage of the best of overseas developments without the inherent cost of tooling up for what was then, and is to some extent now, a small market by world standards.
Instruments imported were supplied to local specifications which were then, and are now, amongst the highest in the world. Thus, the collector has been bequeathed a great variety of material from many different sources, much of which was 'localised'.
There is considerable variation in types of equipment from state to state because prior to Federation in 1901, state telecommunication authorities were responsible for their own selection and purchase of equipment.
TABLE TELEPHONES: Early telephone instruments were of course functional in design and it was not until Swedish technician Lars Magnus Ericsson, began designing and building telephones that greater importance was attached to design and workmanship. Australia's first standard desk set, PMG type 2, 1892, incorporated a carbon granular transmitter, and receiver with ring magnet in an inner case. The generator magnets had a dual purpose of supplying magnetic flux for the generator and as a stand for the telephone. This instrument is known in Australia variously as the 'Skeletal Ericsson', 'Open Frame', or 'Coffee Grinder', whilst in the U.S. it is known as the 'Eiffel Tower', a term reserved here for another early desk set ). The skeletal Ericsson is perhaps the most famous of all early desk sets and was used in some form in most developed countries of the world.
Of interest to enthusiasts is the fact that these sets can now be completely restored, even to the intricate art work on the legs. Decals for this purpose can be bought which duplicate the original.
The success of the Ericsson desk set prompted other manufacturers to copy the design Peel Connor (later BCE) equivalent.
EARLY DESK TELEPHONES: All the table or desk top instruments reflect the time in which they were made, almost a late Victorian-Edwardian elegance which embodied functionalism with an ornate solidness. Many of them were so soundly constructed that they remained in service in manual areas until the 1920's and even a few stragglers until the Second World War. One skeletal Ericsson in use as an extension was taken out of service in Tasmania as late as 1978. In an age when most instruments were predominantly wall sets, these desk sets were usually found in offices or large homes.
PMG TYPE 6,1893, PEEL CONNOR (BGE) : This instrument was used for a short interval when the general supply of instruments from overseas manufacturers was poor. The reasons for its discontinuance are not recorded but the skeletal Ericsson became the standard instrument probably because of better supply and because it proved more reliable. This particular instrument is now very rare, the one depicted is reputed to be Hunters Hill No.3.
PMG TYPE 14, BRITISH WESTERN ELECTRIC: This instrument is known in Australia as the 'Eiffel Tower' because of the awkward leg arrangement. A popular instrument in Australia it survives in reasonable numbers and is representated in many collections. The writer has one with the colonial crown stamp on the body of one of these desk sets, indicating its use in a Government Department. Some of these were also used by the N.S.W. Government Railways and usually have a distinguishing stamp. Purchasers of instruments could choose between two handsets, one being the delux ornate version, the other, the standard Western Electric micro handset, both handsets are now rare due to the PNG's later heavy use of Ericsson handsets. The instrument is finished in black Japan with heavy gilt decal ornamentation on the top cover and legs.
ERICSSON BISCUIT BARREL 1895 This instrument
is a rather famous limited edition sought by collectors all over the world. Reputedly only manufactured in the one year, 1895, and then discontinued, it is generally held that it was distributed to dignatories and senior Government Department heads. As an instrument it was not suitable for Australian conditions as it housed only a light weight two or three bar generator. The body of the telephone is round and the exterior is highly embellished with decoration in subdued greens and yellow tonings, and the bottom and top are made of wood, finished in black Japan. There are only five known instruments in N.S.W. with similar numbers in each of the other major States.
PMG TYPE 8-10, 1905, ERICSSON MAGNETO : This instrument was used universally all over the world and was popular in Australia and New Zealand. The local version had a decal 'Commonwealth of Australia' on the sides and also had a large generator installed to suit Australian conditions. The instrument was finished in black with a gilt border.
