1920 - E. F. Caldwell & Co., Inc.

Custom Desk Set

1920 E. F. Caldwell & Co., Inc. Custom Desk Set

Condition

Mint, original condition

Comments

One of the earliest, finest examples of celebrating form and function. Achieved by turning the telephone instrument into a work of art.

 

This is the most beautiful telephone I’ve ever held in my hands. It is a 100 year old, custom, hand-made telephone manufactured by E. F. Caldwell & Co., Inc. New York.

All of the telephones in this candlestick collection are historically significant. Many of them represent the only telephone known to exist from competing Independent telephone companies that eventually failed and succumbed to the Bell monopoly. What could be more historically significant than the very last instrument from a failed telephone company?   This spectacular E.F. Caldwell telephone however, IS a Bell Telephone, a 40AL model that was meticulously enhanced from the ground-up by one of Caldwell’s artisans sometime betweem 1914 - 1920.  Here is the E. F. Caldwell story:

Edward F. Caldwell & Co., of New York City, was one of the premier designers and manufacturers of electric light fixtures and decorative metalwork from the late 19th to the mid-20th centuries. They were frequently called “Masters of Metal and Light”.  Founded in 1895 by Edward F. Caldwell (1851–1914) and Victor F. von Lossberg (1853–1942), the firm left a legacy of custom designed and finely-made, metal gates, lanterns, chandeliers, ceiling and wall fixtures, floor and table lamps, and other decorative objects that can be found today in many metropolitan area churches, public buildings, offices, clubs, and residences including, the White House (1902 renovation), St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, the New York Public Library, Rockefeller Center, Vanderbuilt Mansion, Andrew Carnegie Residence, Harvard Club and University Club of New York to name a few.

In 1895, Caldwell established the firm Edward F. Caldwell & Co., Inc. of New York with Victor von Lossberg, at 31 East 17th Street. Von Lossberg, a designer and draftsman that Caldwell had worked with at Archer & Pancoast, was a native of Latvia, raised in Russia and studied design in Germany. Caldwell and von Lossberg brought skilled artisans from Europe to New York to work for the firm. They frequently traveled to Europe studying and importing historic objects for use as inspiration in the production of their electric light fixtures.

In 1901, they established their own foundry at 36-40 West 15th Street, along with their showrooms and offices. They quickly became known for producing lighting fixtures and metalwork objects in bronze, iron, silver, brass, and copper. Attracting commissions from some of the most prominent architects of the period including McKim, Mead & White, Carrere & Hastings,Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson, and Cass Gilbert.

The firm continued under Victor von Lossberg after Edward Caldwell died in October 1914. Under Von Lossberg, the company created more original designs rather than strictly duplicating antiques that had been a standard for the firm previously. Lighting and desk accessories now contained intricate gilding and vitreous enamel work. In the 1920s, the firm also explored more contemporary designs such as Art Deco styles for lights at Radio City Music Hall and the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

Almost all of Caldwell’s custom pieces were photographed and added to the company archive, which is now available online through the Smithsonian Library. It was here that a search through hundreds of pages of photographs turned up one page with four fantastic E. F. Caldwell candlestick telephone creations. Including this beautiful telephone. It has all of the Caldwell touches, including the intricate gilding, an ivory receiver and mouthpiece and the near perfect detail.

There are many examples of historically significant telephones in this collection and others, but few, if any, will rival this E. F. Caldwell & Co. Inc. of New York candlestick telephone. And it is only a matter of time before we discover who originally commissioned the telephone or who the telephone was purchased by. Without a doubt, this is one of the true treasures from the earliest days of the telephone.