Coffin Phone

The Williams "Coffin" Telephone

New: For a  complete view of a restored "Coffin", click here.

Within two years of Bell's invention, the "coffin" telephone was manufactured in the Boston electrical shop of Charles Williams. This phone was the first "complete" telephone consisting of two wooden receivers (one was for listening and the other for speaking), a magneto generator, a ringer and a switch. The first generation "coffins" had only one combination receiver/transmitter. The caller would speak into the instrument and then place it to his ear while his party was talking.

The "coffin" measures 12 inchs long and 6 inches wide and is generally found in walnut. The primative magneto has a large drive wheel, a leather belt which drives a small wheel and a large horseshoe magnet which just fits into the box. The crank protrudes through the front door.

When the demand for phones increased, Bell licensed five companies to manufacture telephone instruments and switchboards under the direct supervision of Thomas A. Watson. In 1880, after Western Union settled the suit brought against them by the Bell company for infringing on the A.G. Bell patent, Western Electric became Bell's manufacturer (after the Bell company acquired controlling interest). The license contracts of the five original manufacturers were assigned to W.E. who gradually refused to renew as each contract expired.

The first model that Western Electric manufactured for the Bell Company was the three box phone.

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