PMG TYPE 12, 1900, BRITISH GENERAL ELECTRIC MAGNETO : This box table instrument is larger in dimensions than the Ericsson equivalent , though in other respects was similar. It was finished in black and again had the decal 'Commonwealth of Australia' on each side, with gilt trim around the perimeter. Another feature is an opening side door to reveal the generator for easier maintenance. A watchcase receiver was also a feature but was not provided in every case.
PMG NATIONAL MAGNETO TABLE SET 1900: This box type table instrument, like the Peel Connor equivalent (both manufactured in the U.K.) was probably imported by state administrations in small quantities before the formation of the PMG. The telephone has roughly the same dimensions as the Ericsson and should have a similar decal. The decal on the Peel Connor is quite distinctive and is illustrated in Part Six. National table instruments were widely used in the U.K. and the whole body of the instrument was distinctively finished in wood grain.
PMG TYPE NO.1-131 MW ERICSSON COMMONWEALTH MAGNETO WALL TELEPHONE Australia adopted as its first standard wall instrument an Ericsson Fiddleback Wall set which was built in Sweden to Australian specifications and known as the "Comm. onwealth Ericsson". These instruments date from the 1890's and many were still use at the time of the Second World War when the PMG's Telecommunications Division reissued recovered instruments as the "Tucked" version (a wartime expedient due to shortage of new instruments).
The Commonwealth Ericsson is in many ways the best constructed and handsomest of standard Australian wall sets. Technically, it was said a call could be made between Sydney and Melbourne using two of these instruments without the need for repeaters. The craftmanship which went into the construction of the sets remains to this day a credit to their builders. Timbers usually used in construction werE walnut or oak. This instrument was installed in very large numbers being the commonest magneto instrument in existance until the 1930's.
From the circuit it will be seen that to prevent the bell from ringing when signalling out from the telephone, it is necessary to operate the press button. Contacts of the press button, when operated, open the circuit of the bell and short circuit the secondary winding of the induction coil. This feature can be used to prevent excessive sidetone from interferring with incoming speech in noisy situations. Metal straps which earth the bell to either side of the line are included which, in conjunction with the exchange ringing generator and a suitable switching arrangement there, can be used to provide selective ringing on a three party line as many of these instruments were used on rural party lines.
SINGLE BOX MAGNETO WALL TELEPHONES: This category of wall instrument was popular in manual exchange areas from the 1890's to the Second World War and its design reflects a simplification of the components in the earlier twin box instruments i.e. transmitter and receiver, generator and battery compartment. There were many makes and models but those discussed are the most popular Australian PMG varieties.
PMG TYPE 35MW: Popularly known as the 'British Ericsson' which defines its origin, this type was introduced in 1916 and the older versions feature the Ericsson barrel insert type transmitter and mount (35MW), later models featured either a solid back transmitter with a 127 type mount, or later still the plastic insert type transmitter, both versions being known as the 135MW. Sometimes the old transmitter mounts were left with both of the above conversions. A later instrument (765AW) also had provision for a dial when it was anticipated rural exchanges would progressively be converted. This instrument still had separate transmitter-receiver operation, and it is thought few actual conversions to auto working were actually made.
PMG TYPE 235 : Also British Ericsson in origin this instrument was in the main a conversion of the earlier 35 and 135 models by local PMG workshops, and was issued from 1930 onwards. An instruction plate was strategically placed over the holes left by the removed transmitter and the switch hook arm changed to take a 300 handset, together with circuit modifications.
In there heyday there were large numbers of British Ericsson type instruments in use, but after 1940 they were phased out progressively in favour of the 162/232 Pyramid table telephone and wall set.
PMG IYPL 3 MW : This type was manufactured in Clio U.S. by Stromberg Carlson and introduced in 1910. A feature of this instrument was an adjustable lightning arrestor. A later version PMG 133 MW (1930) featured the inset transmitter, PMG type receiver and no lightning arrestor. A three quarter box variety was also used by the PMG and a version about the size of a Stromberg Carlson bell box with transmitter fixed in the lower half of the front door.
