Kellogg Switchboard and Supply Company

Milo Gifford Kellogg was an engineer in the early days of telephony. His place in history is probably underappreciated, but he made his mark in two areas. He tackled and worked out the problems of large switchboards, and he set up a company that provided the most serious opposition to the Bell/Western Electric empire.

On his graduation from the University of Rochester, Kellogg joined the electrical products firm of Gray and Barton in 1870. He stayed with them until 1889, rising to superintendent of manufacturing in the Chicago factory. During this period Gray and Barton built telephones for the Western Union telegraph company, a contract they lost when the American Bell company beat Western Union in court over the patent on the telephone. As a result of this case, American Bell bought into Gray and Barton and it was renamed Western Electric in 1872. It became American Bell's manufacturing company. Kellogg thus had a good grounding in the earliest telephones and switchboards.

After leaving Western Electric he travelled for several years studying telephone developments, before founding the Kellogg Switchboard and Supply Company in 1897 in Chicago. This company held his patents for telephone equipment and switchboards. Bell's original patents expired in 1893 and 1894, leaving Kellogg free to improve on the Western Electric designs. He was a prolific inventor. In 1899 , on one memorable day (October 17th) , he was granted 125 patents. His company's main customers were the independent telephone companies that were springing up to service new areas that American Bell had not yet got to. They also supplied independents in some large towns that did not want to go with American Bell. Kellogg supplied a full range of telephones and parts, including switchboards. He developed a multiple switchboard that enabled 9,600 lines to be hooked up, with an ultimate capacity for 24,000 lines. His company was the first to introduce full lamp signalling on their switchboards.

American Bell did not give up their patents without a fight. The bankers and businessmen who controlled the company tried to have the old patents extended, and used many legal tactics to try to frustrate their opposition.

In 1901 Milo Kellogg, in poor health, signed a power of attorney for his brother in law, Wallace DeWolf, to run the company. He retired to California. American Bell now started secretly buying Kellogg shares from Mr DeWolf, and achieved a controlling interest. Their intention was to eventually sue Kellogg for patent infringement, a case Kellogg would deliberately lose, then force the independent companies to remove their Kellogg equipment and go back to WE switchboards. The news gradually came to light in spite of the secrecy, and in 1903 a minority group of shareholders staged a court case to have the sales ruled invalid. Kellogg, who had recovered his health, had been unable to buy back his shares from American Bell. The case made its way to the Illinois Supreme Court. In 1909 the Court found in favour of the shareholders and ordered the sale reversed, on the grounds that the purchase of Kellogg stock had been intended to stifle competition.

Milo Kellogg died in the same year. The business was taken over by his son, Leroy.

In fairness to American Bell, it must be pointed out that their managerial staff and the financiers behind the company genuinely believed that the telephone in the United States could best be provided by a private monopoly - the system would be just too complicated to develop if it was broken up and fragmented. The financial rewards would also, of course, be high. Milo Kellogg and his lawyers proved to be the chief opposition to this policy. The secret purchase backfired badly on American Bell. They were already being criticised for high prices, poor service, and their reluctance to provide service to some areas.

Kellogg's first phones were in the style of the Western Electric phones that had proved popular and durable in the early years. With his engineering expertise he was able to produce parts that in many ways were technically better than those of Western Electric.

The earliest phones were twin box wall phones in the large and boxy U.S. style. Kellogg never used the Blake transmitter with its separate box, so three box phones were not part of their range.

Their transmitter was designed by Mr W W Dean and progressively modified by the company engineers. Although superficially similar to the White Solid Back transmitter , the Dean had its carbon granule container attached directly to the diaphragm. This gave a transmitter that may have been superior in reliability to the White. This would have been a useful selling point for Kellogg. The independent phone companies often covered large areas of farmland and it could take some time to get a serviceman to a breakdown, so reliability was important to these companies. The transmitter, coil and arm were incorporated into a single unit called a triplet as production processes improved. .












