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Old Phones – Old Phone Numbers

Part of what I found interesting when I began to collect telephones from the past is that little round number card right in the center of the finger wheel. There is as much historic value in that little round disc as the telephone itself. As a very young boy I remember our crank desk phone that we had when our family lived in a rural farming community in southeast Michigan. Our exchange at that time was EXpress. Of course that was in a time when one would crank the phone and the operator would answer. The caller would then give the operator the desired number that always started with the two letter exchange. “Operator, I would like EXpress4-5416.” That was in the late 1950’s through early 1961. Years later as an adult I discovered that some of these old telephone numbers were actually still on telephones in homes and businesses. In the City where I worked for years, Rochester, Michigan the office telephone in 1976 still had one of those old number cards, with a rotary “key set”. The exchange there was OLive1, or 651—-that exchange remains the same today but of course no one uses the word OLive any longer.

There is a Telephone EXchange Project on the web that is dedicated to these old telephone EXchange numbers. In fact there is a very extensive article tells about the “Big Database”. The Big Data base is just that. One can go there and browse an exchange. If someone has entered data about the exchange the history of the exchange is listed. If one would like to enter an exchange from their past the site allows that. It is amazing how many exchanges are listed. I recently purchased a black model 500 just for the dial card. It is pictured here. It is a POntiac exchange. Being from Michigan I assumed it was from Pontiac, MI. I discovered through this database that there was a POntiac exchange in the Toledo, OH area. Now that makes sense since I purchased the phone from Ohio. Interestingly enough you will notice on that card that there are only six digits (counting the exchange) and not seven like phone numbers do today.

Dave Margulius has a wonderful Telephone Archive site showcasing antique telephones along with other antique telephone related information. Thanks to Dave for putting together this wonderful web site and sharing it with all of us. Check out his section on Number Cards. It truly is an amazing piece of work with contributions from some of today’s finest telephone collectors.

2 responses to “Old Phones – Old Phone Numbers”

looking for LU2-3100. any idea where this is from?

Alfrida, I do not have personal knowledge of where the LU (58) exchange may have originated. Many exchanges were duplicated throughout the United States. There is a web site called the “Tenproject Database” that lists known exchanges. The site is set up so that individuals can add exchange names that they remember or have knowledge about. I will post the link below. It does show two LU entries. One of them indicates it was an exchange in Australia. Here is the link:


The page loads slowly, but you can search from a drop-down box the exchange you’re seeking. Good luck and thank you for your question.

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