Magazine & Newspaper Advertisements & Articles

The old Bell System used to advertise extensively in magazines. Some of the magazines are now available on Google Books. Here is how to search for them from LIFE Magazine.

  1. Use the URL
  2. In the search string, enter LIFE Bell Telephone.
  3. Under TOOLS, select MAGAZINES. (This will eliminate books.)
  4. This will display various issues. If you click on a reference, it will display the ad (or an article).
  5. Some experimentation may be necessary.

You should vary the search string, such as "LIFE WESTERN ELECTRIC". To get old Western Union ads, enter "LIFE WESTERN UNION" (no quotes).

Bell also advertised in other publications. For a while they advertised in BOYS LIFE. Simply say "BOYS LIFE Bell Telephone" to bring up those references.

In LIFE, Bell advertised roughly every other week. During WW II, Bell asked customers NOT to use the telephone and be patient due to war traffic, as well as touting their contributions to the war effort. After the war they asked for patience while they caught up on a huge backlog of service orders. In the 1950s, they touted their contributions to the Korean War and Cold War defense. By the later 1950s, Bell had caught up to consumer demand was now advertising long distance and extension phones.

Bell sometimes advertised in Billboard magazine. These ads were mostly geared toward the television industry.

— HAncock4

Commitment to Service  ||  Strikes  ||  Emergencies  ||  Employment  ||  Telephones & Supplementaries  ||  Reliability & Quality  ||  Restoration of Service  ||  Telephone Mischief & Vandalism  ||  Public Defense  ||  Western Electric  ||  Michigan Technic  ||  Teletype  ||  Company Ads  ||  Telecom Progress  ||  Call Director Phones  ||  Product Advertisements  ||  New Services  ||  Achievements  ||  Intercoms  ||  Western Union  ||  Miscellaneous  ||  Telephone Power  ||  Telegraph  ||  Rail  ||   Telex

Commitment to Service




In the past, the Bell System was proud that multiple generations of a family would work for the telephone company.

Telephones & Supplementaries

Reliability & Quality

Restoration of Service

Telephone Mischief & Vandalism

Public Defense

Western Electric

Michigan Technic

Bell Telephone ran numerous advertisements touting its contributions to the war effort. It also encouraged people not to use the telephone since facilities were overloaded.

Here are some samples from "Michigan Technic" an engineering journal (from google books).

The ads marked "vivid drawing" were part of a series of ads that featured very rich emotional artwork. Other ads of that series appeared in LIFE magazine in color.


At one time Western Electric's subsidiary Teletype used to advertise for its machines. Before the days of electronic computer memory, paper tape served as a store and forward mechanism.

Company Ads

Historically, General Telephone/Automatic Electric sold their equipment to (1) independent telephone companies and (2) to businesses seeking a private internal system that was not connected to the outside Bell network. But in 1972 GTE/AE was advertising their systems to business in direct competition to Bell, as shown by the following ad in a business magazine:

Also in that issue, Bell advertised its 800A PBX.

Many of the areas served by Century Link were once served by the independent telephone companies, one of which was GTE. Here is an ad by them.

The Automatic Electric Company, a competitor to Western Electric, made emergency telephone systems. Here is a 1961 ad by them.

Telecom Progress

The Bell System opened a voice cable across the Atlantic in the mid 1950s. This was a major improvement since the radio was unreliable and inadequate. Here are some ads for the cable:

In addition to the trans-Atlantic cable, Bell also installed cables to Hawaii:

TAT-1 was retrieved and repaired at least once due to damage from a fishing trawler. Here's a report of a repair in 1959 which took slightly over three days from damage to full repair. The damage was in shallow water close to the Scotland end of the cable and a suitable cable ship was in port nearby.

TAT-1 had 51 voice channels. By 1978, TAT-6 was in service with 4000 channels, later expanded to 10,000, and TAT-7 was being laid with another 4000 channels expandable to 10,000. — John Levine

Call Director Phones

To meet the growing needs of businesses, the Bell System introduced a large scale multi-line telephone set, known as the Call Director. Behind it was a more sophisticated key system.

An ad for it is shown here (on the opposite page is an ad by Western Union pushing telegrams).

Bell offered two devices for speed-dialing. The first was a magnetic tape device with a high capacity. The caller would speed through an indexed directory. Known as Magicall.

The second was using a plastic punched card that was inserted in a reader. Known as the Card Dialer.

Speed-dialing ad

Also, on pg 16 of the same issue is an ad by Executone for an intercom. A benefit was taking internal traffic away from the expensive rented telephone company system.

Opposite (pg 17) is a summary ad by General Telephone & Electronics. In fine print it mentions its Automatic Electric subsidiary.

