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Presidential Telephones of the United States


Telephones in the Oval Office

Click here to see larger image   President Herbert Hoover at his desk in the oval office of the White House in 1930. President Hoover was the first president to have a telephone on his desk in the oval office, a Western Electric 102.
Click here to see larger image   The very cluttered oval office desk of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was president from 1933 to 1945. The phone in the oval office is now a manual (no dial) Western Electric 202.
Click here to see larger image   Another image including President Roosevelt's Western Electric 202 on his desk in the oval office. This picture was taken on the day he signed the declaration of war on Japan, on December 8, 1941.
Click here to see larger image   President Harry S. Truman's desk in the oval office, some time between 1945 and 1953. The phone in the oval office is now a manual dial Western Electric 302.
Click here to see larger image   This is Dwight D. Eisenhower's desk in the oval office in 1959. The phones are a manual dial 500 set probably connected to the White House switchboard, and the phone with the gold trim is the commemorative "50 Millionth Telephone in Service in the Nation" which was presented to President Eisenhower on November 18, 1953.
Click here to see larger image   The "50 Millionth Telephone in Service in the Nation" was a Western Electric 500 set with a gold finger wheel and finger stop and gold lettering on the dial. The gold trim along the bottom of the set is made up of 48 stars, which was one for each state at the time.

Click here for more information on this phone (PDF). (Source: Pacific Telephone Magazine, December 1953. Scan thanks to paul-f.com)
Click here to see larger image   The desk in the oval office in 1963, during the presidency of John F. Kennedy. The two phones from Eisenhower's desk seem to still be present, and a very modern 18 button rotary dial Western Electric Call Director (my favorite phone!) has been added. It appears to be gray, a rare color for Call Directors.
Click here to see larger image   The desk of President Lyndon Johnson in late 1963. The most oval office phones of any president! There is a green Western Electric Call Director with matching Western Electric speaker and matching intercom signalling key, and another green 6 button set. Behind the desk near the wall is a white rotary dial Call Director.
Click here to see larger image   Dignitaries with President Johnson in the oval office in 1964. On the table is another white 30 button rotary dial Western Electric Call Director, a white hanging phone presumably wired to a key we cannot see, a white Western Electric speaker which appears to be wired to the Call Director and a black Western Electric 8 button intercom signalling key.
Click here to see larger image   A unique telephone built into a draw in the coffee table of the oval office in 1967, pictured in use during a time of crisis in the Johnson administration.
Click here to see larger image   Close-up photo of the above coffee-table telephone, time period unknown (but possibly later than the above photo because this version of the draw phone is Touch Tone).
Click here to see larger image   President Richard Nixon on the phone at his desk in the oval office sometime between 1969 and 1974. The Call Directors have been replaced by a Western Electric green 2565HK 6 button Touch Tone key set with a matching adjunct 4 button intercom signalling key, possibly the first Touch Tone set in the oval office.
Click here to see larger image   This is a great close-up detail photo of President Nixon's phone in the above photo. Notice the intercom buttons marked Chapin and Haldeman, two names which became infamous during the Watergate period.

This photo was taken at a display at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, Ca.
Click here to see larger image   The desk of President Gerald Ford, who occupied the oval office from 1974 to 1977. His oval office telephone is a Western Electric 6 button set, similar to President Nixon's oval office telephone. However, photographic evidence suggests President Ford's 6 button set was black.
Click here to see larger image   President Jimmy Carter on the phone in the oval office in 1980. His phone is a white, Western Electric Touch Tone 18-button Call Director with a green pick-up button above the hold button. In this photo you can actually see the illuminated key of the line he is talking on.
Click here to see larger image   President Ronald Reagan's desk in the oval office in 1981, which features a very similar Western Electric white Touch Tone 18 button Call Director as President Carter's desk, except this set now has one more colored button, lower right corner.
Click here to see larger image   President Reagan at his desk in the oval office, with a nice close-up side view of his Call Director.

This telephone set can currently be seen on display in the Oval Office exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Ca.
Click here to see larger image   President George H.W. Bush in his White House private study, which includes a Western Electric white 18-button Call Director with standard colored buttons and a matching Western Electric speaker.

Telephones in the White House

Click here to see larger image   A Western Electric 500D rotary desk phone which could have been used in the White House during the Johnson administration. The telephones were converted to Touch Tone in the White House during the Nixon administration.
Click here to see larger image   A close-up of the above phone. We believe this phone is genuine because of the cut-outs details in the printed White House number card. Also, the printing is similar to the printing on the number card of the White House Centrex phone set below.
Click here to see larger image   Henry Kissinger overseeing the White House situation room circa 1965. Western Electric Touch Tone Call Directors serve the situation room staff, while a rotary 6 button phone and what appears to be a speakerphone occupy the shelf on the far wall.
Click here to see larger image   A typical phone that would have been on the desk of a White House staffer perhaps in the 1980's. This shows many of the extensions and feature codes of the White House Centrex system that was in use at the time.

Centrex was a Bell System service which provided PBX-like features, extension to extension calling, call transfer, etc., with all the switching equipment located at the Central Office rather than the customer's premises.

Telephones on Airforce One

Click here to see larger image   A telephone artifact from the first jet Air Force One, this is the master telephone console probably used by a Secret Service officer. This is on display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
Click here to see larger image   Another similar Wester Electric Call Director on board Air Force One with President Nixon in 1969.
Click here to see larger image   A close-up detail photo of one of the very customized Western Electric Call Directors on board Airforce One.
Click here to see larger image   President Ronald Reagan at work in his office on Air Force One. There are two rotary dial Princess-like telephones, a white one and red one, on the desk near the windows. They could be AE Starlite phones or something else of special manufacture, related to the aircraft's communications system.
Click here to see larger image   A later picture of President Reagan on the phone in the same office on Air Force One. The white and red Princess-like phones are gone, replaced by a beige manual set (see below), and a new white Western Electric 500 set with a red ringing/message waiting light.
Click here to see larger image   Another picture of the same office on Air Force one, which you can now see in person at the Air Force One exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Ca. The two phones near the window are part of the aircraft's master communications system, which is operated by an Air Force officer in the forward section of the plane. The phones are handsets in small bases with no dials, the beige one is for secure calls.


For more info about White House and presidential telephones, check out Top Level Communications.


Updated December 22, 2010





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