Model 302 telephone
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The model 302 telephone is a desk set telephone that was manufactured in the United States by Western Electric from 1937 until 1955, and by Northern Electric in Canada until the late 1950s, until well after the introduction of the 500-type 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 most widely used American combined telephone sets to include the ringer and network circuitry in the same telephone housing.
Design and production
Designed by the firm of Henry Dreyfuss, the 302-type telephone included design elements influenced by Ericsson model DBH 1001 of 1931, conceived in 1929 by the Norwegian artist and designer Jean Heiberg. After field trials in 1936, large-scale deployment commenced in 1937 and the model was never completely retired from service in the Bell System.
The model 302 was the first Western Electric telephone to include the ringer and network circuitry in the same desktop unit. Earlier Western Electric telephones required the use of an external subscriber set (subset), containing the ringer and network circuitry, typically mounted on a wall or desk side.
The model 302 is built upon a rectangular steel base plate on which are 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 hook switch, which was activated with two plunger rods in the handset cradle by removing or replacing the handset.
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. Requests for custom colors were also fulfilled, including the traditional dark gold, statuary bronze, old brass, and oxidized silver hues.
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. Black 302 telephone sets were equipped from the factory with straight brown textile-covered cords until 1952, when synthetic rubber (Neoprene) jacketed cords became standard equipment. Optional retractile coiled cords were available both in textile and rubber jackets since the early 1940s.
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 in its distribution center work shops, 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 types with additional features. Conversion kits using a 302-style housing and F1 handset to replace older manual candlestick telephones with an external subset were available.
Similar phones by other manufacturers
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).
- Bell Laboratory Record, Vol. 27, p.43 (1949).