19th Century Smartphone

Written by Samantha pearce,
Sentinels Historical Research team 2017

Today everyone has a phone. It can fit in a purse or pocket. It can be used in the home, car, store, and every place you could imagine. Currently the smart phone is the most popular but 100 years ago, another phone was the most desired: a Candlestick phone.

This phone could sit up upright on the desk. It was the most popular phone from the early 1890s through the 1920s. The telephone was made from several “transmitting devices, receiver, extension cords, coils, screws, soldered joints, springs, cotton to cover the cords and an asphalt finish.”

The early models had an oak bell box attached to the wall but later models had a dial at the base. As the popularity increased more inventors tried to make their phone easier to use for the consumer. Various types of candlestick phones were introduced such as the potbelly phone. It had a bulge in the center to allow the user to have a better grip. Another phone was created to have a dial at the bottom in order to do away with the need for operators.

At the Shelby County Museum and Archives one of these Candlestick phones is on display. It has both the dial and the oak bell box making it a unique and beautiful piece.

 Lamberto, Emilia. “History of the Candlestick Telephone.” Our Pastimes. Leaf Group Ltd., n.d. http://ourpastimes.com/history-candlestick-telephone-5054538.html. 30 Mar. 2017.