Museums in the United States Displaying Open Wire and Related Artifacts
Dacotah Prairie Museum, Aberdeen, South Dakota
Directly north of Aberdeen’s downtown area is the Dacotah Prairie Museum which features a large exhibit of both Dakota Central Telephone memorabilia and artifacts, but also some fine Western Union instruments. The telecom exhibits are located in the very southwest first floor corner office which once housed the Aberdeen Western Union office. Official address is listed at 21 South Main Street, but when searching for the location in April 2017, found the new location a few blocks north in downtown Aberdeen, South Dakota 57401. There is ample parking to the north of the building and visitors enter at the far eastern doors on the south side of the building (where the silver car in the picture is parked).
The cost to enter the museum is free, however every “free” museum or non-profit, appreciates a donation, no matter how small or large, or a purchase from their shop. During this visit in late April 2017, I purchased a book on Dakota history curiosities.
The major drawing point to this museum is the number of materials and exhibits on Dakota Central Telephone Company, an Independent which was a major competitor to the early Bell company and later purchased to become part of Northwestern Bell Telephone Company. This company owned lines in Tyndall, South Dakota, where it served subscribers there, and where preservation of the open wire there became so imperative and discussed under a separate heading at this website.
Open Tuesday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Closed Mondays. Open on the weekend with special hours on Saturday and Sunday of 1:00 to 4:00 pm. Here is a link to their website: http://brown.sd.us/dacotah-prairie-museum/home
1930s Dakota Central Switchboard at Dacotah Prairie Museum
Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer,
Grand Island, Nebraska
Located adjacent to Grand Island, directly south at the entrance from U. S. 281 to I-80, one finds the remarkable Museum of the Prairie Pioneer. This fine museum has been used in several movies for its historical buildings and exhibits. The museum is ringed by a railroad which also has a single pair wooden bracket telephone lead. In a Hallmark Hall of Fame made-for-television movie, one of the first scenes is above a lineman screwing on a Hemingray No. 9 insulator on a wooden bracket. This museum is well worth the trouble to visit–and not much difficulty at all for the traveler, as you simply depart I-80 at a well signed exit for Grand Island.
Stuhr Museum & Railroad Town
3133 West Highway U. S. 34
Grand Island, Nebraska 68801
Hearne Railroad Museum Depot, Texas
This author had the great opportunity–albeit a surprising one–to visit this small town depot museum which has some excellent open wire artifacts. I had left Georgetown early an October morning pacing myself to gain the most time in order to arrive at Chandler, Texas by dark. Knowing nothing about this particular museum, the drive through Hearne was uneventful, until I spotted the multiple ARA-type open wire structures planted all around the parking lot. Making a bone-chilling turn in traffic towards the parking lot, I must have rattled a lot of motorists astounded at my unwarned turn in front of traffic. But . . . the stop was truly worth it–as it will be for you, too!
The railroad-oriented artifact museum resides in a depot, over 114 years old, which near end of its former life, was neglected and abandoned. Until . . . some very motivated volunteers, grant funding experts and railroad enthusiasts, put their best motivations forward to rehabilitate this grand little building. “A lot of people in Hearne have been involved in the railroad over the years,” Kent Brunette, who in 2011, held responsibilities as the local Chamber of Commerce Director and head of Hearne’s economic development corporation. “We felt it was important to have this history on display,” he accentuated to a College Station newspaper reporter at The Eagle.
Seven years prior, the railroads executives–The Southern Pacific and Union Pacific–told enthusiasts that moving the building would be a challenge, from its original site. Money was required to make the move by the public, when the transportation companies finally resolved to allow the move to its present main highway site IF $70,000.00 could be found.
After its successful move, rehabilitation and dedication where 500 persons turned out, the museum opened its doors. Austin’s Tinplate Trackers Model Train Club has displays. It’s high excitement for me was an outstanding acknowledgement of open wire telecommunications in the early era. This was evident by the number of rescued open wire five and six arm ARA structures resurrected and placed around the nearby depot parking lot and full structures with arms in the interior of the museum.
You will also find some peculiar exhibits outside and inside, including early lineman test sets, instruments, phones and a concrete track-side phone booth which is on the lawn nearby. Definitely worth a stop!
Also a must is the nearby Camp Hearne, which was the largest World War II P.O.W. German and Italian prisoner of War Camp in the United States. Enthusiastic volunteers, well maintained exhibits and knowledgeable personnel make both these museums worth your exploration.
139 West Ninth Street
Hearne, Texas 77859
Kansas State Museum of History & Archives
Open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Tuesdays – Saturday.
1:00 – 5:00 pm Sunday; Closed Holidays.
6425 S. W. 6th Avenue
Topeka, Kansas 66615-1099
Doug G.Schema’s donation on behalf of the Tri-County Telephone Association and The Electric Orphanage of the last remaining non-railway, commercial open wire toll and exchange facilities in the State of Kansas. is pictured below. Previously owned by Council Grove Telephone Company, these 10-pin and 2-pin REA-style side arm assemblies, along with a buried terminal pedestal and 20-feet of figure 8 aerial cable, were donated to the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka, Kansas in May 2007. The photos below illustrate the arrival, the subsequent removal and placement in the KMH artifact preservation storage facility. In 2009, these items were used in a special exhibit drawing attention to Kansas’ brutal winter weather effects. They presently remain a permanent donation to the Kansas Museum of History.
Kansas Petroleum Museum, El Dorado, Kansas
Butler County History Center& Kansas Oil Museum
383 East Central Ave.
El Dorado, KS 67042Phone: 316-321-9333
Six-pin lead parallels the boardwalk in this simulated Kansas oil town . . .
An excellent regional historical museum specializing in Kansas about regional petroleum history.
