rare and hard-to-find
Bell System Historical and Technical Documents
This Site represents our continued efforts to preserve some of the historical Bell System documents in digital format and to make these hard-to-find documents available to historians, collectors, students, teachers, hobbyists and other non-commercial, non-profit users. The files on this Site are for historical archive purposes and use by collectors of old Western Electric telephones to repair and test phones in their collection.
If you are looking for technical information (like schematics) of Western Electric phones, check out the Bell System Practices (a.k.a., BSP's) page on this Site. You'll find two complete Bell System Practices manuals on payphones as well as sections on phones found in homes and offices during the last few decades of the Bell System.
- 1912 Gray Catalogue - Gray Telephone Pay Stations catalogue from 1912.
- Gray Catalogue - Exact date unknown but is newer than the 1912 Gray Catalogue above. Judging from the patent dates listed in the catalogue, it was published on or after 1923.
- Graybar - Excerpts of 23 pages from a Graybar catalogue showing telephone devices and equipment. Date unknown.
- Western Electric Catalogue #1 - This is the COMPLETE catalogue; not just selected pages. Over 180 pages in all. Estimated year of publication is 1907. I spent a lot of time scanning this book and tried to correct for yellowed and spotted pages, and straightened each page to within less than 0.5 degree of zero. Each page was scanned at 300 dots per inch (dpi) resolution in 256 levels of gray. The resulting PDF file is text (keyword or phrase) searchable - however, to keep the file size down, the text may appear blurry due to file compression.
Books and Manuals:
- Bell System Practices (BSP) - A special section on this Site devoted to those hard-to-find schematics and reference information on those Western Electric telephones and related products.
- The History of the Telephone - By Herbert N. Casson - First edition - A. C. McClurg & Co., Chicago - Published: 1910. Entire book.
- Western Electric and the Bell System - A SURVEY OF SERVICE - Entire book was scanned and text searchable. Book published in 1964.
- The Bell Telephone System - By Arthur W. Page (Vice-President of AT&T in 1941). Published 1941 by Harper & Brothers - 3rd edition. Entire book was scanned and is text searchable. With over 250 pages, this book is primarily an effort to give some insight into the Bell System's philosophy and practices and something of its problems and achievements. Contains charts, graphs, tables. Covers impact of the Great Depression and the World War I on the Bell System business. Very interesting reading to understand that era of time in the Bell System.
- The Story of the Transistor - Ten Years of Progress - This small, 21 page, paper-back book was printed in 1958 by the Bell System at the 10-year anniversary of the public announcement of the discovery of the transistor by Bell Labs scientists. Discusses the physics, operation and uses of the transistor and compares it against the vacuum tube plus some interesting insight by the scientists of that day into the future use of this new invention.
- The Magic of Communication - This 40 page paper-back book published July 1951 by the Bell System describes the operation and design of the telephone itself along with the transmission and switching technologies at the time of publication. For a complete image of the front and back cover, click HERE.
- The Step-by-Step Dial Telephone System - Western Electric Company Inc. - 1954
This lesson is issued to describe the general features of the Step-by-Step Dial Telephone System.
Section 1 - History and Development
Section 2 - Principles of Dial Switching
Section 3 - Equipment and Frames
Section 4 - Distributing Frames and Relay
Section 5 - Method of Operation
Section 6 - Power
Section 7 - SxS Circuit Operation
- The No. 1 Crossbar Dial Telephone System - Western Electric Company Inc. - 1959
Central Office Equipment Equipment Engineering Branch Training Section - Lesson No. 5
Telephone Systems Training Hawthorns Works Course. This lesson is issued to describe the general features of the No. 1 Crossbar Dial Telephone System.
Section 1 - History and Development
Section 2 - Principles of Crossbar Dial Telephone Switching
Section 3 - Equipment
Section 4 - Frames
Section 5 - Operating Features
Section 6 - Method of Operation
Section 7 - Power
- Panel Dial Telephone System - Western Electric Company, Inc. - 1937
This bulletin is issued to provide general information covering the traffic layouts in the Panel Dial Telephone System.
