This listing is not comprehensive, but should serve to give collectors a guide to Automatic Electric styles and model numbers.
The first Strowger telephones were modified from standard magneto telephones of the time. A set of push buttons was mounted on the writing slope. Callers would push the correct button the appropriate number of times. each pulse forced the switch in the exchange to step up or across one more digit. The system was slow and clumsy and soon gave way to the first rotary dial.
The Strowger licensees in other countries made their own changes as well. Since the Strowger dial turns up on many of these phones, they may be incorrectly identified as a Strowger or Automatic Electric. I have included pictures of some of these.
Note that the 1892 phone at top left is built into what looks like a Bell 3-box wall phone, with a Blake transmitter. By 1896 the dial has been mounted on the front of the top box and the transmitter mounted on an arm at the top of the box. The battery box at the base of these phones was redundant, and was probably more as a convenient writing slope and to keep in style with other phones of the period. By the 1907 wall phone it had all been reduced to a single compact unit, although there are earlier compact sets as well from the Strowger company era.
1897 Wall phone with early dial. This dial did not have holes, but depressions for the finger.
Another small wall Strowger phone from the late 1890s.
Small Strowger wall phone from the late 1890s. This now features the first mass production "knuckleduster" dial, with fingerholes..
The first dial. The eleventh hole (shown at the top) was to call the operator. Trunk or toll calls still required operator assistance.
1904 Automatic Electric model.
AE Manual candlestick model, circa 1905, with a "sunburst" dial grafted onto it. The sunburst dial replaced the dial shown above somewhere between 1906 and 1909. The phone without a dial was produced briefly for customers who wanted a magneto or CB telephone system. It only appeared in (so far as is known at present) in AE's first manual telephone catalog, so it did not stay in production. The high base includes a coil. AE later bought American Electric to produce manual telephones for them.
Magneto wall phone, from the same period as the candlestick phone above.
Large twinbox wall phone, same period.
U.S. three-wire candlestick. This phone is a highly desirable model and collectors will pay $2000 - $3000 for a nice example.
The 1907 Automatic Electric version of the small wall phone shown above.
1908 model, which introduced two-wire working and the new "Mercedes" dial, so-named for the three spokes in the centre. In Australia this phone is called the "Geelong Phone" after the first public automatic exchange was installed using these sets.
This 1911 model is from Siemens & Halske in Germany. S&H were early licensees of the Strowger system.
1913 candlestick. The stepped base is known to collectors as a "stairstep" base. From around 1908.
Type 18, with redesigned base. Some versions had an "A" cutout in the receiver cradle. Around 1910.
Mercedes dial. This went through a number of upgrades.
Model OB20 from Germany (Hildesheim), 1920.
Above: 1922 model Type 21. The pillar has been shifted to the back of the redesigned base to make room for the dial to be inset into the base instead of standing out from it. The switchhook now has a plain circular cutout in the ends. Not all AE phones had dials. The centre model is a CB version for those companies still needing them for CB switchboards. The third phone is an earlier Western Electric CB model which has been converted to automatic working using an AE adaptor. The fourth picture is the bellset that accompanied the phones.
The AE3 was a way of combining the new bakelite handset into an inexpensive wall phone by attaching it to a standard steel bellset box, contaning coils, bells etc. The bakelite handset was called a "Monophone". A somewhat similar model of the phone was produced with separate transmitter and receiver. The transmitter was located where the dial is on this model, but the phone could be upgraded to automatic later by addition of a dial on a mounting attached to the bottom of the phone.
Detail of Monophone handset. 1928.
AE4 was a compact wall phone. Bellsets, if required, were mounted elsewhere. It was also available with an outboard dial mounted on the right.
The AE8 was a magneto telephone, again provided for some of the older exchanges run by the independent companies.
The No 24 dial updated the Mercedes dial about 1928. It was patented in 1924 by H F Obergfell, who worked for the company from 1904 to 1943. Ref.: Hershey H "Automatic Telephone Practice" 5th edition (1946).
Type AE21 steel-cased wall phone from the same period.
The AE1A Monophone of 1925 was AE's first handset (the Monophone was the handset itself, not the complete phone) phone.
AE2 desk phone with a built in induction coil / booster circuit. 1925 - 1933.
The AE32 desk phone is similar to the AE1 but has a thicker base with a ringer inside.
The AE34 was built in the increasingly popular "wedge" style that allowed the bells to be moved inside the case. It was now made from bakelite. From 1934, with further updates over the years.
AE35, a rather unsophisticated attempt at a bakelite wall phone. It only lasted a couple of years before being updated to the newer handset shown here. At the same time, vents were added to the side to make the bells louder.The new model was numbered AE50.
The AE40 introduced a range of colors From 1939 to the mid-1950s.
The AE80 was in the style of the Western Electric 500, and allowed the independent companies to keep their phones looking fairly modern. It was AE's first modern plastic set. From 1954.
The AE80E was an update to the AE80, and a pushbutton dialling phone was included in the range. From 1975.
AE83, their "spacesaver" phone.
The AE90 wall phone was one of AE's final attempts to keep independent designs.
The AE182 Starlite was an equivalent to Western Electric's Princess telephone. Originally a dial phone, it was updated to touchtone. A wall version was also available.
The AE183 was an update of the earlier AE83.
For more details on Automatic Electric phones, I suggest Dave Perrussel's Telephone World website at http://www.phworld.org/pictures/ae/