Museum of Independent Telephony, Abilene, Kansas
Of the museums I’ve encountered specializing in the history of independent telephone technology, this particular portion of the Dickinson County Heritage Center, is well known and recognized for a remarkable recovery of historical artifacts. You must see this beautifully organized and efficiently run historical center on telephony to grasp how urgently it needs your support. Originally sponsored by United Telephone (SPRINT), the company has dropped its sponsorship leaving this magificent telephone museum with little financial support. Please contribute to maintaining this great historical collection!
The insulator collection is excellent, the methods of display are well designed and the evolutionary character of the technology is displayed in such a way that you’ll want to spend hours here. The guides and volunteers are well educated about the nature of the museum and you . . . will . . . want to return to this historical center.
Abilene is an Interstate Highway single exit kind of town on the map . . . but don’t let that understatement of I-70’s designers fool you! The Eisenhower Library and Museum are here, numerous historical homes of significant cattle baron history (with tours) and cowboy history-prominence are here, as well as several excellent and noteworthy restaurants. You will spend a day here–and don’t let it go by without a trip to the Museum of Independent Telephony!
412 South Campbell
Abilene, Kansas 67410
Harold Warp’s Pioneer Village, Minden, Nebraska
Good old Harold Warp . . . he must have thought a lot of his hometown in Nebraska! After devising a way to use shrink wrap plastic on windows to combat dust, heat and cold, he got . . . very rich . . . and his Chicago plant prospered. Being a bit like William Randolph Hearst, he dabbled a little and then vigorously in historical Americana. With the financial resources to do a lot of “picking” he was the original “Picker,” without the greed. Instead, he wisely preserved his collection of all nature of American home life, agriculture, electricity, telephones, cars, and a variety of things just too complex to account for here, and sent them home to put his hometown in Nebraska on the map. For example, he rescued the last gas light from the City of Chicago and sent it back to Minden!
Considered Nebraska’s number one tourist destination . . . and with good reason . . . Pioneer Village is a full day of tours and exhibits. Great museum and fun place to be with many telephone and telegraph-related artifacts.
Harold Warp’s Pioneer Village
138 East U. S. Highway 6
Minden, Nebraska 68959
Railswest Museum, Council Bluffs, Iowa
BNSF Three-arm structure display with drop and point-type bracket transpositions. Dead-end brackets on lower arm. Interior museum area.
RailsWest Railroad Museum
Historical Society of Pottawattamie County
16th Avenue and South Main Street
Council Bluffs, Iowa
(I-80, Exit 3) Take Iowa State Highway 192 North (South Expressway) from I-80/29. After about two miles, the 16th Avenue exit will appear. Take a right at the signal onto 16th Avenue. At the stop sign, turn right. Cross several railroad tracks east and you will immediately see the former Chicago Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Passenger Depot. Free parking is available along the front of the building.
The exhibit was constructed and donated by the author, on behalf of The Electric Orphanage, in furtherance of commemorating ARA Communications Section standards within the transportation industry.
I had the pleasure of working with the Railswest Museum volunteer staff when donating a second grade crossing signal to their preservation efforts. Here, you will find a burgeoning collection of transportation paraphenalia and railroad materials relating to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where at one time, C.B. was the fifth largest hub for the American railway system! Omaha was fourth! Because the actual physical beginning of the celebrated 1860s Transcontinental Railroad (with milepost number: “00”) lay merely a mile to the west of this museum, this museum deserves your appraisal and viewing.
The open wire exhibit was created from materials of this author and put on display in 2004. Council Bluffs’ old Carnegie Library has been converted and rehabilitated into the Union Pacific’s Corporate History Center and is receiving new donations yearly to make it a worthy contributor to southwest Iowa’s rail heritage.
1880s Train, Keystone, South Dakota Black Hills
One of several locomotives preserved to pull passenger cars filled with tourists on a former mining rail route.
The Black Hills Central Railroad carries tourists along a winding (one of the steepest grades used by any similar train in North America) and gorgeous rail journeys in the western portion of South Dakota. Originally, the route was used to haul mining supplies, ore and freight in and out of the Black Hills, this line was preserved and now serves as the nucleus and terminus of the South Dakota State Railroad Museum, Ltd.
Tickets for both round trips and one-way journeys can be accomplished with tickets sold in both towns of Keystone and Hill City, South Dakota. Expect to spend over an hour to and over an hour back during your journey. It is a slow, winding trip moving at the speed of 10-15 mph. Several former bifurcating destinations have been retired, but the former roadbed and tracks can still be discerned in between weeds and rocks.
The railroad has been featured in several movies, made-for-tv-movies and a two part episode of “Gunsmoke” with James Arness back in 1970.
Among the many sights to be seen, is a former Tungsten mine (used to harden steel), remnants of the original open wire signal circuit structures, both crossarm and wooden bracket style. Occasional spans of incomplete aerial wire can be seen. The owners of the railroad have left these surviving elements and are close to the easement of the tracks.
For more information, see “1880 Train” or go to: 1880train.com for the more complete information about this ride, tickets and other sundry considerations.
South Dakota State Railroad Museum, Ltd.
222 Railroad Avenue, Building A
P. O. Box 1070
Hill City, South Dakota 57745-1070
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Staged kidnap and hanging along the 1880 train route framed by trees and remains of a former signal circuit pole.
Museum of Communications, Seattle, Washington
An exceptional museum devoted to communications is found in the Seattle, Washington area. Please visit their collection via the Internet at:
Bell Pioneer Museum, Arizona
This museum sponsored by formerly Mountain Bell (Now Century Link) opened in 1989. They have free admission and tours available with expert personnel to guide you through the exhibits. Many of these people are retirees of the System and have much career history with Arizona and the Intermountain West technical history. The items include a very extensive collection of equipment, insulators and dramatic photography over the last 120 years. They are open Monday through Friday, from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.
