This telephone, made by the Gower-Bell company, used a rather large receiver.  It was also too heavy to be held to the ear, so it was fitted inside the wall cabinet and connected to listening tubes.

The transmitter which is the fixed in the top of the cabinet cover, below the push button, is of the Pencil type.  This Gower transmitter is a variation on the Hughes carbon pencil microphone, but consists eight carbon pencils with nine carbon blocks.  These are arranged in a star formation and connected to two copper strips.  This forms two groups of pencils in series with each group of four pencils which are in parallel.

The Gower-Bell telephone remained the Post Office choice for many years, and was continuously developed.  By 1891 it had become known as the Universal Telephone, so-called because it could be adapted for use under practically any conditions likely to be met with in Post Office service.  It retained the Gower Transmitter but the receiver and speaking tubes had given place to a pair of Bell receivers.

The calling signal was a trembler bell which was rung by a battery at the subscriber’s premises under the control of a relay operated by a signalling current received from the exchange.  A feature of this system of working which has a modern sound was that when an operator rang the subscriber’s bell she could hear the interruption in current caused by the trembler bell contact, a forerunner of ringing tone.

One key disadvantage when using this telephone was that the design of the instrument required the user to take and hold both tubes while speaking to activate the automatic switches which signalled the exchange, thus leaving no hands free for writing.

The British Science Museum have an instrument made by Scott and Wollaston, England, dated 1880.

See also History of BPO Telephones


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Last revised: October 06, 2020