Belgian automatic magic: 4 ITT/Standard Electric dial telephones that came from Antwerp and went global

BTMC 2712
BTMC 2712

BTMC decalBTMC, the Bell Telephone Manufacturing Company, was founded as a base from which Europe could be conquered for the Bell telephone company, later for the Western Electric company (Standard Electric) and after that for ITT. BTMC played an enormous part in the rise of telephony in Europe in the late 1800s and was hugely influential after that.

Because of this a number of telephones were developed at BTMC that were meant to be produced at other Standard Electric/ITT plants throughout Europe and the rest of the world. These telephones were manufactured in ever vaster numbers, as telephony grew with the times. Some of these telephones became national icons and were the very first telephones people owned.

1912: BTMC 2652

BTMC 2652
BTMC 2652

With the advent of automatic telephony this telephone was designed to be easily converted from a CB-telephone to a dial telephone. It was suitable for non-automatic networks, semi-automatic networks and of course, with the addition of a dial, for fully automatic networks. Early production was interrupted by the Great War and subsequent occupation of most of Belgium by the Germans. Production was resumed in 1919/1920 and it was exported to many countries and other Standard Electric plants produced exact copies of it or their own version. It was designed with ease of production in mind and the wall version of it shared many of the same components. Still, because of technical limitations it still is a simple metal box with cradle and dial bolted on, like many of its competitors.

1927: BTMC 2712

BTMC 2712 (1)
BTMC 2712 (1)

Further rationalisation of production, the demand for huger numbers and technological developments making components smaller, called for a new design resulting in this. Sharing many features with the Modell 27/W28 by Siemens this model had a more shapely form, made possible by the use of a Zinc alloy casting. We also see the advent of bakelite with the E4 handset, originally developed by Western Electric in the USA. This basic configuration of elements, such as the integrated dial at an angle, the handset on top and across, bells inside the body shell, would be the standard for telephone designs until well into the 1980s. Even the pope had one of these and used it for decades.

1936: BTMC 2724

BTMC 2725
BTMC 2725

Bakelite eased production still further and with the components bolted to the base plate and the single part body shell, this telephone was easy to produce and easy to maintain. Many versions were made. Collectors call this “the Antwerp phone”. Although it was produced in many countries, times started to change and national telephone companies started asking for their own specific designs with technical solutions for their own national network.
Pictured here is the BTMC 2725, the wall version of the Antwerp Phone.

1957: the Assistent

SEL BTMC Assistent
SEL BTMC Assistent

The last of the Belgian designs that was globally produced. Times had changed and BTMC developed this jointly with SEL, Standard Elektrik Lorenz from Germany. This was one of the first plastic (non-bakelite) telephones in Europe, together with the Siemens & Halske M55/Fg Tist 282. Grey is the colour of the time and versions of the Assistant were produced all over the world. It was, among others, produced in Germany as the standard telephone for the Deutsch post, as the FeTAp 61, in Spain as the Heraldo, in Latin America and even in Australia. They come in many colours and insides differ greatly.

After this the world and the position of BTMC in it had changed  a lot: telephone companies wanted their own designs, leading to a greater diversity of models and after that consumers demanded even more variety of colours and models and the freedom to choose their own telephones. BTMC continued to produce telephones often designed by other ITT or Alcatel companies, but their own designs were never as abundant as they once were.

5 Comments

    • Hi Stefan, thank you for your comment. Sorry, I do not know who made it. I’m not a payphone expert, I’m afraid and I do not know this model.
      The dial is ITT, the same as the handset. That is about all I can say about it.
      Perhaps you can ask the postamuseum.
      Regards, Arwin

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