It has come to my attention (July 2017) from an insider at the museum CentryLink has decided to end its sponsorship of the Pioneers and their work at the previous museum site. This is ALL the more reason to support their endeavor when large companies lose sight of their heritage and only retirees remain to “tell the story.”
The museum in Phoenix AZ has moved from 3640 E. Indian School Rd. Phoenix AZ to 3300 E. Broadway Road, Lot 282, Mesa, Arizona 85204.. Since we are located in a Central Office building they will not let us keep the door open. Tours must be per-arraigned. An active collector of insulator glass is currently going thru our boxes of glass to create a display that shows many types and styles. When he is finished will send you some pictures. The attached flyer is what we are using for advertising. We plan to link our web site to yours. If you would like any further info, please let me know. Thanks for your work.
Joe Hersey, Director
Bell Pioneer Museum
3300 E. Broadway Road, Lot 282
Mesa, Arizona 85204
LONG DISTANCE OPERATOR POSITIONS
TRAFFIC SERVICE POSITIONS (TSPS)
OPERATIONAL TELEGRAPH STATIONS
A VARIETY OF TELETYPES
TEST POSITIONS FROM SEVERAL ERAS
TELEPHONE POLE WITH CROSSARM AND GLASS
GLASS INSULATOR DISPLAY
AND MUCH MORE.
AVAILABLE FOR GROUP AND
3640 E. INDIAN SCHOOL RD
PHOENIX, AZ. 85018
ENTRANCE AND PARKING
ALL TOURS MUST
TO SCHEDULE A TOUR.
VISIT OUR WEBSITE FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION.
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE
PIONEERS, GO TO
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON
CenturyLink, please go to
THIS MUSEUM IS SUPPORTED BY THE PHOENIX-THUNDERBIRD CLUB. A UNIT OF ARIZONA CHAPTER #66
Here is the first picture of the Phoenix Pioneers museum insulator collection to which more will follow. As you can see, the display cabinet is two sided. More of the collection is displayed on the back side. The picture attached has also changed since my son took it this last weekend. I was still trying to decide how I wanted the display to look. Well now, I have a plan but still some work to do before it is finished. We are going to separate the two sides of the display cabinet so it’s not so distracting. Years ago I was a avid insulator collector along with my young son Tony. I was active for many years as a member of the Missouri Valley Insulator Club and the National Insulator Association.
Soon, a new breed of collectors moved into the hobby and were more interested in money than history so we decided it was time to move on. We sold off most of the collection but kept some of our favorites. As the second attachment states the first two shelves are loaned to the museum from what remains of our collections. The most of what they had here was donated by former Northwestern Bell Vice President Jerry Hargitt. He had some nice stuff but his collection lacked color. His collection does have both purple AGEE bells and a nice amber AGM from Australia. When I saw that the museum had a complete set of the Pilgrim Hat insulators except for the crystal one I decided to donate the one in my collection.
Joe Hersey asked if I’d be interested in helping with displaying what they had. Now I’m kind of hooked. The one thing in Jerry’s collection that did stand out is the AM Tel & Tel CD121 tolls were manufactured by three different companies and he had one of each insulator. Brookfield, Hemingray and R Good/WFG/WGM from Denver are the three.
Attachment 3 is a picture of my CD121 & 122 specialty collection. It’s kind of fun to be an active Pioneer again. The last two years I lived in Nebraska I was Casper Yost Chapter 19 VP since I’ve been in Arizona the most I’ve done is throw money at the group when they need it. Feel free to use anything I send you.
Coronado Chapter Telephone Pioneers of America Museum Insulator Display Phoenix, AZ
Shelves 1 & 2 (left to right)
Top Shelf: Pete & Tony Mortensen collection (on loan)
CD106 Hemingray No 9 7-Up Green
CD257 Hemingray No 60 (Mickey Mouse) Clear
CD106 Hemingray No 9 Swirled Jade Aqua (Drip Point Date)
CD256 Manhattan Blue
CD164 Maydwell Milk Glass
CD210 Postal Amber Swirled Aqua (Looks Green)
126.1 Cauvet’s Patent Brookfield Ice Aqua
CD231.2 Kimble Clear (Removed Hurricane Frederick Restoration, Mobile, AL 1979)
CD121 Dome Embossed AT&T
CD214 Nationales Telegrafos (Mexico) Amber
CD320 Pyrex 171 Clear
CD190-191 AT&T Two Piece Transposition (Ice Aqua)
Second Shelf (left to right)
CD121 Dated (Sharp Drip Points) Hemingray 16 Aqua with Jade Swirls
CD121 Dated (Smooth Base) Hemingray 16 (Drip Points Patent Date)
CD121 Hemingray 16 Emerald Green (Removed & replaced from service Wayne, NE)
CD162 California Purple (SCA)
CD135 CHI INS Co. Blue
CD123 EC&M Aqua
CD126.4 WE Mfg Co Green
CD151 HG Co Blue
CD128 Hemingray (Owens-Illinois) E-14B Opalescent (Hemingray dump item)
CD734 McMicking Light Aqua
CD259 Embossed Star Aqua with bubbles
CD145 Base Embossed American Insulator Company Blue
CD263 Base Embossed Oakman Columbia
Third Shelf (left to right) [Most glass is from the Jerry Hargitt collection, a former Northwestern Bell Vice President]
Save Time Telephone, Save Steps Telephone Bell Paperweight Ice Blue
Bell System Bell Paperweight Cobalt Blue
CD102 Embossed Star Ice Aqua
CD162 Embossed Star Green
CD106 Lynchburg Dark Green Aqua
CD162 Lynchburg Aqua
CD154 Whitall Tatum Greenish Aqua (WT in triangle)
CD109 Whitall Tatum Straw
CD154 Whitall Tatum Purple
CD252 Knowles Embossed Prism Blue
CD292 Embossed Prism (Knowles) Ice Blue
Fourth Shelf (left to right)
1971 Ohio Telephone Pioneers of America Pilgrim Hat Insulators
Co Number Manufactured
Cobalt Blue 4,791
White Milk Glass 3,043
Blue Haze 2,876
Amber Glo 2,796
Carnival Ruby Gold 2,659
Blue Carnival Peacock 2,514
Metropolitan Green 1,155
Cabinet Bottom (left to right)
