GENERAL -- Common battery telephone was introduced. Early telephones were voice-powered; then a wet battery was used which, though an improvement, sometimes left acid on the carpet. Dry batteries came next. The fourth stage was the common battery, with the power supply at the central exchange ... Western Electric had grown from a 12-man operation in 1869 to a world¬wide organization of nearly 9,000 employees.
MARCH 19 - First Standard Supply contract was signed. The contract, with the Bell Telephone Company of Philadelphia, provided that Western Electric would act as purchaser, storekeeper and repair shop on telephone company request. This marked the beginning of Western Electric's role as supplier, as well as manufacturer, for the Bell System. By the end of 1913, similar contracts had been signed with all existing Bell operating companies, and distributing houses were established around the country to serve them.
NOVEMBER 21 - First formal table of organization was adopted. The structure was recommended by a committee composed of H. B. Thayer, C. G. DuBois and W. R. Patterson.
MARCH 26 - A non-contributory pension system for retired employees was established. It provided a model for a broader plan for pension, death and disability benefits adopted by the Bell System on Jan. 1, 1913.
GENERAL -- An improved version of the magneto wall set was introduced. It was still in general use through the 1930's and could be seen in rural areas well after World War II. It had a built-in generator mechanism to provide current for signaling the operator... Bell System research and development was centralized under the Engineering Department at 463 West St., N. Y. C. Between 1907 and 1925, the Engineering Department was responsible not only for many major contributions to telephone technology but also for pioneering efforts in public address systems, radio broadcasting, phonographs, hearing aids, and sound motion picture equipment. Its laboratory was the forerunner of Bell Labs. (See JANUARY 1, 1925)
AUGUST 1 - Inspection of new telephones and apparatus was taken over from AT&T engineers.
OCTOBER 30 - Harry Bates Thayer became Western Electric's fourth president, succeeding Enos M. Barton.
GENERAL -- Engineers began development of loudspeaking equipment that evolved into the WE Public Address Systems.
GENERAL -- First version of the desk set telephone in black finish appeared, although its nickel-plated prototype dated back to the turn of the century. The telephones were made of cast brass and later steel, and were the U. S. standard for approximately the next quarter century.
GENERAL -- The Clinton plant in Chicago, built in 1883, was closed and operations moved to the Hawthorne Works.
GENERAL -- The Hawthorne Works replaced hand trucks and horse-drawn wagons with two motor trucks for transporting materials within the plant and to the Chicago Distributing House. Truck repair and maintenance were handled by the Transmission Depart-ment and the toolroom until the Automobile Maintenance Department was organized in 1919. In 1922, tractor trailers were added to the Works' fleet for short trips between buildings.
MARCH - The first house organ, the Western Electric News, was published. A monthly magazine, it was printed until March 1932. Western Electric was without a company-wide house organ until the appearance of WE Magazine in the winter of 1948-1949.
In April, 1913, Dr. Harold D. Arnold of the Western Electric Engineering Department made the first high vacuum electronic tube for amplifying sound in telephone cables, This solved the telephone repeater problem and helped open the electronic age. Dr. Arnold, while working on the problems of long distance telephony, had witnessed Lee de Forest demonstrate his Audion as a repeater on Nov. 1, 1912. Arnold realized then that a commercially successful telephone repeater could be based on the Audion. The high vacuum tube revolutionized communications, leading to the development of entirely new industries: phonograph, sound motion pictures, radio and television.
GENERAL -- Compact wall set telephones, forerunners of the Home Interphone System went into service. They provided intercommunication within the home, and were advertised by WE as "the greatest little step-savers that ever helped a housewife."
JANUARY 25 - First transcontinental telephone line, New York to San Francisco, formally opened. The Engineering Department had charge of the design and equipment of the intermediate central offices.
SEPTEMBER - A patent was applied for on a vacuum tube voltmeter for measuring voltages at radio frequencies. Its use was later broadened until it became indispensable to all electrical communications.
