Northern Electric Company Limited Wooden Telephone Box
The Northern Electric Company, established in the late 1800s, was a revolutionary enterprise that pioneered Canada’s telecommunications production and innovation. Founded in Montreal, Quebec (later expanding to other locations, such as Bellville, Ontario), Northern Electric went through a historic evolution from a small Canadian telephone equipment supplier to the architect of a budding world of networks. Under a few different company names (i.e. Northern Electric, Northern Telecom Limited, Nortel) numerous products, such as radios, televisions, amplifiers, speakers, switchboards, and telephones were manufactured and sold on a massive scale.
Wooden wall phones were one of the first telephone models available to the public and had a long lifespan in rural Canadian households. For example, the long and bulky coffin shaped wooden wall mounted telephone box was one the first telephones put into wide circulation. The three-box telephone was another popular wooden model that did not house the phones features in a large coffin shaped box, but rather in 3 separate wooden boxes. Both these local battery powered magneto phones were manufactured until the early 1960s, and remained in service well into the 1970s despite the evolution of household telephones.
Our collection houses a Northern Electric Company Limited wooden telephone box that I speculate to be the top or upper box of a three-box wall mounted telephone. This upper box would contain the magneto or electric generator that produces the electricity required to ring the bells of the party being called. The middle box would contain the phone’s transmitter, and the bottom box would contain the batteries that would have powered the phone and a protruding flat or inclined horizontal surface that would allow for the jotting down of notes while using the telephone.