CD31 ESB Co Chloride Accumulator Light Aqua (Battery Rest)
CD22.5 Gould Battery Light Aqua (Battery Rest)
Lighting Rod Cable Bushing Aqua
HK Porter Clear Plastic
Owens-Illinois Transposition Spool Clear
Three Radio Strains Clear, Purple (SCA) Teal
Brookfield Circuit Breaker (Johnny Ball)
Mica Beehive (Used in Arizona & New Mexico)
Three porcelain telephone insulators
“Omaha Tolls” by Peter Mortensen
Bell Pioneer Museum, Los Angeles, California
The state of California’s Bell operations boasts two major museums and one Independent Telephone history center. In Los Angeles, on Wilshire Boulevard, the Pioneers have stocked the exhibits with artifacts from old telephones, to varieties of buried, arial and underground cables, switchboards, old frames and other antiquities. Much memorabilia is available to the viewer. There is free admission, but it is only open on Wednesday only between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm. Call first and make an appointment: (213) 975-4042.
Bell Pioneer Museum
1010 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, California
Bell Pioneer Museum, Sacramento, California
On the 3rd floor of the Sacramento Bell Office, a comprehensive compilation of historical photos, diagrams, documents as well as a Teletype, test equipment and other historical relics are found. While you will have to call ahead (916) 972-3766, admission is free and setting up an appointment is easy. Inquire about tours.
Bell Pioneer Museum
2700 Watt Avenue, 3rd Floor
Continental Telephone (ConTel) Museum
It has been many years since I visited this particular museum and ConTel is no more. At one time, this musem had a very good collection of old Independent telephones, clocking equipment and insulators. Entrance is free to the public while arrival was scheduled during business hours: (8:00 – 5:00 pm, Monday-through-Friday). It was located at 16071 Mojave Drive in Victorville.
I do not know if this museum is still in operation. According to my old information, their phone number was (619) 245-0303. Any assistance here?
Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Company Archives/Museums
D. Schema standing amidst a portion of the 14th Street top floor museum exhibits
According to the black and white brochure furnished by The Telecommunications History Group, Inc.’s [acting] director, Renee Lang, the THG “maintains and operates one of the nation’s largest telecommunications industry archives. We operate two small museums in Denver, conduct educational programs on telephone history, and offer tours of the historic telephone building at 931 Fourteenth Street in Denver. The newest member of our group is the Museum of Communicaitons in Seattle.”
This modestly sized, yet surprisingly comprehensive collection, is found at the original Mountain Bell Headquarters Building in Denver.
“To preserve and publicize the heritage of the telecommunications industry in the United States,” is the mission of the THG.
By allowing qualified researchers access by appointment, research services include review of over 80,000 prints, negatives and slides from as far back as 1876, historic documents involving 500 historic telephone companies, a unique and diverse collection of telephone company stock certificates, scrapbooks, memoirs, and a stockpile of telephone directories from the 1890s to the present. These include the former U S WEST and Qwest serving area cities and towns.
One valuable asset to the computer user at home or office is the “Virtual Telecommunications Museum.” Here are “stories and photographs of the people and companies who made our industry great,” according to their brochure.
“A recent addition to the website is a tour of the MST&T HQ Building in downtown Denver. Paid for in part by a grant from the Colorado State Historical Fund, the tour tells the story of this beautiful building which has recently been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. To view the museum and the tour, go to www.telcomhistory.org.
“The Telecommunications History Group, Inc. is a non-profit organization funded by membership dues, research fees and grants,” of which for a period of four hours of research a fee of $20.00 is charged. For photographs used in commercial works, such as magazine articles, books and other publications for sale, the charge is $300.00. For a single use (photo for wall art or framed one-time use) the fee is $20.00.
Membership at the THG is $25.00 yearly. A quarterly newsletter, the Dial-Log, is sent to members and includes information relevant to the member, services and events of the THG and its affiliates. Volunteers are always appreciated, and the THG requires assistance regarding services to patrons where research, preservation, inventory, database entry, archival management, antique restoration, tour leadership, educational speaking and oral histories are involved. According to THG, “Most of the work is performed at our Denver location, but there are some opportunities for long-distance ‘televolunteering.'” For those potential volunteers, whose interest in communications was not borne of actual employment in the industry, but have an eager and substantial continuing interest, “telephone company experience is not required to become a THG volunteer.”
A multitude of phone directories from various periods and cities covered by Northwestern Bell, Mountain States, Pacific Northwest Bell and its predecessors, are accessible as part of the THG archives. Attorneys and geneologists seek their use.
As noted in other divisions of this website, the old Northwestern Bell, Pacific Northwest Bell and Moutain States Telephone & Telegraph, were merged intoU S WEST, during the early 1980s. In the late 1990s, QWEST assumed control. Now, Century Link, the nation’s third largest phone company, has commenced control over these same geographic areas.