SEPTEMBER 29 - First words over radiotelephone were heard across the continent, from Arlington, Va., to San Francisco. The same night Honolulu listened in on WE engineers transmitting from Arlington.
OCTOBER 21 - The first transatlantic radiotelephone message was received. H. E. Shreeve of the Engineering Department, stationed at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, heard from Arlington, Va., the words "... and now, Shreeve, good night." A. M. Curtis, also of the Engineering Department, was with Shreeve, along with two French officers. Commercial transatlantic service began January 7, 1927.
NOVEMBER 17 - Western Electric Company, Incorporated, was organized under the laws of the State of New York to succeed the Western Electric Company of Illinois. Corporate headquarters, in Chicago since 1869, was moved to New York City.
GENERAL -- The constant current modulating circuit (Heising Modulator), which made the radiotelephone commercially practical, was invented by R. A. Heising of the Engineering Department. Previously, various methods of modulation had permitted successful radiotelephone demonstrations, including the transoceanic experiments of 1915 (see SEPTEMBER 29 and OCTOBER 21, 1915). However, the transoceanic modulating system was complex, involving a great number of parts, a large power supply and considerable weight. Heising's device was simple, efficient, and reduced the system's size 75 per cent. The same year Heising invented a rectifier modulator, which was the basis of a modulation method used in most modern wire carrier systems...E. C. Wente of the Engineering Department developed the condenser microphone, the first high quality transmitter. Originally developed as a research tool for investigating speech and hearing, Wente's instrument became the "mike" used in the early days of radio, the production of high quality, electrically cut phonograph records and sound pictures...Permalloy, a highly magnetic alloy composed of about 80 per cent nickel and 20 per cent iron, was invented by G. W. Elmen of the Engineering Department. Its use in cable (see SEPTEMBER 1924) made high-speed submarine telegraphy possible. It also led to the development of other alloys and the renewed interest in the science of ferro-magnetism...For the first time a central organization, based at Hawthorne, assumed the responsibility for converting by-products of manufacturing operations into useful raw materials. Until then, each manufacturing department handled its own scrap piles. In 1927, responsibility for scrap originating east of Pittsburgh was given to the Kearny Works. (see MARCH, 1927.)
JUNE - A training school for new installers was opened in New York City. Later, schools were opened in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago and St. Louis.
AUGUST - The Installation Department training schools (see JUNE, 1916) established two-week courses in telephone theory and circuit practice.
One of the most dramatic events in the history of military communications was the December, 1917 demonstration of the WE-designed radiotelephone for airplanes.
In May, the Army Signal Corps ordered radiotelephone apparatus which the Engineering Department had been testing for use in air to ground communications. Successful demonstrations of various trans-mission methods took place at Langley Field, Va,: July 2, air to ground; July 4, ground to air; Aug. 18, two-way ground to air, and August 20, between two planes in flight.
These tests were conducted by radio experts; it took three months, working day and night in WE's New York Laboratory and model shop, to adapt the equipment for routine use by pilots. The experiments involved the use of the world's first mass-produced Vacuum Tube (VT-1), which was developed by Western Electric.
The crucial December tests were held for the Aircraft Production Board and the joint Army and Navy Technical Boards at the
Moraine Flying Field, Dayton, Ohio.
Only the wild enthusiasts who lived with the job were sold on the idea. Their audience--generals, admirals, representatives of foreign governments and radio experts--was willing to be shown, but decidedly skeptical. This was also the case with airplane designers, builders and pilots, who had to be persuaded to allow installation of the sets.
E. B. Craft, then WE's assistant chief engineer, described how WE's experts spent the night before the big show: "...we all congregated in one of the hotel rooms, where we worked out a scenario and held a rehearsal. R.A. Heising was one plane and Clement the other. As they sailed over the chairs, beds and other furniture, we gave them their orders and maneuvered them about as we hoped we would the next day."
