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.
- Use the URL books.google.com
- In the search string, enter LIFE Bell Telephone.
- Under TOOLS, select MAGAZINES. (This will eliminate books.)
- This will display various issues. If you click on a reference, it will display the ad (or an article).
- 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.
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
- Standards of Service — Apr. 1917 (Boys' Life)
- Saskatchewan Telephone System Model For Others — Jul. 14, 1926 (The Morning Leader)
- Telegraph Systems Still Pioneer — Mar. 29, 1941
- Try These On For Sales! — Jun. 11, 1949 (Trans Canada)
- Out of the Night Came a Call for Help — 1953 (Signals)
- Phone Company Invests Record Amount in Area — Apr. 15, 1954 (Billings Co. Pioneer)
- Your handy phones away from home — Jul. 21, 1958
- Like a lighthouse on the highway — May 4, 1959 (Bell System)
- "" Saturday Evening Post
- Heroic Operator helps protect town from flood — Nov. 17, 1952 (Bell System)
- Beyond the line of duty (Vail Medal) — Aug. 16, 1954 (Northwestern Bell)
- For Courage and Devotion — Sep. 13, 1963 (Bell System)
- Talk of the town — Sep. 4, 1973
- Honest, Operator, I don't see any twenty on the clock! — Mar. 3, 1961
- In 1946, the CIO(2) went out on strike. The LIFE article below includes a photo of a large room filled with empty switchboards
- In 1947, 350,000 workers of AT&T went out on strike; In the same issue, on pg 24 Western Electric bragged about the fast restoration of a fire-destroyed central office
- General Telephone, an 'independent' telephone company, also had labor troubles. In 1973, Ohio workers took out a full page ad explaining their stance
- Some strike were bitter with vandalism of telephone company property. In 1963, GTE took out the following ad in Florida
- Telephone strikes go back 100 years. Here is a New England labor dispute in April 1919.
- Seattle's 911 Emergency System Works — Jun. 2, 1971
- 911 Aids in Emergencies — Aug. 5, 1973
- 911 - Three digits save lives; Some day they may be universal — Feb. 11, 1976
- 911 dispatch system has mottled history — Jan. 3, 1978
- General Telephone once advertised the importance of telephone service for emergencies — 1956
- Bell telephone used to proudly advertise that an operator would always be there to help out in emergencies — 1964
- Out of the Night Came A Call For Help — 1964
- Teach him to dial "0" and he'll always have a friend — Oct. 20, 1972
- Close by if you need her
- When Emergencies Happen And You Don't Know The Number To Call, Dial "0" For Help — Mar. 29, 1963
In the past, the Bell System was proud that multiple generations of a family would work for the telephone company.
- Career Girl, 1965 — Feb. 12, 1951 (Bell System)
- Welcome Home, Sergeant! — Jan. 5, 1953 (Bell System)
- Fifty-nine Years of Telephone Service! — Sep. 7, 1953 (Bell System)
- Mothers and Daughters Doing Fine — Apr. 6, 1953 (Bell System)
- This way, son — Aug. 26, 1957 (Western Electric)
- It's good to be back with the telephone company — 1946 (Saturday Evening Post)
- 35 members of her family worked for the telephone company
- 575,000 workers in the Bell system
- father, two sons, and daughter in law all work for telephone company/Bell System average length of service is three times that of other companies
- Nine members of the Moore family make the Bell system work in Little Rock (1981)
- "Up from the ranks" (Bell System presidents started at the bottom of the ladder)
Telephones & Supplementaries
- Extension phones help you all year 'round, but doubly so at Christmas! — Dec. 1, 1958 (Bell System)
- If a machine answers, don't hang up! — Jul. 2, 1956 (Western Electric) (side note: on pg 90 of the above magazine, there is an ad for Howard Johnson's roadside family restaurants. Despite being a casual place, note all the customers are in suits or dresses. Also, the full service gasoline station on pg 11.)
