The Skeleton Type 1892

Lars Magnus Ericsson personally designed one of the world's most original and now most coveted standard telephones. It is a desk telephone in the form of a naked steel construction, with two black-lacquered inductor magnets, ingeniously curved and twisted into a stand. The skeleton-like construction with the double curvature magnet steel was tested as early as 1884 on the model Ebh (AC100). The microphone was fitted in an elegantly angled arm that could be pivoted 360 degrees.

The breakthrough for the model, however, came in 1892 when it was equipped with a horizontal telephone handset on a hook. Although the handset was not a Swedish invention, Ericsson quickly became the handset's leading color-bearer, and the model from 1892 set the standard for all 20th-century variants of desk telephones with horizontal headsets. From a design standpoint, it can be considered as the inspiration for all landline telephones.

It was only given a numeric designation (375/AC) in Sweden, but in Great Britain it was known as the Skeleton Type and in Germany, Skelettapparat. It is thus justifiable to use the same vocabulary in Swedish as well, instead of the sometimes-used and less-fitting Taxen, which is Swedish for dachshund.

The design of the Skeleton Type is based on the components being joined together exactly as on the contemporary and similar, apart from its size, Eiffel Tower in Paris. The approach and expression were typical of 19th-century and early 20th-century engineering, before enshrouding sheet metal and plastic coverings altered the aesthetic norm. Thanks to the superb materials and the balanced whole, the Skeleton Type became a compact, fine-mechanical wonder.

The standardized components radiate the same exactitude and precision as the spherical ball bearings that SKF began mass-producing a few years later. They also constituted tests of the highly regarded Swedish engineering that largely laid the groundwork for the Swedish welfare state.

The Skeleton Type features a crank for turning the armature between the magnets that produced the ring signal at the other end of the line. It was therefore essential that the telephone stood firmly and was sturdily built. Moreover, the 30-cm high, 28-cm wide and 14-cm deep device weighs all of 5 kg. To heighten its attraction and to provide a more consumer-friendly image, various parts were nickel plated and lacquered. Moreover, the actual stand was embellished for certain markets with stylized floral patterns, mainly in gold and green, using a technique called decalcomania. 

The Skeleton Type quickly spread to many parts of the world through Ericsson's agency network, but perhaps to an even higher degree, through diligent replication by local manufacturers. The copies usually exhibited minor deviations, such as a different hook shape or the addition of an extra magnet. Svenska AB Telefonfabriken differentiated its model by fitting a lightly curved sheet metal hood around the crank mechanism, which gave rise to the Tunnan nickname, which is Swedish for barrel. Production of this model was discontinued, however, when Ericsson bought up the competing company.

Ericsson's original, on the other hand, remained in production until the beginning of the 1930s. As a further indication of its popularity and the trademark status that the company gave the Skeleton Type, it can be mentioned that in drawing form it served as Ericsson's logo for many years.

Author: Lasse Brunnström

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