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Western Electric Dial Number Plates

Number Plates for #1 - #6 dials

2014 paulf.  All rights reserved.
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Under Construction.

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Number Plates on this page:  For #1 - #5 dials     Reference chart: 131, 132, 149 and 150-types
1933 All Plastic     P-34016 for #6 dial      164-type "Universal"     Northern Electric

This page summarizes information discussed in several on-line forums, including the TCI listserv and Classic Rotary Phones Forum.  On the Forum topic, you'll find member discussions and larger photos.

To join the discussion, go here:

The photos below are either original photos I have taken, are photos contributed by others with permission to post, or are edited from what are believed to be public domain sources.  Please contact me to report any photos that need further permission or credit notices.

Thanks to Greg Sargeant, poplar1, rdelius, LarryinMichigan and Steph Kerman for input and QA help.

Number plates designed for the numbers 1 thru 5 dials were numbered with the following model numbers and an added suffix, shown in the table below. All suffix codes may not be available in all models. 

Model #
131 for number 1 dial
132 for number 2 dial  (some notched to fit #4)
   vitreous enamel face.
   Three locating pins on back.
for numbers 4 and 5 dials  (fits #2),
   celluloid face over steel
for numbers 4 and 5 dials  (fits #2),
   vitreous enamel face

Suffix codes were appended to the number plate model number, e.g. 132-B, and were also appended to the dial's model number, e.g. 4HE (4H dial with E number plate).

Description Notes
Includes numerals and not letters.
"Operator" around the 0 (zero).

Includes numerals and letters.
"Operator" in a horizontal line with the 0 (zero).
Blauvelt's plan.*
No letter Z on 131 and 132.
Includes numerals and letters.
No text near the 0 (zero).

Includes numerals and not letters.
"Long Distance" around the 0 (zero).

Includes numerals and 4 Party Line letters.
"Operator" around the 0 (zero).
Blauvelt's layout.
4-party service: J, M, R and W.
Includes numerals and 9 letters.
"Operator" around the 0 (zero).
NOT Blauvelt's layout.
M, X, H, E, A, C, Y, U and J.
Possibly represent office codes. **
Solid white
used on paystations.
References: Catalog 7, C18.005.00, issue 4, 2/63,
   C34.101, issue 3, 3/37, issue 6, 2/55 and issue 7, 12/56, C34.102, issue 3, 12/56.
* Blauvelt - see "A History of Engineering and Science in the Bell System, The Early Years ((1875-1925),"
Bell Telephone Laboratories, 1975, pages 126 and 579.

** These office codes were used in Dallas Texas by the Dallas Automatic Telephone Company from about 1912 - 27.
Five digits were dialed, e.g. M 1512.  This is an example of a short alphabet dial.  See "Telephone Dials and Pushbuttons,"
Stanley Swihart, 2010, Chapter 5, particularly pages 5-19 and 5-20.

131 - For Number 1 Dials
132 - For Number 2 Dials
149 - For Number 4 and 5 dials
Fits Number 2 dials
Celluloid over steel
150 - For Number 4 and 5 dials
Fits Number 2 dials
Vitreous Enamel

131A -- Numbers, Operator
131B -- Numbers, Letters, Operator
150B - "Z" removed in 1953.
131C -- No "Operator" text
150C       (Is this WE or aftermarket?)
131D -- Long Distance
WE132D - from
              Catalog 7

132E -- Party Line, JMRW
WE 149E


132H -- All White (Coin Collector) 149H
Marked on either front or back

132-type Back
132 - back
Three locating pins
149-type Back
150-type Back
WE150 back

Other found variations


WE150 -

An all plastic version has also been found.
It received two patents, but apparently did not achieve widespread use.

1933 - Patent Pending - II-33
Celluloid, 1933

1934 - Patents 1,933,315 (1933) and 1,963,439 (1934) - IIII-34
The plate was made from three layers of cellulose acetate.  The middle layer was opaque, with the printed numerals and letters.  Transparent layers were fused above and below.  The patents claim the device overcomes objections of the traditional number plates -- including cracking porcelain, wear to the numerals and letters and entry of dust into the dial.

The patents were granted to George Cox and Charles Gutberlet of Philadelphia.  Mr Cox was at one time affiliated with Williams & Marcus Co.  The frim advertised itself as "Printers and Embossers, Envelope and Tag Manufacturers."  He also holds patents covering number card design.  See "Protecting the Humble Number Card" in the February 2014 Singing Wires.

Even though it looks very similar to the Western Electric number plates and fits WE dials, this was designed outside the Bell System.  We have found no evidence so far that it was ever used officially within  the Bell System.
(Western Electric would probably have marked the lower plate with the date code IV-34, not IIII-34.)

The P-340016 number plate was designed for the number 6 dial, announced in 1952.

The different shape center cutout accommodated a new mounting system that used a metal fixture affixed by three screws.  A black dot provided a visual indication that the dial plate will only fit a #6 dial.  Therefore, it also indicates the dial it is on is a #6 without having to open the phone to look at the marking on the back of the dial.  The dot was normally hidden under a black metal fingerwheel, but was visible through a clear fingerwheel on a colored set.

P-340016 plate for #6 dial  P-340016 number plate -
                  back view
Plates made before mid-1953 had a "Z" over the word "Operator," as the 150B above.
References: C18.005.00, issue 4, 2/63,  C34.101, issue 6, 2/55.

164-type "Universal" number plates

To reduce inventory, this was desinged to fit all dials from #2 to #6.  Introduced about 1954.
WE 164A

164B - for Coin Collectors*
WE 164B -
                for Coin Collectors
164C - for 5300-type phones in colors
WE 164C -
                for 5300-type sets
164D - for Coin Collectors and consoles*
WE 164D
* For applications see the BSPs, including C18.005.00, issue 4, 2/63.

References: C18.005.00, issue 4, 2/63, C34.101, issue 6, 2/55 and issue 7, 12/56.

Northern Electric 164-type "Universal" number plates

Similar to the WE 164A, but with numerals in black.
The word "Operator" is omitted on some, for use where there was no operator or in French speaking areas.
Northern Electric   Northern
                Electric - back view

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2014 paulf.  All rights reserved.