Ericsson wall mounted telephone, circa 1898

This Commonwealth Ericsson telephone was developed in the 1890s and was later adopted as the standard wall telephone design by the Commonwealth Post Master General's Department which was responsible for telephone services after Federation in 1901. Equipment was mostly imported. The L.M. Ericsson Company from Sweden was a leading manufacturer of telephones.

Melbourne's first telephone service was a private line connecting the City office of engineers Robison Bros. & Co. with their South Melbourne foundry. In 1880 the Melbourne Telephone Exchange Company established by Henry Byron Moore opened an exchange linking 127 subscribers by 1881. Telephone exchanges were staffed by women telephonists who initially worked standing up at a switchboard. This directory listed subscribers by name and occupation. Connection and maintenance costs were high at about 16 Pounds per annum to be connected to the exchange and the lines remained in government ownership. Complaints of high cost and poor service, particularly by the Chamber of Commerce led to the Victorian Post Master-General taking over the operation of the telephone system in 1887 when around 1100 subscribers were transfered.

Physical Description

Wall mounted telephone. Constructed from a wooden back board with a smaller box hinged along the left side attached to the front. The box covers the interior workings of the phone and the top of the box is sloped with a securing device at the top and a lip at the bottom for use in holding papers or a directory while using the phone. The bells of the phone are attached to the top half of the backing board. The handpiece is attached to a brown coloured plastic component on the right side of the backing board via a cable made of wire wrapped in cotton. The handpiece is constructed from a brown plastic with a mouthpiece attached at the bottom and earpiece attached to the top.

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