2. Line Finder frames
3. District Selector and Trunk Distributing Frame
4. Subscriber Link Frames and District Selector Test Frames
5. Subscriber Sender, Decoder Connector and Decoder Frames
6. Office Selector, Office selector Test, Incoming Selector Test and Outgoing Trunk Test Frame
7. Incoming Selector and Final Selector Test Frame
8. Final Selector and Local Test Desk Selector Frames
9. Call Distributing "B" Switchboard "B" Sender and "B" Link Frames
10. Special "A" Switchboard
11. Trunking to Traffic and Maintenance Desks
- Number 5 Crossbar Dial Telephone System - Western Electric Company Inc. - 1954
This bulletin is issued to present crossbar number 5 frame terminology and to illustrate the sequence in which these frames are used in completing a subscriber call.
- MERLIN PHONE SYSTEM
Magazine and Journal Articles:
- "Miracle Men of the Telephone" by F. Barrows Colton. National Geographic Magazine article dated March 1947. Many photos in color. Better quality (lossless compression) scans of color pages available by request.
- 25 Years of Transistors - Bell Labs Record - December 1972 - Volume 50 - No. 11. A historical look at the invention of the transistor.
- Pushbutton Calling with a Two-Group Voice Frequency Code - by L. SCHENKER. Bell Laboratories Technical Journal article dated January 1960. "A customer voice frequency pushbutton signaling scheme involving a new two-group signal code, termed "four-by four", is described. It is shown that the use of this code, with judiciously chosen frequencies, permits the detection of bona fide signals after transmission over any ordinary voice connection and facilitates discrimination against false signals resulting from speech. Apparatus for generating the tones is described, and the principles of reception are discussed."
- Machines at Your Fingertips - by J.H.Soderberg. Bell Laboratories Technical Journal article dated July 1969. The TOUCH-TONE telephone and other telephone devices are helping to make today's communications network more versatile. Now such tasks as ordering supplies, retrieving information, or controlling machines, can be done more conveniently - by telephone.
- Automatic Intercept Service - A Bell Labs Record article dated May 1968 by W. A. Winckelmann. "New stored-program equipment makes call interception service more fully automatic. This 'Automatic Intercept System' tells the intercepted caller what number he dialed and why the call can't be completed, and gives him a new number if one is available."
- The No. 1 Electronic Switching System - A Bell Labs Record magazine issue dedicated entirely to the No. 1 ESS. Dated June 1965. "It was inevitable that modern electronic technology would be applied to the switching machines of the telephone plant as it has to the transmission net-work. There is nothing casual or haphazard, how-ever, in the form that electronic switching has taken in the Bell System nor in the date of its appearance as an operating office serving telephone customers. This program has been the largest sustained Bell System development effort toward a single goal ever undertaken by Bell Laboratories."
- The No. 2 Electronic Switching System - Short news announcement of the No. 2 ESS.
- Picturephone - A Bell Labs Record magazine issue dedicated entirely to the Picturephone. Dated May/June 1969. "Rarely does an individual or an organization have an opportunity to create something of broad utility that will enrich the daily lives of everybody. Alexander Graham Bell with his invention of the telephone in 1876, and the various people who subsequently developed it for general use, perceived such an opportunity and exploited it for the great benefit of society. Today there stands before us an opportunity of equal magnitude- PICTUREPHONE® service."
- Aging Problems of Plastics - A Bell Labs Record magazine article on plastic aging problems. Dated May 1968. "Cracks, which are but one sign of aging in the polyethylene sheath protecting cables, can cause havoc with the telephone system. To find out more about the complex re-actions that lead to aging in plastics, scientists are turning to modern analytical tools."
- New Lightweight Telephone Receiver [element] - Bell Labs news article on a new receiver element. "By trimming a mere ounce and a half from its standard telephone receiver, the Bell System expects to save more than two hundred tons of strategic raw materials per year. Smaller and lighter than the current standard unit, the 'LB Receiver' will be introduced in limited quantities next year and will eventually become the standard for nearly all Bell System telephone sets."
- Anatomy of a Spring Cord - How the telephone handset cord is made.
- A General Switching Plan for Telephone Toll Service - Published in 1930 by H. S. OSBORNE of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. This paper outlines a comprehensive plan for improved switching of long haul toll telephone traffic in the United States and Eastern Canada. A brief discussion is given of the methods of designing the toll plant to give adequate transmission efficiency for all connections established in accordance with this plan. This includes a new method of providing amplification at intermediate switching points replacing the cord circuit repeater method.