Formerly, Mountain States boasted a comprehensive exhibit program on telephone antiquities at their 931 14th Street offices. They had a good show of old phone equipment, photographs, a display of technicians and their crafts, blueprints and specs of aerial cable, aerial wire and other network installations, a working magneto phone set, and even a liquid crystal phone. Open between 8:30 am and 6:00 pm, it was in the original Moutain Bell Building, which was to be restored to its original architectural decor. Call to set up an appointment for tours.
I want to personally thank Michael W. Nearing, Board Member of the THG, Renee Lang, the Acting Director of the organization as well as Jody L. Georgeson, for their outstanding assistance upon my arrival in March, to perform some archival research. The tour of the old 1929 Mountain States Headquarters Building by Mr. Nearing, was a real treat and much appreciated.
For additional information, membership, volunteering, archival access and the like, please contact: Renee Lang, Acting Director by calling: (303) 296-1221 or email@example.com. You may also write to the THG at:
The Telecommunications History Group, Inc.
Post Office Box 8719
Denver, Colorado 80201-8719
Some of the numerous displays in the archives and office section of the THG.
Among the many glittering historical examples displayed, is this instrument from the 1880s.
A glimpse of the many instrument sets available to be seen by the visitor to this outstanding musuem in Denver, Colorado.
Bell Pioneer Museum of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Florida is home to two Bell Pioneer Museums. The Ft. Lauderdale facility in Room 101-B at 6451 North Federal Highway, had an extensive library of books, manuals and technical bulletins regarding exhange, transmission and switching plant. Lots of photos. Some historical equipment and artifacts. They were open Monday through Friday, from around 8:30 to 5:00 pm. Formerly, the museum was sponsored by the Florida Gold Chapter of the ITPA, but don’t know if this is yet the case. In any case, it can be contacted by calling (305) 492-2848.
Bell Pioneer Museum of Jacksonville, Florida
One of the most fascinating aspects of communications is that of switching. Here is a really great example of an active, energized switching system installed (working) which any viewer can see and use. Around this excellent example, one finds an admirable collection of older phone sets, a Post Branch Exchange (PBX), a paystation artifact, a pole and lots of tools used by craft people in maintenance work on the local loop. They are open Monday through Friday, office hours: 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, but call first (904) 350-4114. Southern Bell was the sponsor for many years. However, present status of musuem support is unknown.
Bell Pioneer Museum
Southern Bell Tower, 3rd Floor
301 Bay Street
Maitland Historical & Telephony Museum,
Here the local Maitland Historical Society operates and conducts tours of the facility. There is free admission during Tuesday through Friday and Sunday (!) 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. Call first to verify times available: (407) 644-1364. It is a wonderful collection to appraise! The switchroom is a working one with a PBX, there are ample examples of the Strowger Step-by-Step, XY step switch and other noted switching evolutions. Payphones from the early days are displayed as well as some designer phones. Overvoltage and overcurrent protective equipment are illustrated and examples fill considerable space, lineman’s tools, models and insulators are among the other paraphenalia! Carl Hill Galloway, who founded Winter Park Telephone Company, donated many of the historical artifacts.
Maitland Historical & Telephony Museum
221 West Packwood Avenue
Southern Bell Center, Atlanta, Georgia
When last visited, the Southern Bell operated this history center and offered group tours. The exhibits were developed through AT&T and Western Electric’s design group and is free admission to any visitor. Of particular note were actual recordings of Thomas Watson explaining the early electrical discoveries of his illustrative partner in the creation of the telephone. Some excellent examples of very early telephone sets which compliment the great materials on fiber systems and satellite technology. You can reach them at (404) 529-7334. Open Monday through Friday, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm.
Southern Bell Center
675 West Peachtree Center
Agrirama 1890s Rural Village, Tifton, Georgia
In an example, quite similar to the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Nebraska is this Deep South example of an 1890 historical village. They have the only working 1890 phone system of its kind anywhere. Worthy of a stop near Tifton. Exit 20 and I-75. You can call them (on a much more modern system at: (912) 386-3344. They were open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, however, you might call them first. They do charge for admission–which is only right–since they are presumably a non-profit historical project: $4.00 adults; $2.00 children; $3.00 seniors.
GTE North/Verizon Communications Museum, Bloomington, Illinois
Heading up to central Illinois? Here’s a stop: the Illinois Operations Verizon museum in Bloomington at 1312 East Empire Street. They offer a very fine history of GTE’s evolution and growth, their Lenkurt and Automatic Electric companion equipment, a narrative of their first 50 years of operation. Unfortunately, it was not open to the general public, but if you’re persuasive enough, they might give you a gander: (309) 663-3311. Monday through Friday, (9:00 am to 3:00 pm).
Midland Telephone Museum, Champaign, Illinois
In Champaign, Illinois sits a fine little independent telco historical center. Most famous for its old switchboard collection, it also includes test equipment for aerial wire, lineman tools, pole erection materials, and some curious odd items for the viewer to gaze upon. They offer free admission and are willing to provide group tours, if you can bring the family reunion along with you! Open Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, they’d appreciate your stopping by.
1400 Anthony Drive
Illinois Bell Telephone Museum, Chicago, Illinois
Ameritec became the new name of Illinois Bell after the 1982 Bell System break-up and this downtown Chicago historical museum handily offers a very fine and well balanced collection of early telephones. Admission is free and open the normal working hours: 8:30 am to 4:00 pm. Parking may be a pain, so take the train!
Call first to confirm hours and schedule: (312) 727-2994.
Illinois Bell Telephone Museum
225 West Randolph Street
Gridley Telephone, Gridley, Illinois
Little museums sometimes offer some real historic gems and this collection is worth a stop: Gridley, Illinois. Lots of “stuff” on telephones and accompanying memorabilia. They are open business hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and you’ll need to call first: (309) 747-2221.
