ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Exploring The New Hampshire Telephone Museum.

Updated on April 14, 2017
Source

Blended into the charming landscape of Warner sits The New Hampshire Telephone Museum. It is nestled among the bricked-lined sidewalks in this bucolic village, proud of its history and heritage. There are three museums within the town center, another just a few miles up the road. The Telephone Museum is situated across the street from the local library; The Pillsbury Library [Named after the Pillsbury flour-giant. Learn more about this wonderful library’s here: http://www.warner.lib.nh.us/library-info/history-of-the-pillsbury-free-library/].

With only a few minutes to spare in my day, I decided to visit the Telephone Museum one afternoon. Although I am a self-described nerd and I enjoy spending time meandering my way through history, I was assured that my visit to this museum would be brief. How interesting can telephones be and how many could there possibly be on display?

1876 Liquid Transmitter

There are but a few reproductions at the museum; four to be exact. This is a replica of the liquid phone that Bell had worked on.
There are but a few reproductions at the museum; four to be exact. This is a replica of the liquid phone that Bell had worked on. | Source

When I opened the door and was cheerfully welcomed. I knew that I had completely underestimated this museum, its' contents and the importance of the stories these artifacts told. After I took a moment to glance at a few displays [to staid off my curiosity until my next time], I promised myself that I would return when I had more time for discovery.

Like many museums, the Telephone Museum offers a brief video introduction. The 10-minute program explains how one man’s passion would become a collection. Mr. Alderic "O" Violette worked in the telephone industry for years. His passion for telephones would not only serve to employ him but would expand over his lifetime and would ultimately aid in the creation of a museum.

After the video has ended, a staff member asks if you’d like a tour. Of course, you are welcomed to enjoy the museum on your own, but I highly recommend the personal tour.

U.S. Patent Number 174,465

While Bell and Watson came from different geographical areas, much of their work was conducted in and near Boston, MA.
While Bell and Watson came from different geographical areas, much of their work was conducted in and near Boston, MA. | Source

The museum guide begins to tell the story of the telephone chronologically as we look at a wall of strange looking objects. The year is 1876, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson, represented in a painting, are busily working at a desk. After an introduction of these two famous inventors, you quickly realize that this tour is about to offer a far more insightful look into telecommunications and will unveil a far more interesting story than we ever learned in school.

At the spry ages of 29 and 22, respectively, Bell and Watson had already spent years devising, researching, experimenting and creating. Following the invention of the telephone, both men would continue their lives of creation and discovery in various fields.

1000 Artifacts and Counting...

Click thumbnail to view full-size
There are over 1000 artifacts in this museum. There are phones from 1878 to 2000 and many other artifacts representing telecommunications.This is a 1910 desk phone, aka, candlestick phone, as collectors refer to them.Although wall phones were made with the same materials, wood and metal, they could have slightly different looks.A phone like this phone required a wet cell battery.Seemingly non-related artifacts are placed around the museum, however, as the staff will tell you, seeing these items makes it easier to comprehend history and the historical timeline. "Folks that used this typewriter would have used this phone" A snapshot of an old postal station that is located in the museum.Individuals interested in business and marketing would appreciate the efforts taken by the telephone industry. The various logos were used everywhere and on everything, from signs to dinnerware.Old signs are visible around the museum. Another way that the history of the telephone can be shared and understood.Babe would have used a candlestick phone at one time or another...There was concern that people would have difficulty remembering phone numbers when they became longer than four or five digits. So each digit from 2 to 9 was assigned three letters. This used 24 of the 26 lettters of the alphabet with Q and Z omitted
There are over 1000 artifacts in this museum. There are phones from 1878 to 2000 and many other artifacts representing telecommunications.
There are over 1000 artifacts in this museum. There are phones from 1878 to 2000 and many other artifacts representing telecommunications. | Source
This is a 1910 desk phone, aka, candlestick phone, as collectors refer to them.
This is a 1910 desk phone, aka, candlestick phone, as collectors refer to them. | Source
Although wall phones were made with the same materials, wood and metal, they could have slightly different looks.
Although wall phones were made with the same materials, wood and metal, they could have slightly different looks. | Source
A phone like this phone required a wet cell battery.
A phone like this phone required a wet cell battery. | Source
Seemingly non-related artifacts are placed around the museum, however, as the staff will tell you, seeing these items makes it easier to comprehend history and the historical timeline. "Folks that used this typewriter would have used this phone"
Seemingly non-related artifacts are placed around the museum, however, as the staff will tell you, seeing these items makes it easier to comprehend history and the historical timeline. "Folks that used this typewriter would have used this phone" | Source
A snapshot of an old postal station that is located in the museum.
A snapshot of an old postal station that is located in the museum. | Source
Individuals interested in business and marketing would appreciate the efforts taken by the telephone industry. The various logos were used everywhere and on everything, from signs to dinnerware.
Individuals interested in business and marketing would appreciate the efforts taken by the telephone industry. The various logos were used everywhere and on everything, from signs to dinnerware. | Source
Old signs are visible around the museum. Another way that the history of the telephone can be shared and understood.
Old signs are visible around the museum. Another way that the history of the telephone can be shared and understood. | Source
Babe would have used a candlestick phone at one time or another...
Babe would have used a candlestick phone at one time or another... | Source
There was concern that people would have difficulty remembering phone numbers when they became longer than four or five digits. So each digit from 2 to 9 was assigned three letters. This used 24 of the 26 lettters of the alphabet with Q and Z omitted
There was concern that people would have difficulty remembering phone numbers when they became longer than four or five digits. So each digit from 2 to 9 was assigned three letters. This used 24 of the 26 lettters of the alphabet with Q and Z omitted | Source