- Bell Telephone Magazine - Special Commemorative Edition, Volume 62, No. 3/4, 1983 - This is the last publication of the Bell Telephone Magazine as far as I know. Two PDF files are available on this Site; one is an image-only PDF file and the other is editable/searchable text PDF format. To reduce file sizes, unnecessary color background "noise" (color filling of pages as a background to images and text) were removed before processing into PDF files but all text and images were preserved.
Pamplets, News Articles, Instruction booklets, etc.:
- "The First 100 - A Hundred Years of New Beginnings" Bell Atlantic (Delaware) - A timeline and corporate genealogy of Bell Atlantic (now called Verizon) and The Diamond State Telephone Company. 38 page booklet authored by Bill Bowden, published in 1997. NOTE: An updated genealogy chart since this booklet was published is available HERE.
- Bell Telephone Memorial and Bell Homestead booklet - Souvenir of Brantford Canada, "The Telephone City". The story of the telephone.
- The Bell System's Line of New Products and Services - A nice color pamphlet of the various telephones of the Bell System. No date found but appears to be from the era of 1964 to 1968.
- How to Use the New Card Dialer Telephone - An instruction sheet from the mid to late 60's showing how to use the new Touch-Tone Card Dialer Telephone by Western Electric.
- Century One . . . A Prologue - by Paul A. Gorman. The Newcomen Society address dealing with the history of the Western Electric Company April 17, 1969.
- How to Use Your New Bell Telephone - A Bell System pamphlet dated January 1965.
- Principles of Electricity Applied to Telephone and Telegraph Work - June 1961 - A training course text prepared for employees of the Long Lines department of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company.
- The Bell System - From "Encyclopedia of Telecommunications" by Charles L. Brown.
- Bell System Teaching Aids for High School Students - Article on the kits made available by the local Bell companies in the 1960's to advanced science students in high school. Dated February 27, 1965.
- How to Operate the 555 Cord Switchboard
- Trimline Phone pamphlet
- Western Electric - A Brief History - Public relations document from Lucent dealing with the history of Western Electric.
- "Western Electric - For Your Information" booklet. A 1937 (year is estimated based on wording referring to "the last quarter of 1936) Western Electric Hawthorne Works Employee's handbook. Also included is a scan of the outside cover opened out flat showing the plant and a large scanned image of the floor plan.
- Harnessing the Sun . . . The Story of the Bell Solar Battery - Published December 1963. A small yet interesting booklet published by the Bell System about Bell Telephone Laboratories' role in the development of the solar battery (photovoltaic cell), how it is made, how it works and its use in TelStar.
- "Energy from the Sun" - Bell System (Bell Labs) Science Experiment #2 - Instruction Manual made for printing and text searchable (best viewed at 50% zoom level in the Adobe Acrobat Reader) OR Instruction Manual with searchable text (not intended for printing due to lossy compression) (best viewed at 200% zoom level in the Adobe Acrobat Reader)
Bell Labs pioneered the "solar battery" which was the first useful photovoltaic cell and this book explains how to make a silicon solar cell with the chemicals and other supplies that came in the kit. If you can obtain these same chemicals and a thin slab of silicon, you should be able to make your own working silicon solar cell from the directions in this book. Also contains great physics background on and history of solar energy.
- Western Electric/AT&T payphone assembly drawings and parts lists: Upper Housing Assembly and Parts List; Lower Housing Assembly and Parts List.
- An article on the first Western Electric Handset
The following posters are found on my website "Tribute to the Telephone". These image files are included here as a convenience not to mention they make a nice colorful addition to this Site of documents.
Some sample photos from the AT&T archives
- Two Western Electric Color Charts (Pre-Divestiture) - Chart 1 - Chart 2 - Find out what color (and color code number) your phone is! I bet you didn't know there was more than one hue of yellow made - there were FOUR yellow hues to choose from!
- Alexander Graham Bell's US Patent for the telephone - March 7, 1876 - From the US patent office converted to PDF format (best viewed with Acrobat zoom set to 200%).
- Bell Telephone Laboratories - Patent on the Transistor
- 60AP Selector Schematic