Click to go HOME

500-style Telephones

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery"

Western Electric 500

Leich 7H6-M conversion
          kit  AE 80  Stromberg Carlson 1586  North 541   Leich Convertible   WE 5302 Side View

RELATED PAGES ON THIS SITE:     WE 500-series     WE 300-series     COLORS    Dial Desk Phones

The Western Electric 500, introduced in 1949 quickly set the standard for "modern" telephone design.  The squared off lines of the 300-series were replaced by gently flowing lines that were carefully designed to reflect light and make the larger phone appear smaller.  Internal components were replaced with new designs providing improved fidelity and long loop performance.  One of the most obvious stylistic changes was moving the letters and numbers from the dial plate under the dial's fingerwheel to a ring surrounding the dial, also increasing the apparent size of the dial.

American competitors quickly responded with new "modern" phones in an attempt to keep pace.  A good description of these models with much more detail, photos and history is found in the Telephone Collectors International publication, "Singing Wires" issue from January 2008.

This page highlights models that were produced starting in the 1950s.

Over time Leich and North merged with Automatic Electric and continued to make the proprietary AE 80 design.  Kellogg and Stromberg Carlson merged into ITT, producing WE 500 clones made under license.

500-style: Similar Models

Western Electric 500
WE 500, NE 500
Western Electric 500
Northern Electric 500

Originally introduced in 1949, this set quickly became the standard "modern" single line telephone and was copied by others.

Click for more details.
AE 80
AE 80
Automatic Electric 80

AE elected to compete with a proprietary design.  While it emulated many features of the WE 500 and had "modern" styling, it's cosmetics and internal construction were noticeably different.

One feature AE advertized was their "improved" cradle construction, which reportedly had a lower chance of false hang-ups than the WE design.
                  DK500, K500 (ITT 500)
Kellogg K500 (ITT 500)

Originally sporting a unique streamlined housing and handset with gracefully tapered lines, Kellogg's 500 set first got a facelift with a housing that was a clone of the WE 500, and later got a handset that was a clone of Western's G3.  From that point forward, Kellogg sets were identical to the WE sets, except for the Kellogg name.  Sets were eventually marked simply ITT after Kellogg was acquired and fully integrated into ITT.
Leich Convertible
Leich Convertible
Leich Convertible

While the dial and smooth lines suggest a 500-style, Leich innovated a bit by designing a cradle that permitted the phone to be used either on a desk or mounted to a wall.  Flipping the dial on its mount is all that was required to convert between desk and wall use.
North 541
North 541
North 540-series

North elected to produce a proprietary design that retained some of the design cues from its earlier bakelite phones.  The streamlining is quite attractive in comparison with similar sets.

A unique feature is the recessed dial fingerwheel, which is about flush with the surrounding number ring.

Click for more details.
SC 1543 (1443)
SC 1443, 1543

                  3-line keyset, set up for wall use
SC 1573 set up for wall mounting.
Stromberg Carlson 1443, 1543
Stromberg Carlson 500

SC responded by quickly designing a streamlined case for its current 1243 set, renaming it the 1443.  Shortly thereafter, they updated the electronics inside and called it the 1543.

This set could be easily converted for wall use by replacing the plungers and flipping the dial, as shown by the 3-line phone in the lower photo.

When it became clear that customer demand was clearly favoring the WE 500, SC first produced a housing and handset for the 1543 that looked more like the 500 and called the resulting set the 1586.  They then licensed the WE design and produced a true WE 500 clone.

The housing for the 1586 was continued as an upgrade kit for existing 1543-series phones.  See "New Image" in the following section.

500-style: Conversion Models
The following designs were implemented by refurbishing previous generation phones or phones removed from service.
The intent was to give the older sets extended life by making them appear more like the current generation phones.

Western Electric and Kellogg sets were refurbished in company refurb facilities.
WE also licensed some refurbishers to convert sets and provided parts. (Some deviated from the "standards.")
Leich and Stromberg Carlson sets were available from the company or as parts kits for field or customer upgrades.
Before Conversion
After Conversion
WE 302
WE 302
WE 5302
WE 5302

WE 5302 Side View
Western Electric 5302

Used 300-series phones were refurbished with housings that looked somewhat like a 500-series set.

The white dial plate was replaced with a black plate with white dots.  The 500-like numbers and letters were on a double injection molded ring that surrounded the original dial.

The 302's F1 handset was often used.  To complete the look, a GF handset was  provided that contained the same transmitter and receiver elements as the F1.

The 5302 was shorter from front to back than the 500, due to the dimensions of the 302's bottom plate.

Click for more details.
Kellogg 1000
K 1000
Kellogg 5100
Kellogg 5100

Kellogg 1000-series ("Redbar") phones were refurbished with housings that looked somewhat like a 500-series set.

The dial was rotated counter-clockwise so the finger stop position approximated the position on Western Electric dials.

Click for more details.
North H-series set
North H-series bakelite set
Leich 7H6-M
                  conversion kit
Leich 7H6-M

                      7H6-M kit parts
Conversion kit parts

Leich 7H6  "AE 80"

Leich 7H6-M housing on a North H-series phone.

The dimensions were different than the AE 80 footprint due to the smaller size of the North base.

Click for more views.
SC 1543 (1443)
SC 1443, 1543
Stromberg Carlson 1586
SC 1586, "New Image"
Stromberg Carlson 1586 "New Image"

The 1543 was updated with new plastics to resemble a WE 500.  Since the footprint of the 1543 was larger, the set looks like it flares out toward the front edge.

These are easily recognized due to the fingerstop position, chrome number card retainer and shape of the 1543's feet.

The 1586 was only available for a relatively short time before SC licensed the 500 and produced a clone -- differing from the WE 500 only by the SC name.

The "New Image" plastics were available for several years as upgrade conversion kits for SC 1543-series sets.  Sets with many 1543-series model number variations are found with this look, as the original model numbers on the bottom weren't usually updated.

Please send comments or photos of your favorite phones to: 

Email address

2009-10 paulf.  All rights reserved.