The Bell System also had a lesser known multi-button unit known as the "Key Chief".

Product Advertisements

New Services

Automatic Electric Co. ran an ad touting its "push button" grocery system. It used telephone switching technology. The items would be lifted from the shelf, collected, packaged, and delivered to the check out counter with a totalized sales slip. By 1959 AE was a subsidiary of GTE. (Also, Bell Telephone ad for long distance conference calls on page 2.): article (It's on the right side. You may scroll through the rest of the magazine).



Often in old movies and TV shows we'll see an executive lean into an intercom console on his desk and summon a staff member.

In the past, several independent vendors provided office intercom systems. Here is some ads from the 1950s:

Western Union

(You may scroll through the rest of the magazines. Goodlook at the technology of the day, such as FairbanksMorse diesel engines, copying machines, autos, addingand accounting machines, coal heat, file cabinet systems,cast iron piping, etc. Bell System ads, too.)


  • The August 10, 1957 issue of The Saturday Evening Post featured an illustration of "the phone boys" by Ben Prins. The table-of-contents page provides an explanation of the boys' activity.
  • Is Your Telephone Voice A Good "FIT"? — 1951
  • The IT&T - World wide system of the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation
  • 900,000 AT&T Stockholders (Bell System)
  • Tireless, Talky Teen-agers and Toiling Telephones — Apr. 2, 1956 (LIFE)
  • 'U' Switchboard 'Gals' Have 4,000 Calls Per Hour — May 5, 1950 (Lafayette Ledger)
  • A young couple runs up a $250,000 yearly business on seven telephones — Oct. 4, 1948
  • Crippled by outage, users reevaluate AT&T service — Nov. 28, 1988 (AT&T)
  • Bell Telephone News, Volume 9 — 1919
  • Telephony, Volume 10 — January 1, 1905 (Telephone Publishing Corporation)
  • Telephones and Telegraphs, 1902 — 1906
  • The 'Hi-Fi' Bandwagon — Jun. 15, 1953
  • How to Buy Hi-Fidelity — Feb. 28, 1955
  • Famous Bell System ad of the company saving a pole that had memories of a fallen soldier
  • In 1968 a newspaper described GTE's pulse code modulation
  • In 1967 General Telephone Co (an independent carrier) advertised its data communications services (via Lenkurt)
  • In 1978 GTE of Florida ran an ad describing its data services in use
  • Here are 1962 ads for data communications by both General Telephone and the Bell System.

    Both companies (as well as Western Union) correctly saw that the new computers entering service would require interconnection and they all sought to serve them.
    Actually, interconnecting data processing machines, such as punched card tabulators, began years earlier, but with the growth of computers, there was demand for more accurate and higher speed communications. The Bell System developed a line of modems.

    Telephone Power

    The classic No. 6 dry cell was once widely used in telephone and industrial service.

    You can scroll through each of the above magazines. Interesting historical technology, including radio and induction communications and switching relay logic.



    The 1950 issue of Railway Signaling and Communications (Volume 43) contains numerous ads for communication products. It is a good illustration of the state of the art of that time. Electronics and improved materials were entering the marketplace.
    The Automatic Electric Company, of Chicago, was a competitor to Western Electric and marketed equipment specifically for railway applications. Railway telephones had to work over long distances and be rugged. Some of the ads are described below:

    The transistor was invented in 1948, although it took roughly ten years for it be developed into a commercial viable product. That is, able to be manufactured at a cost less than a tube and reliable enough to be useful. Initial applications were portable radios, though tubes were continued to be used in consumer audio devices for years.

    When computers came along, computer makers found that tubes used in audio devices were not reliable enough for high speed digital service. Tiny faults that weren't noticed in audio service would cause computerbit errors. Computer makers developed premium grade tubes where the internal materials were of a higher quality and yield better performance, and also physical placement of the structures were more precise. Tubes were also made under cleaner conditions.

    Ad for RCA premium tubes


    1964 detailed article describing new voice and data communications on the New York Central railroad system. The system used mostly Bell System facilities, but had some Stromberg Carlson and Lenkurt equipment. (You may scroll through the rest of the magazine. This is a railroad communications magazine.)

    Western Union offered a dialup teletypewriter service in competition with Bell's TWX. It was called Telex. It originated in Canada and spread to the U.S.

    Telex used Baudot. In later years it used a model 32 Teletype, which was a three-row Baudot (five-bit) machine.

    While Western Union offered facsimile transmissions for several decades, they required dedicated lines and special paper ("teledeltos").

    Xerox introduced a plain paper fax using xerography principles. It is advertised here.