1894 - Columbia Telephone Manufactuing Company

fluted shaft

1894 Columbia Telephone Manufactuing Company fluted shaft


Outstanding original condition


Extremely rare, c. 1894


There are a lot of rare and very special upright telephones in this collection. Picking only one as the rarest is impossible because quite a few of these telephones are the only ones that are known to exist, making a lot of them as rare as the next. But this Columbia Telephone is exceptional in every way. It is my clear choice for number one upright "candlestick" telephone in the collection. No other telephone ever made comes close to this. It was designed and manufactured to compete with and exceed the beauty and functionality of the Bell Telephone. Columbia had one goal in mind when they launched their telephone company in 1894 and introduced this very first upright telephone to America. Beat Bell Telephone. Every detail is unique. The transmitter, the receiver, the curved fluted shaft and the beautiful round turned walnut base make this unlike any other upright ever made.

Look at the ornate lettering on the back of the transmitter and the intricate detail on the face of the transmitter. The receiver rests on a unique hook (obviously to get around the Bell switch hook patent that was expiring in 1894). And the curved fluted shaft is a masterful, early example of form and function. 

Columbia’s telephones were "introduced as an alternative to paying a never ending, constantly increasing rental fee from the Bell Telephone Company". It offered a telephone system for outright purchase which would handle up to 30 extensions in a small to medium business.

The scan is from the front page of an original November 24, 1894, Scientific American magazine. The entire front page of this issue featured the Columbia Telephone Manufacturing Company and included pictures that showed this telephone. This desk set is the only one known to exist in a private collection.