Oliver Parks Museum of Springfield, Illinois
Diverse is the word for this extensive historical telephone set collection! In a capitol place: Springfield, Illinois! Not too far from the capitol building sits the Oliver Parks Museum where there is memorabilia on telephone history galore. Illinois Bell was the sponsor for many years and offers free admission to enter. Their hours are 9:00 am to 4:30 pm and offer a toll free number for information: (800) 252-2871.
Oliver Parks Museum
529 South Seventh Street
CTS Turner, Museum, Elkhart, Indiana
Specializing in phones primarily, this museum is open only by appointment (219) 293-7511, however, the number of phones displayed is varied and unique. Incorporating old magneto hand-crank phones, they boast a switchboard, military phones, transistor radio sets and sweep potentiometers through the period, 1899 through 1940.
CTS Turner Museum
CTS Corporate Building
905 North West Boulevard
Lundberg Museum, Morgantown, Indiana
WOW! What a lot of phones! Like antique phone sets? Here ‘ya got them all! This Morgantown, Indiana facility houses one of the most extensive collection of antique phones anywhere! 500 plus phones including some museum replica quality phones from Bell’s early work, 1930s candlesticks, a six foot tall wood telephone and a silver dollar (!) payphone. This is a private collection, but most private collectors are pretty proud of their work and a call might open doors: (812) 597-5363.
Rural Route 4; Box 250
Telephone Pioneers of Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa
Heading to the Greatest State Fair in the Country? August 11th through the 21st captures the essence of Iowa at the State Fairgrounds, 3000 East Grand Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa. As part of the State Fair, the Telephone Pioneers stage a display of their historical finds, which include early telephones and much equipment from the last one hundred and thirty years. Call first to locate them: (515) 286-7111.
Jefferson Telephone Museum, Jefferson, Iowa
Independent telephone companies had the open market on unique phones, as they could buy from a multitude of sources. Here at Iowa’s Jefferson Telephone, are displays of silver dollar pay phone equipments, Amana Colony-manufactured communications equipment, economics of telephone systems and a variety of regional history materials relating to Jefferson, Iowa. Sorry, no specific open hours, it is best to contact by letter William H. Daubendiak III, President at 105 West Jefferson Street, Post Office Box 267, Jefferson, Iowa or call: (515) 386-2626.
Smokey Hill Historical Museum, Salina, Kansas
Kansas has two excellent telecom museums. As noted above the Museum of Independent Telephony, formerly operated by SPRINT at 412 South Cambell in Abilene is most excellent and exciting. However, not far away, in Salina, Kansas is the Smoky Hill Historical Mueum at 653 West South Street. The admission is free and if you can handle not going on a Monday, you’re fine. Otherwise, Tuesday through Friday they’re open from 12:00 noon to 5:00 pm. While other museums are sometimes closed on the weekends, the Smoky Hill Historical Museum is open on Saturday from 10:00 until 5:00 pm and Sunday: 1:00 to 5:00 pm. They’ve got the varitable array of instruments, sets and the first wall phone in Salina! But a 1902 switchboard and the test cabinets are really intriguing, too! Worth your time.
Telephone Pioneers Museum of Kentucky, Louisville
Ah, yes there’s the Bluegrass state and all those horses . . . if horses could talk, they’d want to stop by the Telephone Pioneers Museum in Louisville! They won’t let Thoroughbreds in, but you’re welcome to stop by and view an amazing array of switchboards, PBX equipment, magneto phones, test cabinets and sets, cables, construction tools, open wire materials, a complete pole head with arms, pins, braces and insulators! Lots of good research tools, too: directories from the 1913 period to the present, bulletins, technical manuals and such . . . Admission is free, but call ahead to schedule an appointment. That shouldn’t be a problem, as we have the number: (502) 582-3210!
Telephone Pioneers Museum
534 Armory Place
Telephone Pioneer Museum of Owensboro, Kentucky
Don’t leave Kentucky before you get to the only telephone museum featuring a . . . “gas” model! Fortunately for us, the 1870’s gas phone didn’t emerge as a standard for the ages, but you can see it here! This museum has over 40 antique phones, but is most famous for its outside plant memorabilia, which displays cable, hardware, outside aerial cable and wire curiousities. There’s even a teletype or two . . . Call (502) 926-2737 for assistance in setting up a group appointment.
Telephone Pioneer Museum
720 Frederica Street
Louisiana Bell Pioneer Museum, New Orleans
Want to walk off the calories from that great meal at Three Sisters? Well, here’s a place not far from Bourbon Street: the Bell Pioneer Museum of Louisiana and formerly South Central Bell. You’ll have to call first (504) 528-2096 and convince them (won’t be too hard) to let you in, but there’s enough displayed to keep you involved for over an hour or two. Lots of old telephones in the collection as well as switching equipment and very interesting directories . . . some pretty unusual covers! It’s over at 365 Canal Street in New Orleans.
Baltimore Museum of Industry, Maryland
If you’re in Baltimore, you’ll want to go to the National Aquarium and many port-side ship exhibits. But don’t stop there. Go to the Baltimore Museum of Industry at 1415 Key Highway, where a telephone display by the Chesapeake & Potomic Telephone is on display, along with many other Baltimore industry-related artifacts were found. The museum is not free, but the cost is light; $2.00 for adults; $1.00 for seniors and children–the last time I was there. It is open Tuesday through Sunday, from noon until 5:00 pm. You might call first for further information and directions: (301) 727-4808.
Museum of Science in Boston, Massachusetts
At Science Park, the museum is worthy of a grand tour, and among the many noted artifacts relating to technology and science is a small display of telephone sets. You might call for current information and directions: (617) 723-2500. They are open from Monday through Wednesday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. On Thursday through Saturday, they open from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm. Admission is $5.00 for adults; $3.00 for children.