The Kellogg receiver was also similar to the Bell design, but again was built with reliability and durability in mind. The magnet assembly was threaded into the case and the cord was anchored by a separate strain relief cord to take the stress off the wires if the receiver was dropped. The transmitter mount was a steel pressing in a rather shapely "clover leaf" design, which contrasted with Western Electric's plain rectangular mount.




Left: Model 2536 . Note Kellogg's pressed steel transmitter arm mounting.

Right: Model 2884, a simplified version with a more basic finish.






When Kellogg issued their single box wall phone it followed the familiar Western Electric style. The initial model was a Cathedral Top Picture Frame Front model, which gradually gave way to a PFF-only version, and finally to the F2884, a plain box version.


Left: An alternative model of magneto phone, in the less popular "tombstone" style.


Because many of their customers worked in isolated rural areas where part lines were the only economic way to provide service, Kellogg perfected a ringing system for party lines that used four different ring frequencies. Each phone on the party line could have its bell mechanically and electrically tuned to only ring on one frequency, doing away with the need for Morse-type code rings as used on many of the world's party lines. The system was gradually improved until a ten party line could be catered for. In a final advance, two code rings were introduced to allow a twenty-party line to be handled.











The company also produced a small candlestick phone that proved popular not only with the U.S. independent companies, but with a number of overseas administrations as well. The phone underwent a number of changes through its life. It started out with an outside terminal receiver, updated to the sealed receiver as shown at left, and finally had the bakelite sleeve on the shaft replaced by a basic painted steel finish as shown on the right.

In 1908 L M Ericssons opened a new factory at Buffalo. The history is uncertain, but they appear to have formed a strategic alliance with Kellogg. A new style of telephone came out of this alliance. Kellogg called it the GrabAPhone.






Left: Original GrabAPhone listed in the 1910 catalog as the "Microtelephone".

Right: First "Ericsson" model, issued by Ericsson, Kellogg and later by Federal.






Left: Final all-Kellogg model

Right: Auto version

In 1905 Kellogg introduced the first handset telephone built by a U.S. manufacturer. It was a compact telephone to take advantage of the new CB exchanges, which did away with the need for bulky batteries in the customer's phone. It served as a more modern alternative to the candlestick phone. They called it the Microtelephone at first, but the name was quickly changed to the GrabAPhone. Initially the phone was mostly built from their own parts and an Ericsson handset. In the later Model F111 they appear to have used the base from an Ericsson candlestick phone, Ericsson cradle and handset. The shaft was covered with a sleeve of bakelite, which they called "Kellite", as used on their candlestick phone. Ericsson or Kellogg brands are found on this bakelite sleeve, so it appears that the phone was a cooperative venture. Within a year or so the GrabAPhone base had been changed to one adapted from Kellogg's F118 candlestick. Kellogg gradually used more and more of their own parts as the phone proved successful. The Ericsson handset was remodeled on less elaborate lines, the terminals enclosed and rounded mountings substituted for Ericsson's pillar mounts. By around 1912 the Ericsson cradle had been replaced with a simpler pressed steel cradle, finished in nickel plate. By the end of the First World War the nickel plate had disappeared and the whole phone was now finished in black japan, a baked enamel finish. In 1918 the Ericsson factory closed and Kellogg bought many of their parts and dies.

The GrabAPhone had its weakness. The transmitter was vertical when in use, so it did not give as strong a signal as a transmitter in which the sound applied directly to the diaphragm. The cup on the mouthpiece partly overcame this. The weaker signal did, however, reduce sidetone a bit (sidetone is when the signal from the transmitter feeds back into the receiver). It also used a "retardation coil", which cut down sidetone from the already lower signal. Mounting the transmitter so it was vertical in normal use helped reduce packing of the carbon granules, so this was a plus. (This explanation is from Ralph O Meyer's "Old Time Telephones").

These comments sum up the reasons for which Western Electric would not introduce handset telephones of their own in quantity until 1927. Western Electric was still using the solid back transmitter, which was bulky and unsuitable for a handset, and a booster circuit that would have increased feedback. The GrabAPhone gave Kellogg a technical lead over Western Electric, and introduced more Americans to handset phones..