PMG TYPE 233 MW : This type was a PMG adaption of the earlier versions, although the stromberg Carlson company did supply some of the prototypes. The features are combined handset operation and improved circuitry, the PMG blanked the transmitter holes with an instruction notice, and a note holder was added.
PMG CANADIAN INDEPENDENT : Manufactured in Canada and imported from about 1900 this set was widely used throughout Australia. No serial number has as vet been located.
TRANSITION FROM LOCAL BETTERY TO COMMON BATTERY: The early magneto system was serviced by local battery instruments with magneto signalling (triple box, twin box and single box, in the case of wall instruments). In the case of small exchanges where the number of subscribers was few this system worked quite well (hence its popularity in small rural exchanges until very recent times). However in the larger centres and cities, where the PMG faced ever growing demand for new services, the cost of maintaining local battery instruments was becoming prohibitive. Not only were the instruments expensive (when compared to local battery) but the continual maintenance on batteries in each individual telephone was much more costly than a 'common exchange battery'. A magneto telephone also has more parts which need regular maintenance such as the generator, for signalling.
The exchanges themselves were also suffering a cost explosion with the new demand for telephones, especially in terms of the number of operators needed to service the system. The introduction of common battery brought the added benefit of lamp signalling on exchange switchboards in lieu of the magneto ring-down indicators, resulting again in much lower maintenance costs. There was also an increase in the number of subscribers that could be handled by each operator on a central battery board.
In summary then the conversion of larger exchanges from magneto to central battery (and the provision of new central battery instruments to each subscriber, either table or wall), was done primarily to reduce maintenance on exchange and subscribers equipment to reap the benefit of reduced costs.
COMMON BATTERY MANUAL TELEPHONES: In common battery systems, the transmission and signalling current is supplied by a battery common to all telephones and placed at the exchange; hence the term 'common battery'. The battery is normally applied to all telephones, but current flow is prevented by a condenser in the telephone. When the handset is lifted, a circuit is completed to signal the exchange and allow transmission current to flow through the transmitter. In the manual exchange, after receiving the calling signal, the telephonist makes connection to the calling line, ascertains the particulars of the called telephone and establishes the necessary connection.
The distinctive appearance of common battery telephones denotes the lack of provision for either batteries or generator in the body of the instrument itself.
PMG TYPE 15 WESTERN ELECTRIC: These instruments were manufactured in the USA and imported. both originally had outside terminal receivers.
PMG TYPE 21 ERICSSON ): This configeration was also used by National and Peel Connor for central battery instruments. Their use in Australia is not clear, although reference has been found in the archives to National and Ericsson.
PMG TYPE25 WESTERN ELECTRIC : Western Electric instrument in Australia, obviously manufactured to local specifications and using local transmitter and receiver.the US equivalent which was probably imported complete during times of shortage.
PMG TYPE 19 PEEL CONNOR : Manufactured in Britain and later under licence in Australia, this instrument is perhaps the most popular cantral battery instrument Note the distinctive swing-away arm consisting of two swivelling brackets.
SMALL 'BOX WALL TELEPHONES: When the nature of major telephone exchanges changed after the First World War, providing for power from the exchange rather than from the power source within the individual instrument, telephones could be streamlined and reduced in size. Small wooden and metal box telephones grew in popularity through the 1920's and on until about 1950.
PMG TYPE 37 AND 137 AW/CBW: This instrument is the most well known of all the small sets. Basically a British design wooden instrument it was supplied by a variety of overseas manufacturers (Peel Connor, British General Electric, British Ericsson) and a variety of local manufacturers who produced parts for NSW workshop assembled instruments. Much of the timber in the cases is local Australian varieties and is the reason for the extraordinary variations in colour and grain from one instrument to the next. Solid back transmitters made to local specifications were standard, but some British varieties can be found.