New England Telephone Museum
Free admission is good; a grand mural in the lobby is an eye catcher! Twelve foot by one hundred and sixty feet, spans the history of telephone labor from 1877 to 1951. Among the more specific finds at this museum are: first switchboard and commercial phone sets; first patent grant; lots of equipment and references as well as a grand re-assembled original Bell workshop! They are open Monday through Friday, working hours 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. Sorry! They’re closed on weekends.
Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan
When one goes to the Henry Ford Museum, your interest is namely going to be automotive, but within the confines of this venerable display of technical history, one finds a very fine collection of telephone sets from historical periods. It is worth seeing, whether or not you are an automotive fanatic. The fees to enter are worth it: $9.50 for adults; $4.75 for children. They are open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Call for tour information: (313) 271-1620.
Henry Ford Museum
20900 Oakwood Boulevard
Minnesota State Telephone Museum
Mountain Lake’s Heritage Village is an historical farmsted community nestled in the Minnesota lakes country. From May 15th through October 1st, the village is open to visitors. Here is a telephone display among other notable and interesting elements of northern midwest farmlife. To inquire about entrance into this facility, address correspondence to Henry Kliewer or call: (507) 427-3456.
Missouri State Capitol Building Telephone Exhibit, Jefferson City, Missouri
Jeff City is one of the few state capitals not intersected by an Interstate highway (nearby is I-70 to the north at Columbia), but a 30 minute jaunt south down U. S. 63 or taking U. S. 54 through downtown is worth the trip. As one of the most majestic state capitols in the United States it perches on a high bluff above the meandering Missouri River. The Capitol boasts tours and has an impressive interior. Built at the turn of the century, when the old wooden capital burned (which is so often the historic case with statehouses of former times), the people of Missouri built an ediface second to none and built to stay. Oh yes . . . antique telephones . . . are displayed inside on the first floor. While a small collection, they–and the Capitol itself–are both worth a look!
Mid-Missouri Telephone Museum, Pilot Grove
You’ll have to call ahead (816) 834-3311, but in a small office in Gilliam, holds a varied and colorful collection of phones and other artifacts relating to the central Missouri operations area. You can see this collection by appointment only, so call Harold Jones or write:
Post Office Box 38
Pilot Grove, Missouri
Mid-Missouri Independent Telephone Pioneers Museum, Blackwater, Missouri
Historic Blackwater, Missouri’s downtown hosts the Mid-Missouri Independent Telephony Museum
If you are going to a play at the Arrow Rock Theater, spending an overnight at the Iron Horse Bed & Breakfast, visiting Missouri Regionalist Artist Bingham’s home, be sure to also stop in at the Mid-Missouri Museum of Independent Telephone Pioneers in nearby Blackwater, Missouri.
While the museum doesn’t have a lot of open wire-related exhibits, there are some very well preserved switchboards on display. As the museum pays tribute, “The days prior to direct dial phones have a wonderful history of equipment and stories to tell. This museum holds lots of equipment from those days for you to see.”
The red brick building at the south end of Blackwater’s Main Street was originally the Bank of Blackwater. The Great Depression ruined the bank and its depositors and left its uses to the whim of various owners who made the structure a church, grocery store, and finally, the main offices of Mid-Missouri Telephone Company. The museum recalled as the phone company began operations, personal operators stood by to take calls prior to automatic switching.
In the website’s description of the assets located in the building, it recalls, “the collection of phones, switchboards and other items featured in the museum were donated by the owner of the phone company and by a retired executive of General Telephone of the Midwest.”
There are a few line wire items on display. The exhibits are in excellent condition and seeing this memorabilia is worth the stop. Be certain to call first and arrange a time to visit. You will be very welcome.
Location: 301 Doddridge Avenue; Phone: (660) 846-4411
Interior of the Mid-Missouri Independent Telephony Museum.
St. Joseph Historical Museum
Free admission is great and if you come during the week, Monday thorugh Friday, noon to 4:00 pm as well as Saturday and Sunday, one to five, you’ll see a very extensive (however private) collection of telephone sets from 1920 through 1960. The St. Joseph Historical Society provides the support for this museum and tours are available. Call (816) 232-5861.
St. Joseph Historical Museum
3rd & Paulin
St. Louis, Missouri
Bell Pioneer Museum of Montana, Helena
There’s lots to do and see in Big Sky Country, and if you’re in Helena, there is a modest, but interesting little historical museum open by appointment only. Call (406) 441-3590, to see photographs, illustrations, telephone sets, equipment and lots of communications paraphenalia of the northern Rocky Mountain areas.
Bell Pioneer Museum
560 North Park
Durham Western Heritage Museum, Omaha, Nebraska
The Durham Western Heritage Museum has undergone many changes since it took residence in the old Burlington Depot, near the Old Market Area in Omaha, Nebraska. While it is closed Mondays, Tuesday through Saturday it is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and Sundays from one until five. There are a multitude of exhibits on the history of Omaha and Nebraska. Of these, are some concerning the evolution of the telephone set, equipment from various businesses, a section of the transoceanic cable, and some general communications history. Last time I visited, it was $2.00 for adults, $1.00 for kids under 12 years of age. Union Pacific was sponsoring this historical program and provided many funds for its preservation of the depot and its lavishly restored interior.
Durham Western Heritage Museum
801 South Tenth Street
Bell Pioneer Museum of Nevada, Reno
You’ll have to call before visiting, to arrange entrance, but the Bell Pioneers have established a sizeable collection of telecommunications antiquities, and paying particular attention to the telephone operator, they have a number of fine related artifacts. Lots of early Nevada Bell publications, “traveling” exhibit programs, insulators of significant varieties, and a general history of Nevada Bell’s Silver State 75 years of operation. This author has had the distinct honor of having made significant donations to its historical program in 1989.