In 1932 George Eaton, a Kellogg engineer, patented a "non-positional" transmitter that resolved the packing problems and made handsets a simple and trouble free proposition for Kellogg.This patent was soon licensed to other manufacturers in competition with Western Electric, and marked the end of the separate transmitter/receiver in the United States.






Left: Model 725 Desk Phone

Centre: Model 700 Masterphone

Right: Model 925 auto Masterphone

From the end of World War One, matters between American Bell and the independent telephone companies settled down somewhat. The Bell network concentrated on improving its service in the face of increasing public hostility over prices and quality. The independents continued to grow steadily. The Depression caused a lull in development, but Kellogg came out of it with a new range of telephones using a new compound - bakelite. The first fully moulded phones were introduced around 1933. Their F725 desk phone and F301 candlestick phone also marked their entry into the new automatic telephones. They added an automatic switching system, the Relaymatic, to their range in 1939. They added Ericssons' Crossbar to the range in 1950. Their F700, F900 and F730 Masterphone range of telephones is a classic of the art deco period.

Another telephone of the 1930s was the small box wallset. These were built into a modified wall ringer box and served well as a CB or auto wall set. They were built in timber, but this later gave way to the economy of pressed steel. They served their purpose until bakelite wall phones could be introduced, and continued in production for use in high-traffic areas.





Left: 100 Series "RedBar"

Again, their telephones began to follow the Bell (now AT&T) patterns. The 1000 Masterphone series phones of 1947 started to look like everyone else's bakelite phones as the design of the telephone settled into its most efficient shape. The 1000 had a bright red bar built into the cradle to activate the switchhook, so became known as the Redbar phone. The 1000 was available in CB, auto or magneto versions, marking the trend towards a universal style. The internal construction was designed to make changing to a different version quite easy for the technician. Sidetone correction could be optimised manually with a screwdriver adjustment. Transmitter and receiver capsules were simply installed with snap-in fittings. A wall model was also produced in bakelite for the first time. The phones were provided with a range of dials to suit the many operating systems in use across the U.S. (numeric only, alphanumeric, numeric plus "O" for Operator). Other dials, including Western Electric versions, were provided later in the phone's history. Small quantities of the phones were also cast in aluminium for heavy-use (and abuse) locations. The model stayed in production with continued variations for seven years.









Left: Kellogg wall phone , 1956

Right: Kellogg K500 desk phone.

Both phones are copies of the standard Western Electric patterns.

After World War 2 the company started to lose its identity. In 1951 International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT) bought into the company, and by the following year owned it outright. The company became ITT Kellogg.

An antitrust case was brought against AT&T (the Bell company) by the U.S. government, and as a result in 1951 AT&T agreed to share their phone patterns and patents with competitors. There was no longer any point designing their own phones, so Kellogg built the standard WE-pattern 500 series desk and wall phones from 1954 with only their name embossed into the plastic to show the origin. ITT amalgamated Kellogg with another of its companies, Federal Telephone & Radio Corp, and the name was changed to ITT Telecommunications. The Kellogg name was now just a historical memory. Almost. In 1989 ITT sold off its telecommunications companies to Alcatel. In 1992 Alcatel in turn sold its telephone equipment business to a syndicate of investors who called their new company Cortelco Kellogg. The "Kellogg" has since been dropped from the name again, but is just goes to show how hard it is to keep a good man down.




Meyer Ralph O. "Old Time Telephones! Technology Restoration and Repair" New York 1995

McMeen Samuel G and Miller Kempster B "Telephony" Chicago 1923

Poole J "The Practical Telephone Handbook" London 1912

Sterling Telephone and Electrical Co Catalogues, various

Peel Conner Catalogue 1904

Kellogg catalogues, various Website

Neale Jay Kellogg History from website

Conklin, Roger "When Western Electric Secretly Controlled Kellogg" 2001

Conklin, Roger "The Kellogg Type 100 Masterphone" 2004


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