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Western Electric Two-tone Colored Model 500 Sets

In the early 1950’s Western Electric began gradually to produce colored model 500’s. The earliest colors were red, gray, green and ivory. During early production handset cords were not yet made to match the colored sets. The cords were available in black, straight or coiled (retractable). The only part of the two-tone 500 sets that were colored was the cover, or “housing”. The handsets and number rings remained black. Later as early as July of 1955, full color sets were available in all eight original colors. Those colors were dark brown, dark blue, daffodil yellow, moss green, ivory, rose beige, cherry red and oxford gray.

Recently I have been fortunate enough to pick up a couple of these two-tone telephones. Each of them were manufactured in 1954. One is black and ivory and the other is black and red. Due to the matching dates of the telephones I believe them to be original issues by the telephone company and not sets that were cobbled together by individuals attempting to own a two-tone set. I acquired the black and ivory set recently from a distinguished collector, Robert Loeser. The telephone was from his personal collection. The black and ivory telephone is dated February of 1954. The second telephone came to me from the Schenectady, NY area. The seller purchased the phone at an Estate sale in New York. She was unaware of its special collectible nature due to the two-tone color. Actually when I obtained the telephone the original center dial card was hidden below a newer replacement card. The dates on this telephone are from October of 1954.

One will often see two-tone telephones for sale on eBay. They are in various colors. Some are newer, with modular cords and handsets. Those phones were not issued by the telephone company but parts of two phones put together to make a two-tone phone. I have read that often telephone service persons may have made some two-tone phone for a specific customer from stock on the repair truck. Perhaps a high school or college that wanted phones in the school colors. But those phones were not released from Western Electric in the two-tone colors. Only the original four colors mentioned above.

I would like to thank antique telephone collector Paul Fassbender for providing some of the historical information by way of the Antique Telephone Collectors Assoc. Paul has a great web site. Please take a moment to take a look at his site.

2 responses to “Western Electric Two-tone Colored Model 500 Sets”

I happened to stumble upon this page while looking for something else, but…

I have one of the two tone red 500 sets. The cords are both black rubber(not vinyl), and like yours all of the dates match(6/54), so I know it’s an original. I wanted to say mine has a red handset. Both caps, as well as the inside of the handset itself are dated 1954, so I know it wasn’t added later. Since acquiring this phone, I’ve seen a couple other ones, but haven’t seen another with a colored handset, which I thought was rather odd.

Eric, thank you for your comment. Since making this post I learned that early colored sets that were all one color (including the handset) but had black dials are referred to as Black Dial sets. The Two Tones had the black Bakelite handset instead of the matching handset. A detailed original pamphlet from 1954-1955 along with information about the two-tone/black dial sets can be seen on the Classic Rotary Phones forum here:


Thanks to Jonathan Sowers, a long-time collector of these sets for posting that information.

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