Bell Pioneer Museum
AT&T (Formerly Nevada Bell)
645 East Plumb Lane
Merrimack County Telephone Company Museum, Contoocook, New Hampshire
Again, like Nevada Bell’s museum, it is corporate and one has to call before gaining entrance (603) 746-9911, but it is worthy of a visit–especially if you like antique phone collecting as material to New England. Located at 3 Kearsage Avenue in Contoocook, New Hampshire, you will find a fine collection of antique phones, switchboards from businesses and other commercial communications artifacts, a beautiful and comprehensive collection of old northern New England phone directories. Their phone collection goes back to 1878, so there are many unique features displayed throughout their interior museum. They are open business hours: 9:00 am to 4:30 pm weekdays.
Merrimack County Telephone Company
3 Kearsage Avenue
Contoocook, New Hampshire
Telephone Pioneers of America, Manchester, New Hampshire
The New Hamphire Telephone Pioneers have a small, but notable museum located at 1228 Elm Street in Manchester, containing old phone sets, considerable documentary history in photos and in technical information of the New Hampshire regional area, as well as a good selection of cables on display. You’ll have to call before visiting (603) 645-2666, if you can make arrangements to visit, their hours are broad: Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm.
Bell Pioneer Museum of New Mexico, Albuquerque
Free admission and tours guided by experienced and capable retirees of the system bring to life a very complete history of 120 years of telephone technology. From Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, you can see many diverse phones, instruments, test equipments, hardware, tools for installers, splicers and outside/inside plant work. Call ahead for details (505) 256-2105.
Bell Pioneer Museum
1209 Mountain Road Pl. N. E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
College of Southwest, Hobbs, New Mexico
This museum contains many relics of the Hobbs, New Mexico area. Among them is a small collection of phone instruments and sets. There is free admission, but you’ll have to call ahead (505) 392-6561, to confirm an appointment to see the museum.
College of Southwest
6610 Lovington Highway
Hobbs, New Mexico
Bell Pioneer Museum, Albany, New York
Albany and upstate New York are full of interesting things to do and if you make an appointment (518) 471-6841, you’ll be able to view the incredible collection of telephone sets and instruments, tools of the outside plant, cable technology, a comprehensive collection of photos, history of phone bills (!), a crossbar No. 5 switch and a central office step switch–among many other interesting communications history exhibits. There are some switchboards for commercial operations for appraisal as well!
Bell Pioneer Museum
158 State Street
Albany, New York
Bell Pioneer Museum, Comack, New York
Just off the Northern State Highway, at Comack, Long Island New York, you will find a wonderful historical museum of antique telephony. Featuring an open wire line with poles, arms, conductor which are “heated up” and ready for your call over several magneto phones, there are collections comprising original phone booths of the 1940s, a working switchboard, a 1902 party line in operation for the kids to operate! Remember the “Picture Phone?” They have two you can operate as well as a number of interactive exhibits and film/video. Worth the trouble to set up an appointment (516) 423-2275. Admission is free!
InfoQuest Center, Manhattan, New York
If you’re in the City, around 56th Street in Manhattan, stop by the InfoQuest Center where free admission will get you into to see a lively collection of telephone instruments, patent models, complimenting this with lots of good historical photos of communications evolution in America. The museum is quite old and has been sponsored by AT&T since 1913. While closed on Mondays, you can call ahead (212) 605-5500 and confirm their opening hours: Tuesday: 10:00 am to 9:00 pm and Wednesday through Sunday: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Bell Pioneer Museum, Syracuse, New York
Small, but useful is this historical preservation effort housed at 300 East Washington Street, in Syracuse, New York. They have a selection of telephone instruments, good photographs of over a hundred years of telephony and a few pieces of equipment restored and protected by doting volunteers. Appointments are required to access the collection, but you can call (315) 479-4565 ahead to get the chance to review the collection.
Telephone Pioneer Museum of North Dakota, West Fargo
Like New Hamphire, North Dakota is tucked away up north, but possesses a site which is a gem of a collection and one can harvest some unusual features from your visit: free admission to see a telephone office from 1900, working lines between the historical residences and offices of the village, called “Living Prairie Village.” The admission is free and is open every day of the week: specifically, Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and Saturday/Sunday 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
Telephone Pioneer Museum
West Fargo, North Dakota
Telephone Pioneer Museum, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Visiting the State Capitol at Harrisburg? At the Point Mall, not far away, in Suites 231-235, you will find an “Antique Room.” Here are public phones and coin instruments, residential phones and an old switchboard, worth a gander. Call ahead (717) 255-5378, and set up an appointment to enter. Admission: free.
Telephone Pioneer Museum
Bell Pioneer Museum, Aberdeen, South Dakota
Qwest Building (formerly the Northwestern Bell C. O.) on the lower level, houses a remarkably complete history of South Dakota’s evolution of communications in regards to the Bell company and its predecessors. They’re open during 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and admission is free. Only one hold-up: you’ll have to call ahead to set up an appointment. The sponsor is the Telephone Pioneers and group tours with worthy technically competent volunteer guides are available.
Bell Pioneer Museum
15 Fourth Avenue, S. W.
Aberdeen, South Dakota
Hands On Museum, Johnson City, Tennessee
Funny name but serious museum! In Johnson City, Tennessee, you’ll find lots of “kid-geared” exhibits and communications technology is among them. They do charge, but modestly: $2.00 for adults; $1.00 for kids under 12 and $1.50 for seniors. It’s on Johnson City’s main street–not hard to miss. You can inquire for directions (615) 928-6508, if you so desire and ask about their hours of operation.