Placing the Call: Inside the New Hampshire Telephone Museum by george packard

Your trek through telegraphy stops briefly with a mention of a Mr. Elisha Gray. If you had all day to stay at the museum (which you may want to arrange), you could learn much more about this multi-dimensional character. Gray, like Bell, had been working on the telephone for quite awhile. Each man is credited with various leaps in discovery that many people may be unaware of, such as Bell’s contribution to flight and Gray's to the modern music synthesizer. Their paths collide during the late 1870’s when both men, having developed similar ideas for voice transmission, filed for patents.

Mystery, intrigue, conspiracy; those are only a few of the facets that make history so very compelling and who knew that all three could be found at a telephone museum? Well, the folks at the New Hampshire Telephone Museum do.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Although not visible here, the candlestick phone still required a ringer box and batteries to work.Telephones have always been made into unique shapes and various sizes.Black was the only color available for many, many years. Like the Ford Motor Co., the telephone industry offered its' customers any color they wanted, so long as it was black.Switching to the dial system was quite stressful for many people. TV and radio were both used in order to teach and to calm the public.Many folks still living in rural areas still own a rotary dial phone. They prefer to keep such a phone in case of a power outage.Payphones were visible on many corner streets when I was a kid. Today, hardly one can be found throughout the country.Glass insulators are scattered throughout the museum. Because of their unique appeal, the museum also sells them. Crafters often used them.There are several switchboards at the museum. There is one that is actually a working model.The story of the operators is a fascinating one. The staff is regaled with stories from retired operators who enjoy the retelling of their tales.
Although not visible here, the candlestick phone still required a ringer box and batteries to work.
Although not visible here, the candlestick phone still required a ringer box and batteries to work. | Source
Telephones have always been made into unique shapes and various sizes.
Telephones have always been made into unique shapes and various sizes. | Source
Black was the only color available for many, many years. Like the Ford Motor Co., the telephone industry offered its' customers any color they wanted, so long as it was black.
Black was the only color available for many, many years. Like the Ford Motor Co., the telephone industry offered its' customers any color they wanted, so long as it was black. | Source
Switching to the dial system was quite stressful for many people. TV and radio were both used in order to teach and to calm the public.
Switching to the dial system was quite stressful for many people. TV and radio were both used in order to teach and to calm the public. | Source
Many folks still living in rural areas still own a rotary dial phone. They prefer to keep such a phone in case of a power outage.
Many folks still living in rural areas still own a rotary dial phone. They prefer to keep such a phone in case of a power outage. | Source
Payphones were visible on many corner streets when I was a kid. Today, hardly one can be found throughout the country.
Payphones were visible on many corner streets when I was a kid. Today, hardly one can be found throughout the country. | Source
Glass insulators are scattered throughout the museum. Because of their unique appeal, the museum also sells them. Crafters often used them.
Glass insulators are scattered throughout the museum. Because of their unique appeal, the museum also sells them. Crafters often used them. | Source
There are several switchboards at the museum. There is one that is actually a working model.
There are several switchboards at the museum. There is one that is actually a working model. | Source
The story of the operators is a fascinating one. The staff is regaled with stories from retired operators who enjoy the retelling of their tales.
The story of the operators is a fascinating one. The staff is regaled with stories from retired operators who enjoy the retelling of their tales. | Source

