Columbia Telephone Manufacturing Co. 1894 fluted shaft desk set.


fluted shaft (Columbia Telephone Manufactuing Company)
Columbia Telephone Manufactuing Company
Outstanding original condition


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 Telephones were manufactured under the patents of James W. McDonough and H. H. Eldred. At the time of issue, McDonough’s patents were assigned to Logan C. Murray of New York, President of The United States National Bank & President of The American Banker’s Association.  Interestingly enough, Eldred’s patents were assigned to the Western Electric Company at the time of issue.   Columbia’s telephones were introduced as an a 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 accommodate up to 30 stations in a small to medium business. The entire Columbia Telephone Company was assembled and manufactured by the company in its New York factory. Telephone advertisements began to appear during the year of 1894 for the company. James W. McDonough of Chicago, Illinois had the little-known distinction of being the only inventor to de-throne Alexander Bell as the original inventor of the telephone. McDonough was a well-to-do furniture manufacturer of whose hobby, since 1867, had been experimenting with electrically produced sound. His “sound reproducer” was nothing more than an electromagnet positioned close to an iron disc attached to a flexible membrane. It differed little from the electro-magnetic receivers used by many of the early experimenters. Not content with just producing sound electrically, for years he had pondered the possibility of sending the human voice over a telegraph wire. By 1875 he had created a device that he claimed would do just that. He called it the Teleloge, and on April 10, 1876 applied for a patent. But unlike Alexander Bell, who could get patents issued in just two or three weeks, McDonough’s application would be mired down in Patent Office hearings, interference actions and general red tape for over eight years. The main problem with McDonough’s application was not the receiver, but his transmitter. Although physically different from Reis’ transmitter, in principle it was virtually identical (see Reis Transmitter). And if that wasn’t enough, McDonough made the same mistake Reis did when he referred to it as a “circuit breaker,” an instrument that would make and break the circuit - or so he thought. Like Reis, McDonough had not yet heard of the microphone mode. And also like Reis, McDonough’s make and break explanation would prove just as fatal. McDonough’s patent application eventually became embroiled in interference actions with other telephone inventors, including Bell and Elisha Gray. An interference occurs when two or more inventors lay claim to essentially the same invention. When this happened, the matter was turned over to the Examiner of Interferences, whose task it was to determine, with hearings and testimony, who first conceived the invention. In the United States, in interference actions, the patent goes to the inventor who can prove priority of conception, not necessarily to the one who was first to file. Although McDonough’s transmitter was deemed non-functional for the same reason as was Reis’, despite testimony to the contrary, the receiver portion of his application was declared to have been conceived prior to that in Bell’s famous patent. In essence, McDonough was now the original inventor of the telephone. This was not only a blow to Bell’s ego, but a serious threat to the Bell Telephone Company’s patent-based monopoly. They immediately appealed this devastating decision to the examiners in chief, the next highest level of appeals, who eventually reversed the previous ruling. Retaliating, McDonough took his case directly to the court of last resort, Commissioner of Patents Benjamin Butterworth, hoping to have the previous ruling reinstated. But Butterworth sustained the decision of the examiners in chief, and the Bell Telephone Company breathed a sigh of relief. by A. Edward Evenson, Author of the book The Telephone Patent Conspiracy of 1876 The scans are 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.


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