This is something of a grey area. Alexander Graham Bell set out to sell
his invention in Europe but ran into the nationalistic feelings of a number
of countries. After a few years of sorting out, the situation was pretty
much like this:
Siemens and Halske were building unlicensed Bell-style phones in Germany,
and for export.
Ericssons were building unlicensed Bell-style phones in Sweden, where
Bell had omitted to patent his invention.
The National Telephone Company in Britain was using Bell phones and held
the Bell patents in Britain, but was initially getting their phones from
the Bell factory in Antwerp. They were considering changing to the somewhat
superior Ericsson phones.
Inventors in France, Germany and Britain were busily producing new inventions
which (only sometimes) worked around the Bell patents. The patent holders
in each country were busily taking the inventors to court.
Although Bell had set up a factory in Antwerp, they found that many governments
wanted a local manufacturing facility before they would consider buying
Bell phones. In this respect Europe was unlike the United States where
the telephone system was run by private companies. Bell therefore set
up manufacturing arrangements with a number of companies to get the local
presence that the governments required.
In Britain, many Bell components and possibly some complete phones were
built by Peel Conner. What was the relationship between this company and
Bell? Did they produce Bell parts under license or were they more of a
subsidiary Bell company? Sterling Telephone and Electric also produced
Bell / Western Electric parts, but this appears to have been purely a
I am trying to compile a catalog of the Bell / Western Electric phones
known to have been produced in Europe. I would appreciate any help or
information. The work-in-progress is
What do you know about the bakelite phones of the India Post Office?
There are quite a few of these turning up now on the international markets.
The IPO seems to have had a range of interesting colors which were not
made in Britain, such as pink, blue, and a mottled "woodgrain"
sort of finish. There are also some modern reproductions, apparently produced
from the old moulds, with rather ill-fitting parts. There seems to have
been a pyramid-shaped model and a later model similar to the British Post
Office 300 and 400 series.
I would like to get some more information on these if anyone can help.
Any details of color, dates of manufacture, IPO model number, type of
cordage used, details of any of these phones in your collection - any
of this would help. If I can get enough information to work out something
useful, I will put it on this site for reference.
I am compiling a catalog of Ericsson's early phones (pre-bakelite) and
I am having trouble finding information on the phones built in each country
where Ericssons manufactured. Were phones completely built in these factories,
or assembled from imported parts? Which models were built? Did they continue
manufacturing the phones of the companies they bought into? Of particular
interest to me are the phones built at Buffalo in the U.S.A. Ericssons
sold a lot of parts , both branded and unbranded, into the U.S. market.
There are many phones in the U.S. called "Ericsson" which are
not. Anything with an Ericsson-branded part seems to be listed as an Ericsson.
This area needs more research.
Their phones are known from Britain, U.S.A., Australia, New Zealand,
and South Africa. They were built over quite a long period, but seem to
be ignored by most collectors. I would like more information on the styles
they built, the dates of production and whether there was much variation
between the U.S. and Briish models.
This company produced a railways phone in the very early days of the
twentieth century, until they were taken over by Sterling. As a result
their history is obscure, yet their phones were in use well into the last
quarter of the twentieth century. A lot of useful and interesting information
has been forthcoming but I feel there is a lot more out there.
Another prolific British company that made many overseas sales. Their
factory was at one time a showpiece of British industry, but information
on them has all but vanished. We now know they were the successor of J
Berliner in Britain, but who financed the company? Why and when did Berliner
sell the company?