- It's Fun To Phone — May 12, 1958
Reliability & Quality
- They're coming! The telephone men are coming! — Jun. 28, 1948 (Western Electric)
- We Expected This — Dec. 20, 1948 (Western Electric)
- Western Electric is part of the Bell System — Jul. 22, 1966 (Western Electric)
- This precision instrument made by Western Electric contains 475 parts — Oct. 15, 1965 (Western Electric)
- One reason your Bell telephone works whenever you want Walla Walla — Apr. 29, 1965 (Western Electric)
- One reason you can phone your payrolls perfectly — Dec. 9, 1966 (Western Electric)
- One reason you're sure of connecting when seconds count — Sep. 16, 1966 (Western Electric)
- One reason you can call for help when you need it — Jun. 3, 1966 (Western Electric)
- Before 911 call centers, Bell System operators would directly assist in emergency situations, such as described in the following 1954 ad.
- Made to work 40 years without a single failure — Dec. 13, 1963 (Western Electric)
- There's one thing that doesn't change — Feb. 12, 1965 (Western Electric)
- Always Looking For Trouble — Aug. 1938 (Bell System)
Restoration of Service
- Burned-out Telephone Exchange replaced in 11 Days! — Apr. 21, 1947 (Western Electric)
- Fighting the Nation's Costliest Flood — Nov. 5, 1951 (Bell System)
- Action on the Cold Front — Feb. 1952 (Boys' Life)
- How the "Duke of Des Moines" helped restore service to 10,000 — May 20, 1966 (Bell System)
- Miami Has an Electric Nervous System — Dec. 1955
- Telephone Men and Supplies Were on the Way Before the Winds Died Down — Jan. 17, 1955
- Date with a Hurricane! — Sep. 5, 1955
- The Deluge of Diane — Oct. 17, 1955
- MCI gets zapped — Apr. 3 1989 (Network World)
Telephone Mischief & Vandalism
- What you can do about obscene phone calls — Jun. 24, 1966 (AT&T)
- Warning to people who make obscene phone calls — May 23, 1969 (GTE)
- In case of emergency, dial — Nov. 21, 1969 (GTE)
- Armored pay phone — Sep. 17, 1971 (Bell System)
- Snooping Electronic Invasion of Privacy — May 20, 1966
- Dial H For Help — Jun. 8, 1981
- Helping to keep America strong — May 7, 1951 (Bell System)
- We dug and refilled a 4000-mile trench to protect 9300 communications circuits against disaster — Mar. 1965 (Bell System)
- New Radar Sky-Watch To Guard Arctic Frontier — Aug. 22, 1955 (Western Electric)
- Dew Line Now on Guard — Sep. 30, 1957 (Western Electric)
- Sprouting Domes on Dew Line — Apr. 30, 1956
- SAC's Vast Destructive Power — Apr. 7, 1958 (Williamson Daily News)
- If The Red Phone Rings - Inside Look at War III's Command Post — May 27, 1960 (Pittsburgh Press)
- Ballistic Missile Early Warning System — Jan. 1961 (Bell System)
- Here the U.S. fights the coldest war — Mar. 1, 1963
- Vacuum Cleaners
- Washing machine (wringer)
- Portable sewing machine
- Multiplexing messages over teletype lines
- Large electric text sign and the typewriter that controls it
- 1929 ad for hospital use
100 years ago Western Electric made dishwashers, as shown by this ad in Popular Science:
I don't know when Western Electric got out of the home appliance business. They did stick around motion picture sound equipment for a long time.
The Western Electric company used to sell commercial sound systems. Here are 1948 ads for Western Electric recorded music and radio for onboard railroad train use:
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.
- Western Electric "telephones are life lines"
- building a new cable for defense
- Training signal corps
- conservation of scarce materials for military use
- improved aerial cable suspension
- Women serving as operators and manufacturers for defense
- communications directing combat
- hold it! is this long distance call really necessary?
- telephone direction in combat (vivid drawing)
- boy manning anti-aircraft using phone (vivid drawing)
- telephone in submarine service (vivid drawing)
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.
- The following ad describes the "torn tape" method of message switching.
- The following article describes the Pullman Teletype network.
- Teletype advertised a message identifier to avoid confusion.