Whose patent application arrived first and was properly filed at the US Patent Office was and remains highly disputed. Like a modern day 48 Hours episode, the mystery unfolds, deceptions uncovered, yet the truth remains aloof. According to popular history, Alexander Graham Bell was the true inventor of the telephone, but shrouded under piles of litigation papers, one must pause and reconsider that perhaps credit was given to the wrong individual or that the credit should be shared for the discovery of the telephone.

1900-1930

There is a tremendous amount of overlap when discussing telephones. Which style and what technology you used depended, in large part, on where you lived.
There is a tremendous amount of overlap when discussing telephones. Which style and what technology you used depended, in large part, on where you lived. | Source

The Museum has a most impressive collection of artifacts that span from 1878 to 2013 [donations are always appreciated and apparently the museum staff would love to have a smart phone, a smart watch and a pair of Google glasses to add to their collection]. During the 1900’s-1930’s the candlestick phone evolved and is considered an enormous leap in progress. Prior to the candlestick, which could be held in one’s hand, people would need to speak directly into the phone’s transmitter which was attached to the phone and which was further mounted to the wall. The candlestick-style phone allowed people to be somewhat mobile; allowing them to stand away from the wall, sit or pass the phone to someone else. Today, the thought of immobility is neither imaginable or acceptable.

1940-1950

This particular phone was used in a hotel.
This particular phone was used in a hotel. | Source

As we’ve learned thus far, the history of the telephone is filled with colorful characters, many of which contributed greatly to our modern way of living. That can certainly be said about Mr. Almon Strowger. Mr. Strowger was a rather quirky gentleman who lived in Kansas City in the late 1800’s. Much of what was known about Mr. Strowger has faded with the passage of time, however, his contribution to the telephone is one which should not be forgotten. Mr. Strowger was an undertaker. Upon learning that a rival’s wife, a newly hired switchboard operator, was directing all of Mr. Stowger’s customers to her husband, Almon Strowger took matters into his own hands. With a modest bit of know-how, several hat pins and a few magnets, Mr. Strowger discovered a way to telephone someone directly. No longer was the switchboard operator needed.

1920-1930 Magneto Switchboard

This is the switchboard that is working. The staff is willing to show you how it works.
This is the switchboard that is working. The staff is willing to show you how it works. | Source

It would take some time before the rest of the country switched over to the new dial system [the technology would later be referred to as the Step-Switch. You’ll learn more about that during the museum tour].

To us, it seems so strange to consider the inability to speak with someone directly, but prior to Strowger's invention, one needed to speak with an operator first and then be redirected.

The Life of a Telephone Operator

The Step-Switch

Ultimately, this is the technology that Mr. Almon Strowger had worked on. This, too, is in working condition. The staff can show you how a step-switch functions.
Ultimately, this is the technology that Mr. Almon Strowger had worked on. This, too, is in working condition. The staff can show you how a step-switch functions. | Source

During the 1950’s and 1960’s there was an explosion of different telephone designs, styles and colors. Prior to this period, the telephone was manufactured in black and Bakelite was used to form the phone. With the 50’s came the discovery of plastics. Technology was also developing quickly. Answering machines could be found in many homes and multi-line phones were the choice for bustling companies.

The smallest display at the New Hampshire Telephone Museum includes bulky bag phones, car phones and cell phones the size of bricks. Sure, Miami Vice may have been able to make those phones look cool, but to see them now and hold them in your hands only makes them seem ridiculous.

The reason for the petite scale of this exhibit is simple; as you stare down at the cell phones on the bottom shelf, you realize that it could be your first cell phone. The small flip phone that was once cutting-edge technology is already delegated to a museum shelf. While it may stun younger museum visitors to learn that the telephone was once a tool solely used for speech, today’s phones are ‘smarter’. We can text, share photos, play games, view our bank accounts, manage our hectic schedules, teach us to speak French and lower our home’s thermostat from hundreds of miles from.

