Early Communication

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The Western Electric number 317 megneto wall phones were introduced in 1907 and remained in production for about thirty years. The model number remained the same however, many changes were seen in the phone through the years. Below are examples of some of the changes that were seen in this popular Western Electric telephone.

The earliest version of the 317 was in production for a short time. The back board had an arched top with the line terminals attached. This is called a cathedral top. The door had a decorative groove routed around the base of the transmitter which is referred to as a picture frame front. This phone used a No. 122 Western Electric receiver with external terminals (commonly called a 'pony' receiver) and a No. 229 solid-back receiver. Internally, the earliest phones had a 'red bar' magneto that was commonly found in the model 301 phones. Note that the door was hinged to open left to right. This was found to interfere with the magneto crank and later versions of the 317 had door arrangements to open right to left.

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The telephone exchange on exhibit at the Smith Zimmermann Museum was named the Battle Creek Telephone Exchange and was used in Wentworth, South Dakota in the early 1900s. The exchange was first located at Olson Drug Store in Wentworth. It was later moved to the post office there. Local resident, Eldon Thornber donated the exchange to the museum many years ago. Wentworth is a small town less than 10 miles from Madison and Battle Creek was the name of a creek that ran nearby, as well as the name of a town that no longer exists.

Telephone service dates back to the late 1800s, but didn't reach South Dakota until the early 1900s. According to local residents, the first telephone line in the county was installed in Wentworth in 1904.

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