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The Princess Telephone

“It’s little, it’s lovely, it lights….”

That is what Western Electric said about their new desk telephone in 1959. When the Princess phone was first released the manufacturer didn’t know how to squeeze a ringer bell assembly inside the housing of the telephone as Western Electric had done with the model 302 and later the 500 sets. So the phone company provided an external ringer that was mounted to the wall near where the phone cord mounted to the wall. Otherwise the Princess phones were used exclusively as an “extension” phone. When the phone rang in another portion of the home it could be answered, normally in the bedroom. There is a weight inside the 701B that is supposed to give some weight to the smaller set. Later, when the 702B’s came on the scene a small single gong ringer had been developed. If you open one up and take a look inside you will see a ringer bell where the counter weight once was. The weight in the 701B helps to keep it from falling onto the floor during use. However the user had been used to talking on the predecessor model 500 which weighs about five pounds. The Princess phones today are often found cracked on the end opposite the handset cord. As people talked on the telephone and drifted away from the table the telephone set would be pulled off the table and bang onto the floor causing damage. For those that chose a ringer box, they were often installed in colors that matched the telephone.

Princess telephones are readily found for sale on eBay. Often sellers will write on their listings something like…” I don’t have the style of plug required to test the phone…”or they may say the the light doesn’t work so perhaps a bulb needs replacement…..or they may say it dials out but does not ring. That’s usually because there is no ringer inside! Both models of the Princess telephone would light but they require an electrical transformer. There are some sellers on eBay that list their Princess telephones with the transformer…but most are silent on the issue as they themselves are unaware of the requirement. The transformer was also needed to light the later released Trimline telephone. I have been told that there were four series of transformers that are out there. Those are 2012A, B, C and D. I have been told that two of the models were known for catching fire. One can? remember the “bad” models by saying the phrase “Bad Dog”. Models B and D are bad, A and C are good. However the “A” model had a single width prong which tended to fall out of the electrical wall socket. The “C” is the most preferred. It has a double folded prong resulting in a more secure connection.
Since I like to stay within the realm of my interest, I only speak about rotary dial telephones. The Princess telephones were very popular and were also later made with touch tone key pads. Like the other rotary desk telephones, the Princess evolved prior to the touch tone models with modular plug-in handset cords and line cords. The more sought after models are “hard wired” and have a nicer “retro” look to them.

The Princess phones were originally introduced in white, light beige, turquoise and pink. Later other colors were added. They were ivory, moss green, red, yellow, black and light gray. There were additional colors at the end of the 1960’s and into the early 1970’s.
For a more information on the Princess Telephone please check out this Bell Memorial site. http://www.porticus.org/bell/telephones-princess.html
There is a multitude of information about the Princess telephone including web links.


5 responses to “The Princess Telephone”


Thank you for your very informative website regarding the princess phones. I have a pink princess phone, model 702B, but unfortunately there is no light bulb in the plug designated for the bulb.

Do you have the model number of the light bulb for the 702B princess phone? Or do you have any for sale?

The ringer works beautifully, and hopefully I will be able to find a light bulb for this princess phone to make it complete.

Thank you for any information you may be able to supply.


The nomenclature regarding WE 2012 station transformers, particularly the letter suffix, is generally confusing and certainly misleading. To avoid such confusion, the B- and D-suffix transformers (17-volt secondary) should have been issued an entirely different part number.



SECTION 501-136-100 Issue 7, November 1979


…paragraph 2.04 states:

The 2012A or 2012C (Fig. 4 or 6) transformer
supplies power for telephone sets with dial
night light feature and is available in Light Olive
Gray (-49) or Ivory (-50).

Do not use 2012A or 2012C transformer to power 3-type (MD) speakerphone systems or TOUCH-A-MATIC 16 telephone sets.

…paragraph 2.06 states:

With 115-volts, 60 Hz applied to the primary winding, the secondary winding delivers approximately 7 volts at 0.250 amp.


…paragraph 2.09 states:

The 2012B or 2012D transformer (Fig. 5 or 7) is intended to supply power to TOUCH-A-MATIC 16 telephone sets, and the 55A or 55B control unit
in 3-type (MD) speakerphone systems and is available in Light Olive Gray (-49) or Ivory (-50). The length of wire between the transformer and the control unit should not exceed 100 feet of standard inside wire.

Do not use 2012B or 2012D transformer in place of a 2012A or 2012C transformer.

…paragraph 2.11 states:

With 115-volts, 60 Hz applied to the primary winding, the secondary winding delivers approximately 17 volts at 0.132 amp.


…paragraph 2.13 states:

The 2012D transformer will be manufactured
with back plates in a contrasting color from the case. The visual difference is provided to aid in preventing mixing and misuse with 2012A and 2012C transformers.


Hopefully this information will help to foster a better understanding and usage of the Western Electric 2012 series station transformers.

In response to Jeannine Samuelson – the original Princess model 701B uses a screw-in type bulb, a #46, rated at 6.3 volts.

All subsequent Princess models, the 702B etc., use a bulb with a wedge-type base. This bulb is a #259, also rated at 6.3 volts.

Both types of bulbs must first be mounted in the proprietary bulb socket. The bulb socket is then inserted and twist-locked into the hole in the base of the Princess phone by turning it clockwise.


The partially transcribed BSP issue is available here:


Thank you.

Harold, thank you very much for taking the time to explain all of this to the readers. It is very informative and helpful information!

I have one of the lead weights designed for use inside the 701B Princess sets. I used if for years as a paperweight, and to remind me of the certainty that customer usage will inevitably reveal flaws in a new design. No amount of analysis or testing can substitute for the immediate and merciless test of the marketplace. The simple fact was that trying to operate the rotary dial on that set would push the telephone all over the top of a polished table. Customers had to hold the set down with one hand (which was already holding the handset) while they twirled that dial with the other. They had never had to do that before; didn’t like the inconvenience and were quick to say so, especially since they had paid a premium for that stylish new telephone. Hence, the quick-fix of the lead weight.

Thank you for your comment, Nick. Although I think the lead weight helped somewhat, the Princess was still difficult to dial without holding it in place. In the later, model 702B the ringer bell occupied the space of the lead weight. Even with that ringer in place it is still necessary to secure the phone during dialing. I think most people probably rested the handset against their ear and held it there with their shoulder, holding the phone with one hand while dialing with the other. Another problem with the light weight of the phone is that many seem to have been pulled off the desk during use. Many are found with cracks on the end opposite the handset.

In some of the color Ads for the Princess phone the user is depicted holding the phone (usually a woman) in the flat palm of one hand while using the other hand to hold the handset. “It’s Little, It’s Lovely, It Lights” of course was the slogan, as I indicate at the beginning of this post.

Thanks for taking the time to post your comment and visiting Vintage Rotary Phones!

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