Model 302 telephone

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A Western Electric Model 302 with thermoplastic case and an F1 handset

The Model 302 telephone is a desk set telephone that was manufactured in the United States by Western Electric starting in 1937, and in Canada by Northern Electric until the late 1950s, well after the introduction of the modern model 500 telephone in 1949. The sets were routinely refurbished into the 1960s.

The 302 is a member of the 300-series telephones and was sculpted by the industrial design firm of Henry Dreyfuss. It was one of the first widely used American combined telephone sets to include the ringer and network circuitry in the same telephone housing.

Design and production[edit]

Designed by the firm of Henry Dreyfuss, the 302-type telephone included design elements influenced by Ericsson model DBH 1001 of 1931, designed in 1929 by the Norwegian artist and designer Jean Heiberg.[citation needed] After field trials in 1936, large-scale deployment commenced and the model was never completely retired from service in the Bell System.

The Ericsson model DBH 1001 of 1931 was a strong influence on the later Model 302 design

The model 302 was the first Western Electric telephone to include the ringer and network circuitry in the same desktop unit. Earlier Western Electric models required the use of an external subscriber set (subset), containing the ringer and network circuitry, typically mounted on a wall.

The model 302 is built upon a rectangular steel base plate on which were mounted the ringer unit, the induction coil, a metal can containing two capacitors, and a connector terminal plate. The base was supported by four felt- or leather-covered triangular feet attached under each corner. The housing sat on top of the base, secured with screws, and contained the rotary dial and the switchhook, which was activated by two plungers in the handset cradle.

The majority of 302 telephone sets were produced in black; however, painted color sets were available by 1939 for subscribers willing to pay a surcharge for the option. The housing was originally cast from a zinc alloy until production sets were increasingly made from a thermoplastic material, Tenite, in 1941. The thermoplastic housings were available also in five colors: ivory, Pekin red, green, blue, and rose until telephone production was suspended due to the military material requirements for WW-II by orders of the War Production Board. Post-war telephone production resumed with black plastic housings in 1945 and by 1949 color sets were reintroduced.[1] Custom colors could also be ordered, including the traditional dark gold, statuary bronze, old brass, and oxidized silver hues that could be special-ordered through the Bell System.[1]

All early telephone sets had dials with metal finger wheels, while starting in 1941 the colored thermoplastic units featured clear plastic finger wheels. Dial number plates were made from steel with a white vitreous enamel face.

The 302 was a rugged and easily repaired desk telephone. Most U.S. telephones were leased to subscribers from the Bell System as part of the monthly service fees. However, Western Electric also built 302 telephones for sale to independent telephone companies.

Beginning in August 1955 and extending into the 1960s, the Bell System remanufactured the 302 as the type 5302, with a newly designed housing, and eventually with the G-type handset of the 500-type telephone, which gave the set a similar appearance to the 500.

In addition to the model 302, the Western Electric 300-series included many variations and special purpose models with additional features. Conversion kits using a 302 housing and F1 handset to replace older manual candlestick telephones with an external subset were available.

Similar phones by other manufacturers[edit]

A 1945 Federal Telephone & Radio Type 803, a clone of the 302 using Automatic Electric components for military applications.

Other manufacturers produced sets of very similar appearance. Among these were the Stromberg-Carlson Model 1243 telephone, distinguished by beveled corners and flanging on the handset, and the Federal Telephone & Radio (FTR) 803 (pictured).

After phase-out in the US, the model 302's exterior design was retained by European Bell branch companies for such models as the 1954 Bell Standard, widely used in the Netherlands and Belgium.

In popular culture[edit]

The Western Electric 302 appeared in many films from the time of its introduction through the 1960s, and was ubiquitous in television shows of its time, such as the popular 1950s situation comedy I Love Lucy. Thus, it is sometimes called the Lucy phone by collectors as a memorable way to refer to the model. [2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bell Laboratory Record, Vol. 27, p.43 (1949).
  2. ^ "On the trail of the "Lucy Phone"". Dennis Markham's Classic Rotary Phones. 19 March 2008. Retrieved 27 May 2014. 

External links[edit]