PMG TYPE 35 AUTOMATIC ELECTRIC : This instrument is known locally as the 'Geelong' telephone because many were imported to work in association with Australia's first automatic Strowger exchange in Geelong Victoria in 1912. Built of timber which was always painted black and generally of cheap construction, the sets were fully imported from the United States over a long period.
PMG TYPE 237 AW/CBW : Generally this instrument started life as a wartime expedient during the Second World War, when materials were in short supply. The instrument could easily be adapted from recovered bell boxes though this is by no means true of all such sets. This type was popular until the late 1950's when it was superseded. Left depicts the 237 CBW without dial.
PMG TYPE 37 AW/CBC STROMBERG CARLSON : This metal cased instrument was fully imported from the United States and was deemed better than wooden instruments in tropical and arid areas. Finished in black it was popular also in association with multi-coin public telephones.
PMG STROMBERG CARLSON AUTO WALL SET : This wooden instrument is rare but was definitely used by the PVC
PMG TYPE 36MT/136MT PEDESTAL TELEPHONE: These instruments were also known as 'candlestick' or 'daffodil' telephones. The same changes in power source from the instrument to the exchange which saw the advent of compact wall instrements also meant compact table instruments could be produced. Non dial candlesticks were widely used in rural and city situations before automatic exchanges were established. Each instrument required a separate bell box in circuit and in magneto areas the addition of portable generators in circuit.
Pedestal telephones were popular in offices and businesses but were not particularly favoured by the public. By the mid 1920's an incentive of reduced tarriff was offered to boost their usage. The PMG 162/232 types replaced the candlestick as the universal desk telephone.
PMG TYPE 38AT/138AT : This type included all dial candlesticks as follows; 3BAT, solid back transmitter and dial; 138 AT insert transmitter and dia1,38CBT solid back transmitter and blanked dial; 138CBT insert transmitter and blanked dial. Both 38AT and 38CBT came with optional control lock, a type popular in Police Call Boxes
throughout Sydney. Manufacturers of Australian candlestick telephones was varied but the pattern largely stayed the same, and in general British Ericsson is given credit for the design. The majority of candlesticks were imported from Britain, although some may have been made here under licence. British Ericsson, Peel Connor, GEC, BI and HC Co., and Siemens were the main suppliers. Siemens is credited with the fluted base type although there are several variations. Similar instruments were supplied by companies in the United States, namely Western Electric, Automatic Electric and Stromberg Carlson
The first use of automatic candlesticks in Australia was the supply of Automatic Electric instruments for the Geelong exchange in 1912. These instruments have the characteristic small dial and are a feature of many Australian collections. There are probably in excess of 100 different types of candlestick telephones, most originating in the United States and most manufacturers having several different mod from about 1890 to 1930.
ALMON STROWGER: Strowger developed the first automatic switch in the United States and many early exchanges in Australia were based on the Strowger concept (Geelong) - Linefinder, Uni Selector, Kieth Plunger etc. But it was not until the development of the first rotary dial in 1896 that better use could be made of the Strowger inventions and automatic exchanges and automatic instruments became feasible. Telephones after that date changed in appearance and character, and one of the first candlestick models is the Automatic Electric Strowger dial instrument .
PMG TYPE 162 TABLESET : By 1929 the British Siemens company developed a plastic pyramid type table set (called Neophone) with a moulded handset, a design adopted by the British Post Office and most Commonwealth countries including Australia. The instrument was made of thermo setting phenolic material and the telephone called table telephone 162. Several technical improvements were embodied in this instrument including the elimination of side tone (sounds reproduced in the receiver from the telephones own transmitter). The advent of new materials for construction also meant that no longer did handsets rest on a moving cradle but rather on a fixed seating with only a switch hook being triggered.
Wall sets also underwent the same dramatic change and became compact moulded bakelite in appearance in lieu of the small wood and metal sets of the period.
