Was in the lobby of an old three flat in Humboldt Park recently and noticed that someone had restored what looked like an old intercom system. It had a horn like device on a metal panel and a buzzer underneath. Did these things actually work? If you were trying to communicate with the person on the third floor, could you actually speak through, what seems like a long tube, and be heard ???? Around what decades were these things used?
A relative of mine lived in a 20s-era building that, even in the mid 1990s, had a functional speaking tube and bell system. The apartment-side mouthpiece had a cap that would spring closed to keep out voices intended for the other units. Pretty neat. I used to see remnants of them a lot when I was younger but most were painted over or had trash crammed into the foyer-side mouthpiece, depending on the building.
Systems like that were used on ships for a long time, and luxury cars that had a divided driver/passenger cabin used them sometimes too (think Deusenberg, Packard, etc).
also discovered that they were originally put in homes of the well-to-do to communicate to the servants between rooms. and pre-electricity versions had a whistle device on the receiving end to let the person know someone wanted to "page" them.
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12/04/2009 02:20AM by captain54.
We had one of those intercoms in the two-flat I lived in as a kid. We lived on the second floor so when a visitor would ring the doorbell we would ask for their name through the tube. If it was someone we knew we pressed a buzzer that released the lock on the entrance hallway door. Eliminated the need to run up and down all the time. In later years the wood panel containing the speaking tubes were removed and plastered over, as were those in the apartments. We did still use the door lock buzzer for many years.
The building I grew up in (A 1906 six-flat) had them, but at some point after conversion (in 1955, to co-op) the old mailboxes were replaced and the speaking tubes, which still worked, were sealed up. Some of them were chopped off and capped, but we still had ours in the hall by (right next to, in fact) the push button for the door release downstairs.