The next morning spectator reaction ranged from boredom to mild interest until the loudspeaker blared, "Hello, ground station. This is plane No. 1. Do you get me all right?" Continuous conversation followed, orders given and carried out. The onlookers were impressed -- airplane radiotelephone had been sold.
But the Company's work on radiotelephony had just begun. The transition still had to be made from hand-tooled models to quantity production at Hawthorne. Around-the-clock work followed, and by early 1918, manufacturing began. Later in the year thousands of radiotelephone sets of various types were delivered to the Army and Navy.
Thus between May 1917 and early 1918, Western Electric established on a "commercial basis ... practically speaking, an entire new art."
APRIL 10 - A patent on a piezo-electric oscillator, an outgrowth of his wartime work on underwater detection, was filed by A. M. Nicholson of the Engineering Department. The piezo-electric effect -- certain crystals becoming electrically charged when compressed or stretched -- was discovered in 1880, and for many years was considered nothing more than a scientific curiosity. However, during World War I, Langevin of France and Nicholson, working independently, demonstrated that the piezo-electric properties of some crystals -- especially quartz, tourmaline, and rochelle salts -- could be used to translate sound into electrical impulses. The first piezo-electric oscillators were used in radio transmitters, later applied to carrier telephone systems and radio receivers, and more recently to radar and sonar. They are needed for separating various voice channels traveling over the same telephone circuit and for radio frequency control.
JULY 1 - The International Western Electric Co. was formed to take over the foreign business (see APRIL 26, 1882 and SEPTEMBER 30, 1925).
NOVEMBER - The first carrier telephone system, installed between Baltimore and Pittsburgh, went into commercial service. Called the Bell System's Type A Carrier, it added more voice channels to existing telephone wire. Carrier telephony was a logical outcome of H. D. Arnold's development of the high vacuum tube (see APRIL, 1913), radio research both in the Bell System laboratories and outside, and research on wave filters by AT&T's Dr. George A. Campbell.
GENERAL -- The desk telephone was equipped with a dial. The first dial telephone exchange is credited to Almon B. Strowger who had introduced it in La Porte, Indiana, in 1892. It took many years, however, to develop switching equipment capable of handling dial installation in large cities. New York City, for example, only began to get dial service in 1922 ... The first formal demonstration of the WE public address system was given. It took place in New York City during a Liberty Loan Drive.
JULY 1 - Charles Gilbert DuBois was elected WE's fifth president succeeding Harry Bates Thayer.
JULY 16 - The first commercial radiotelephone toll line was opened. It connected Catalina Island, off the coast of California, and the Bell System's mainland terminal at Long Beach, California.
MARCH 4 - The WE public address system was used at the inauguration of Warren G. Harding, a first for a presidential inauguration.
MAY - A patent on the electrolytic condenser was filed for by H. O. Siegmund of the Engineering Department. For 25 years before his invention, central office storage batteries had been charged by bulky, M-type generators, which were expensive to produce and operate. The electrolytic condenser furnished the cheaper means of producing current required by the dial offices the Bell System began installing in 1919. The invention also led to a substantial reduction in the size of the radio and amplifier equipment, and the development of a practical alternating current radio tube.
JULY 30 - First Bell System automatic switching office using WE equipment was installed at Dallas, Texas. (This was not the first such exchange in the Bell System. On November 8, 1919, a step-by-step system built and installed by the Automatic Electric Company was cutover at Norfolk, Va.)
DECEMBER 10 - First panel machine switching equipment in the United States for local traffic was cut into service at the Atlantic Office, Omaha, Neb.
GENERAL -- Western Electric's first standard transmitter, the 500 watt model 1A, was installed at AT&T's station WEAF in New York City. By the end of 1922, a year after commercial broad-casting began, the lA was in use at more than 30 radio stations coast to coast. In addition to its pioneer research in radio communications (including the vacuum tube itself and its use in amplifiers, oscillators and modulators), WE did much to equip and refine the techniques of the infant broadcasting industry.