The Step-By-Step Switch

Dialing Tips circa 1950 American Telephone & Telegraph

1950-2000: Prior to plastics being used, the telephone was made from wood and metal.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
1970s push button technology.Bright colors were popular during the forties and fifties. 1960 Starlight phone was a popular model. The Princess phone was another popular phone of its day.The museum has a collection of phones from Camp David. Phones from around the world are on display, thanks, in part, to an outside donation.Novelty phones remain big business. Mickey Mouse is believed to one of the first novelty telephones manufactured.Multi-line technology was a tremendous help to bustling businesses.
1970s push button technology.
1970s push button technology. | Source
Bright colors were popular during the forties and fifties.
Bright colors were popular during the forties and fifties. | Source
1960 Starlight phone was a popular model. The Princess phone was another popular phone of its day.
1960 Starlight phone was a popular model. The Princess phone was another popular phone of its day. | Source
The museum has a collection of phones from Camp David. Phones from around the world are on display, thanks, in part, to an outside donation.
The museum has a collection of phones from Camp David. Phones from around the world are on display, thanks, in part, to an outside donation. | Source
Novelty phones remain big business. Mickey Mouse is believed to one of the first novelty telephones manufactured.
Novelty phones remain big business. Mickey Mouse is believed to one of the first novelty telephones manufactured. | Source
Multi-line technology was a tremendous help to bustling businesses.
Multi-line technology was a tremendous help to bustling businesses. | Source
Source
Source
Source
Source

And while the telephone has become increasingly smaller, it’s capabilities have increased expontentially. At the Museum, you may not see the latest flex-phone from Japan or have an opportunity to try on a pair of Google’s smart-glasses (yet), but be assured that if the curators at the New Hampshire Telephone Museum can somehow get their hands on one or both, they will.

Understanding the history of the telephone would be incomplete without a detailed mention of switchboards and their dutiful operators. There is a working switchboard on display that helps visitors understand the mechanics of a step-switch and remienice about the party-line days. There is also an exhibit devoted to linemen-an impressive group.

Telecommunications is a vast topic. Its history, its science, its implications to the computer sciences and beyond. When I first sat down to write this article, I also mentioned the stories. Men invented the telephone. Individuals built the industry that lasted decades. People have stories and you will uncover many of them here at this museum.

One man clearly understood that our obsession for communication requires a retelling of many stories, fascinating ones at that!

How do I get there?

A marker1 Depot Street, Warner, NH 03278 -
1 Depot Street, Warner, NH 03278, USA
get directions

There are a few entrances to this museum, including a wheelchair entrance.

Source

Have you been to the telephone museum?

Did you grow up using a dial telephone?

See results

Insta-Cool: Reto Phones Look Even Cooler with Instagram

Vintage telephones have an amazing visual impact. Instagram can turn an already 'cool' phone into a cooler phone! More here:http://instagram.com/nhtelephonemuseum
Vintage telephones have an amazing visual impact. Instagram can turn an already 'cool' phone into a cooler phone! More here:http://instagram.com/nhtelephonemuseum | Source

Breakfast, Lunch or Treats are Nearby

There are several local restaurants to choose from, including The Foothills of Warner, The Local, Charlie Macs, Pizza Chef and The Schoolhouse Cafe.

If you'd like your visit to the museum to end on a sweet note, stop by The Velvet Moose Ice Cream Shoppe

Admission Cost

The New Hampshire Telephone Museum is an inexpensive facility to visit, making it great for families, seniors and groups.

Admission for adults is $7.00, Seniors (60+) are $6.00 and school age children are $3.00.

The museum has ample parking located on Depot Street.

Connect with the museum on Facebook for more telecommunications information, modern-day cell phone tips, program schedules and more.

What do you remember about old telephones?

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Edward J. Palumbo profile image

      Ed Palumbo 3 years ago from Tualatin, OR

      I was unaware of this museum, but I'll visit it when I'm in the area. Thank you for this information!

    • alifeofdesign profile image
      Author

      Graham Gifford 3 years ago from New Hamphire

      And thank you, Edward, for stopping by. Best Regards,

      Graham

    Click to Rate This Article