PNG TYPE 232 TABLESET : The PMG 162 was introduced into Australia in 1933 and was manufactured originally by Siemens London and then by local firms such as Standard Telephones and Cables, Amalgamated Wireless Australasia and Telephone Manufacturing Co. A new bell set, in the same material was introduced later and this could be fitted to the instrument or installed elsewhere. This later version which was also technically improved became RIG 232; a well known reliable standard, some of which are still in service to-day. Although the original British model came in four colours (chinese red, ivory jade green and black) only black and ivory were issued in Australia. Colours were not favoured because of severe fading by sunlight. The few red and green models which did come to Australia as intercoms and have survived in collections are badly faded.
PMG TYPE 300 TABLESET ; The 300 type telephone was developed in Britain in 1937 and introduced into Australia after the Second World War. This instrument combined in a single unit the telephone proper and the bell set, and was based on a design developed by L.M. Ericsson Telephone Company as early as 1932. Green, red, ivory and black instruments were marketed in N.S.W., but again the colours were dropped after fading again caused trouble. All the colours have versions with writing drawer beneath the base. A later technically improved type which built on the groundwork of the 300 was the 400 series introduced in the 1950's in ivory and black. Externally the only change was a newly moulded handset in lieu of the earlier angular 300 version.
PMG TYPE 138 FEDERAL MAGNETO TABLESET : These instruments were first purchased in 1948 from the Federal Telephone and Radio Corp of U.S., to offset shortages of telephones experienced after the Second World War. A wall version (or adaption) was also used in Australia in small quantities. Federal sets are retrieved now mainly from intercom systems. All replacement parts were standard PMG issue, thus the instrument depicted has a 300 series handset replacing the original Federal handset
PMG ERICSSON MAGNETO : These instruments were popular from 1935 to 1950 and are improvements on the earlier types 8 and 10. Use was made of the fixed seating cradle and moulded handset so successful in the 162 and 232 series.
PMG TYPE 232 WALLSET : This instruments history roughly parallels that of the 162 and 232 type table sets and date from the 1930's.They were not installed in large numbers and seem to have originated in Britain, being manufactured by Siemens and others, they may have been assembled locally by STC and AWA.
PMG TYPE 300 WALLSET : The history of these instruments parallel that of the 300 and 400 table sets and was extensively used in the market where a need for auto wall sets opened up from the 1950's onward. All of this generation wall set were made only in black.
TELECOM TYPE 8OO TABLE SET : This instrument was developed by the Australian Post Office Laboratories in Melbourne in conjunction with Australian firms such as STC and AWA. In some respects the 800 series built upon improved characteristics of the BAD 700 table set introduced experimentally into Australia in the early 1960's The date for the introduction of the 800 is 1962. The instrument has a thermo-plastic moulded case which has undergone little change since its inception (dial ring has been dispenced with) and was first introduced in white, black, red, green, grey and
yellow. The Touchfone version was introduced in 1977.
PMG TYPE 162 WITH DRAW : This instrument is a British set and is included made
so that collectors do not forget that a wide range of instruments were available stat
from the 1930's onward including colours, portables, and across the range such nice
ities as draws to hold note paper. New Zealand seem to have utilised the full British range at this time.
TELECOM ERICOFON : This instrument has been available from the PNG and later Telecom; and its history parallels the SOD series, it being the only alternative available in table telephones. Sales account for only about four percent of the market and it has never enjoyed great popularity with subscribers. The instrument is fully imported from Ericsson's European factories.
TELECOM MODERN WALLPHONE ): This instrument was introduced in 1972 in a limited range of colours (black, white and blue) and was the result of cooperation and research on the part of Telecom and AWA. The range of colours was expanded in 1978 to include brown, yellow and beige. This instrument is wholly a local Australian
product, like the 8OO series, designed and manufactured in Australia.