Federal GrabaPhone

These phones are one of the more interesting in the United States range. Federal was a small manufacturer for the independent telephone companies. Handsets had not yet made their way into wide use in the U.S. at this time. The biggest manufacturer, Western Electric, had difficulty developing a microphone in which the carbon granules would not pack down and cripple the transmitter. Ericssons in Europe had managed to do it, though.

In 1907 Ericssons set up a new plant in Buffalo to service the U.S. market and one of their customers was Federal, whose factory appears to have been in the same factory complex as Ericssons. The history is not entirely clear , but it appears that Kellogg suggested that Ericssons design a compact handset phone for use on the new CB exchanges. Kellogg marketed this as the "GrabAPhone" as an alternative to the rather clumsy candlestick phones then in use. It was a success for Kellogg and Federal also bought the phones from Ericsson to add to their own range.

The original Ericsson GrabAPhone (they did not use this name - it was a Kellogg trademark, but later became a generic term for handset phones) comprised Ericsson handset and cradle on a modified Ericsson candlestick base and pillar. The one in my collection is one of these, but of a lower standard of finish than Ericsson usually used. Federal phones are generally of a more "industrial" finish - polished brass, paint rather than nickel plate, and where nickel was used it is often in a frosted finish. Ericsson manufactured the phone for themselves as well, as some exist with Ericsson branding on the body as well as the handset. Most Kellogg and Federal phones do not have Ericsson-branded handsets. This was Ericssons' normal practice for sales to other manufacturers, including Federal.

Ericssons closed down the Buffalo factory in 1918 and sold off the parts and dies. Federal and Kellogg bought much of the stock and continued to produce the GrabAPhone for some years, gradually substituting their own parts as the Ericsson spares ran out. A full series of these phones would consist of about a dozen versions, covering the change to the Kellogg transmitter, a simplified cradle, a new receiver and finally the very basic mass-production version finished in black enamel. There are at least four variations of finish in the Federal range.

This phone has a Kellogg transfer on the baseplate, but it may not be original. There is no sign of the felt ring around the base that Kellogg would normally fit. It is therefore most likely one of the models issued by Federal, using parts from the Ericsson selloff.


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