- General ad describing dependable printed communications
- Public Servant #1 (GTE)
- Minutes saved here mean more munitions there (AE P-A-X)
- We encourage our people to use this telephone (AE)
- Charting our own course (GTE)
- AE Can Do (AE)
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.
- Every Dollar Goes For Service — Oct. 1919
- Neighborizing the Farmer — May 1915 (Boy's Life) The following article from 1921 describes ship-to-shore radio telephone service. The rest of the issue covers news of Southern Bell Telephone Company. Interesting writeups on conversion to dial service.)
- Wireless Age. By 1950, Bell advertised that 13,500 vessels
- Here's How Mobile Set Works on a Call — Oct. 25, 1947
- Mobile Telephones May Soon Be Regular Car Equipment — Jun. 16, 1947
- Reach Him By Bell Mobile Telephone — Jun. 5, 1954
- The General Telephone Co, an independent company, offered its own mobile telephone service made by its Automatic Electric and Lenkurt subsididaries. Here are some ads by them from 1959:
Note the telephone on the asphalt, that's an AE model 80. It has slightly different styling than the Western Electric 500 set.
- Just what all dial phone users are looking for — Sep. 1949 (Popular Mechanics)
- Telephone Achievements — Mar. 25, 1914 (Spokesman Review)
- No Operator — Aug. 28, 1959
- Emergency power for your telephone — Mar. 25, 1954
- How desert winds help spread your voice cross country — Oct. 23, 1947 (Pacific T&T)
- How You Dial Coast to Coast — Oct. 1955
- Phone Calls Coast-To-Coast — Nov. 10, 1951
- Five-Digit System for Telephones Will Be Changed — May 12, 1948
- Midnight Set for Switch To Dial Telephone Setup — Jun. 18, 1949
- Phone Firm Plans Operation Cutover — Jan. 27, 1959
- Two-Five Plan: Telephone Numbers Change Sunday — Aug. 13, 1959
- 3,000 Phone Numbers Change — Jun. 21, 1953
- Dial Telephones To Be Cut In Sunday — Nov. 25, 1954
- Area Phone Users Now Have to Spin The Dial 7 Times — Mar. 17, 1956
- Step by Step, Complex System to Be Cut In — Apr. 23, 1954
- Carefully Detailed Midnight Operation To Give City Long-Awaited Dial Phones — Apr. 23, 1954
- Progress in Local Communications — Jul. 27, 1957
- Dial Telephones Come to Avalon — Jun. 4, 1978
- 7 Operators Take Prescottonians Thru Dialing School — Aug. 28, 1959
- Local Dial Telephones Reality Midnight Saturday — Aug. 28, 1959
- Quitman Telephone System Will Go on Dial at 10 p.m. This Saturday — Aug. 13, 1959
- SWS Phone Company Plans $6 Million Expansion In 1959 — Jan. 1, 1959
- Laying the First Atlantic Telephone Cable — Oct. 1955 (Bell System)
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:
- Saturday Evening Post
- Now you can telephone to and from Hawaii for less than ever before and the service is better — LIFE, 1957
- Within Hawaii, General Telephone installed a cable (two pages)
- Here is another ad of an undersea cable repeater; a cutaway view of the interior and explanation of the 20 year design life.
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
- The Sea Could Make A "Meal" of Telephone Cables! — Sep. 1958 (Bell System)
- Four Wires Handle All Circuits — 1959, Railway Signaling and Communications
- Waystation Dial Has 3 1/2-Cycle Rate — 1960, Railway Signaling and Communications
- Teletype and I.B.M. Machines Expedite Trains on the C.P.R. — Railway Signaling and Communications
- Scatter System Opening Up The North — Oct. 4, 1958
- Seek Perfection For Phone System — May 20, 1961 (The Financial Post)
- Chip Martin Previews Telephones of Tomorrow pt. 1 — Oct. 1962 (The Financial Post)
- Chip Martin Previews Telephones of Tomorrow pt. 2 — Nov. 1962
- In Hartford, you dial a number and a phone rings in San Francisco — Dec. 1959
- How to get the one you want out of 75 million — Dec. 15, 1961
- Maine is 207 Country — Jan. 6, 1967
- Here are some of the ways we handle your telephone calls today — Oct. 9, 1964
- Alexander Graham Bell Would Be Amazed at All the Changes — Mar. 4, 1966
- Shadowed Economy Doesn't Stop Progress By General Telephone — Dec. 31, 1971
- It may be cheaper to talk by glass — Aug. 5, 1975
- Stretching dollars counts in R&D — Oct. 2, 1976
- Fiber optics start a revolution in our telephone systems as threads of light replace copper wires — May 1980 (Popular Science)
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).