MAY--The audiometer, a hearing measurement device, was developed by the Engineering Department and a New York ear and throat specialist. The instrument facilitated the accurate diagnosis of hearing defects and the prescribing of appropriate remedies.
OCTOBER 28--Radio broadcast its first football game, using a Western Electric transmitter. The game, Princeton vs. Chicago at Chicago's Stagg Field, was carried over long distance telephone lines to the AT&T station, WEAF, at 463 West Street. There it was broadcast over a WE radio transmitter, picked up by a loop antenna atop a WE truck parked in front of the New York Tribune building, and amplified to an audience of thousands in City Hall Park.
DECEMBER 1--An Installation Department was established, separating the installation and equipment engineering functions. Previously, both were carried on under the General Manufacturing Department.
GENERAL--The 10A Audiophone, the first commercial hearing aid WE developed was introduced. The Company manufactured many different models of hearing aids until 1951.
JUNE - An electrical stethoscope, designed and generously loaned for experimental purposes by WE, was first demonstrated. The instrument reproduced heart and lung sounds.
SEPTEMBER 15-23 - Demonstration of radio broadcast reception on a train traveling between Chicago and Colorado Springs, Colo., was held by WE at request of Rock Island Railroad.
DECEMBER 23 - World's first 500 watt transmitter cut into service at AT&T's station WEAF, New York City. WE had developed and built the transmitter for a Signal Corps project which did not materialize.
GENERAL - Copper wire manufacture for telephone cable began at a new rod mill and wire drawing plant at the Hawthorne Works. Company engineers designed and built machinery for the plant capable of drawing up to 2500 feet of wire per minute. This was 1300 to 1700 feet per minute more than other machines of the time ... The Mackenty-Western Electric artificial larynx was developed. It was the idea of Dr. John E. Mackenty, a New York City larynological surgeon.
SEPTEMBER - High-speed submarine telegraphy was introduced. Signals were carried by a permalloy-loaded cable -- laid between Brooklyn and the Azores -- using WE-built amplifiers at the terminals. Transmission speed was 1900 words per minute, about four times that of cables of comparable lengths. WE also built the teletypewriter equipment, supplied the permalloy and supervised cable construction in England.
(see GENERAL, 1916)
DECEMBER 10 - Walter A. Stewart of the Engineering Department devised the framework for the first application of the statistical method to the problem of quality control. When operational, the method cut rejects on many items up to 50 per cent and saved millions of dollars in overhead. It wasn't until World War II that it became standard for industry.
In 1924 began the now-celebrated Western Electric Hawthorne Studies in Chicago, which were to have an impact on countless research projects in medicine, psychology, social science and education. In cooperation with the National Research Council, the Company set about studying the relation of intensity of illumination to a production worker's output. The results of the study were inconclusive, but they led to the theory that workers respond to something other than illumination. Investigators from Harvard, MIT, and WE pushed their research over the years -- until 1933 -- into one phase after another of working conditions at Hawthorne. Their ultimate conclusion was one that changed the basic relationship between management and worker, for it was discovered that more important to a worker's output than
economic considerations or hours of labor was his attitude and response towards his job, his feeling of belonging to a team, ie., his industrial social environment. Watch the video here for more details.
Source: Boundless. “The Human Side: Hawthorne.” Boundless Management. Boundless, 21 Jul. 2015. Retrieved 18 Nov. 2015 from https://www.boundless.com/management/textbooks/boundless-management-textbook/organizational-theory-3/behavioral-perspectives-30/the-human-side-hawthorne-170-8381/
JANUARY 1 - Bell System research and development work was transferred from the Engineering Department (see GENERAL 1907) to the newly formed Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc., jointly owned by AT&T and WE. Since then Bell Labs has been responsible for System research and development.
