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Western Electric Model 500 P/U – The Mushroom Phone

Western Electric manufactured a model 500 with a lighted dial. This is similar to the lighting system of the Princess telephones. The small lamp which is positioned just above the dial number ring has the appearance of a mushroom cap giving the model 500 P/U the common nick-name of the “mushroom phone”.

The telephone requires a transformer that must be plugged in to a normal 110 volt wall socket in addition to being connected to the telephone line. “Mushroom” phones are very rare. Some colors bring a handsome price willingly paid by the collector. I have seen them in several colors, such as this Black that I own. Others include Rose Pink, Aqua Blue, Moss Green and other Western Electric colors.

This black “mushroom phone” was a great addition to my Western Electric model 500 collection. I am looking forward to the time when I can get another–in color!

Thank you to Dave Margulius and Paul Fassbender for sharing their photos and information about Vintage Rotary Phones! Please take a few moments to visit their sites. The photos, information and details are endless!

Update – February 2011 – Since making this posting there have been a few more lighted Model 500’s come to light (no pun intended).  Fellow telephone collector and friend of mine, Jorge Amely posted a web album about a Beautiful Cherry Red “mushroom phone”.  Please take a moment to view his album.  What a beautiful refurbishing job he did on his telephone!

Secondly another collector, Dan Vogt  found a Mediterranean Blue Model 500P recently.  I have written a short article about his discovery.  You will look a long time before you find another like this one.  I have spoken with one long-time collector of the Model 500 telephone who says he has never seen another in this color.  It may be a long time before another is seen.  Please check out the article.

1 responses to “Western Electric Model 500 P/U – The Mushroom Phone”

[…] I’ve been a historian, collector and dealer of antiques & collectibles for years. I know what is sufficiently scarce as to warrant the term, rare. UFOs, Sasquatch, sincere politicians… all rare. So too is the Western Electric “mushroom phone”, also known as the 500P, 500U or 500P/U. So what is it, and why is it so rare? The mushroom is basically a run-of-the-mill model 500, with a difference. Located next to the dial, right by the number 4, is a dome-like, a mushroom-like protrusion, a light to illuminate the dial. It fits the space so well, looks so appropriate, it’s hard to believe it was an afterthought. It’s also hard to understand why more of them aren’t around. The button-like hood that covers the bulb is directional, casting the light towards the dial and illuminating the clear plastic fingerwheel. It works great, looks great. So why weren’t they popular? One can only assume that popularity was the issue. I can’t imagine where this great idea, and smooth execution thereof, failed. Anyone know what was behind this? There’s a lot more that isn’t known about the mushroom phone. What is the proper model designation? Sometimes just called a 500P, they were more likely either a “U” or a “P/U”. Dennis Markham, who generously provided the accompanying photos, has more to say about the mushroom on VintageRotaryPhones.com. He feels that a “P/U” designates the presence of a control switch for the light. The switch, located just outside the number 7, can be adjusted so that the light stays on dimly when not in use, serving as a night-light. (Rather like the Princess phone that would appear years later) Without the switch, the light comes on only when the handset is picked up, and those models would be a “U”. How many mushrooms were made? Unknown. What years were they produced? Oddly enough, they seem to have been made in the earlier years of model 500 production (mid-’50s), but actual years are unknown. What colors were available? Moss Green, Aqua Blue, Rose Pink and Black are known, but others were almost certainly made as well. If you see one at a local thrift shop for $20, should you snap it up?   Yes. […]

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