- https://books.google.com/books?id=jWJkAAAAIBAJ&lpg=PA10&dq=%22call%20director%22&pg=PA10#v=onepage&q&f=falselower right
- lower right
- upper right
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.
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.
- ITT E-PABX Advertisement — Apr. 17, 1970 (ITT)
- Stop Profit Leaks (Code-A-Phone Call Controller) — Apr. 1982 (CODE-A-PHONE)
- Bell System introduces PicturePhone Service — Jul. 3, 1964 (Bell System)
- Amazing New PicturePhone — Jun. 1968 (Bell Labs)
- See-While-You-Talk Telephone Service — Mar. 1971 (Bell Labs)
- Cincinnati Bell Telephone Directory & CINOM — Jun. 1971 (Cincinnati Bell)
- When '911' Calls Come In — May 23, 1977 (Illinois Bell)
- See What's Happened To The Girl With The Voice with the Smile (Bell System)
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.): archive.org article (It's on the right side. You may scroll through the rest of the magazine).
- World-Wide Communications and tracking network for 1st man in space — Jun. 13, 1960 (Bell System)
- Chip Martin College Reporter previews Spacecraft Communication (comic) — Oct. 1961 (Bell System)
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 Telegram Thanksgiving Greetings — Nov. 16, 1946 (LIFE)
- Western Union Telegram Thanksgiving Greetings — Nov. 17, 1947 (LIFE)
- Everything Rosy at Western Union — May 27, 1959 (Milwaukee Sentinel) — Article about the financial health of the business. The president talks about converting from telegrams to private wire services.
- 1951: Send greetings by Western Union, printed on a colorful blank. Santagram for the children
(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.)
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.
The classic No. 6 dry cell was once widely used in telephone and industrial service.
- Here's an ad from 1946: (Note the Bell Labs micro-chemistry ad on the preceding page).
- Here's an ad from 1945: (Note the Clare relay ad on the preceding page).
- Here's an ad from 1938: (scattered on the following pages are ads for other types of Eveready batteries. Scattered on the preceding pages are ads from Automatic Electric for telephone supplies and Western Electric for carrier current equipment.)
- Then going back to 1921 we have an ad for telephone batteries from Telephony magazine.
You can scroll through each of the above magazines. Interesting historical technology, including radio and induction communications and switching relay logic.
- In 1966 Bell advertised how the teletype network helps rescue
- 1964 ad for catching criminals
- 1939 ad for catching criminals
- In 1955, Miami touted sophisticated communications
- In 1940, Western sheriffs went "streamline" with radio and teletype
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:
- relays and switches had to be rugged for railway service
- telephone sets had to be dependable
- hermetically sealed relays
- Carrier channels to increase single line capacity
- railroads were using IBM tabulating machines and early data communications via telegraph to interconnect them
- Link to a 1957 ad from Railway Signaling & Communications for "laboratory tested" high grade paper tape
- Another ad for the product
- Article in Railway signals describing the microwave network for broadband transmission Western Union was building
- Also an ad for RCA's Vidicon TV camera tube.
- There's an ad for highway railway crossing warning bell made of aluminum. Ironic since today such gongs are electronic.
- Stromberg Carlson ad comparing its various telephone switching systems to a glass of water vs. a large dam.
- An ad for the Kleinschmidt model 311 teleprinter.
You may scroll through the rest of the issue. This is more modern (1965) than the other issues recently posted here. Numerous multiplex carrier and microwave ads and articles.
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.
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.