SEPTEMBER 30 - International Western Electric Co. sold to IT&T. The sale enabled WE to concentrate on its obligation to the Bell System (see JULY, 1918).
OCTOBER 30 - Charles J. Rojas of the Installation Department became the first WE employee to receive a Theodore N. Vail Medal. He was awarded a bronze medal for giving first aid on two separate occasions to individuals in danger of bleeding to death.
DECEMBER 11 - Graybar Electric Company formed to take over the Company's electric supply business. This consisted of WE-made communications products and general electrical supplies manufactured by others. Graybar was a subsidiary of WE until December 31, 1928, when the new Company was sold to its employees. The sale permitted WE to continue its concentration on meeting the growing demands of the Bell System.
JULY - First WE-made step-by-step switching equipment shipped to Springfield, Mass. It went into service in 1927.
AUGUST - Edgar Selden Bloom was elected WE's sixth president, succeeding Charles Gilbert DuBois.
On August 28, 1926, a Hollywood executive, just returned from a European business trip, was asked by reporters his opinion of the newest public sensation -- talking movies. A "mere novelty," the mogul replied, and predicted a short life for "talkies."
Yet, prior to this confident prediction, three films had been released that ended the era of silent movies. And all used the Western Electric system of sound on disc phonograph records synchronized with the film. On August 6, Don Juan, the first full-length motion picture with synchronized sound accompaniment (music, but little speech), was presented by Warner Brothers, using equipment developed by Bell. Telephone Laboratories and marketed by Western Electric. Premiered in New York, the film starred John Barrymore and Mary Astor.
The first film to use lip synchronization was The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson, which appeared October 27, 1927.
The Lights of New York, first shown July 6, 1928, was the first all-talking motion picture and the forerunner of sound pictures as we know them today.
This pioneer work in talking pictures, which revolutionized the movie industry, was a by-product of communications research in the old WE Engineering Department and its successor, Bell Telephone Laboratories.
DECEMBER 20 - Electrical Research Products, Inc. (ERPI) was formed as a wholly owned subsidiary to handle electrical devices and inventions not suitable for distribution by Graybar (see DECEMBER 11, 1925). ERPI's major business was in motion picture equipment. At first, Bell Labs designed, WE manufactured and ERPI leased sound recording and reproducing systems to motion picture producers and theaters in the U. S. and abroad. During the 19301s, ERPI established its own laboratory in Hollywood and assigned the manufacture of studio and theater equipment to subcontractors on the West Coast. ERPI sold its leasing and servicing business in 1937, and in 1941, became WE's Electrical Research Products Division. ERP Division handled the remaining domestic business with Hollywood studios, and the newly formed Western Electric Export Corporation (renamed Westrex Corp. in 1945), the foreign motion picture business.
Westrex purchased the assets of ERP Division in 1949, although its major source of income continued to come from foreigh operations. On Sept. 24, 1958, to comply with the "final judgment" (see JANUARY 24, 1956), Westrex was sold to Litton Industries, ending WE's role in the motion picture industry.
GENERAL -- The original desk set, combining receiver and transmitter, was introduced. Telephone linemen had been using the receiver-transmitter combination since 1878, but it had not been perfected for consumer use.
JANUARY 7 - Transatlantic radiotelephone service between New York and London began.
MARCH - By-products reclamation building for Kearny authorized. In addition to Kearny scrap, the building handled telephone cable removed from service by the operating companies.
GENERAL -- College Gift Program was begun. It was designed to aid engineering education and stimulate scientific research by providing surplus apparatus, equipment and machinery to colleges and universities throughout the nation.
GENERAL -- The shutdown of manufacturing operations during a standard vacation period was tested at Hawthorne.
GENERAL -- The process of continuous vulcanization of rubber-covered wire was developed. (Vulcanization adds elasticity, strength and stability to the rubber.) It was first used at the Baltimore Works.
JANUARY 31 - Pre-World War II peak employment -- 85,312 reached.
JUNE 2 - Miss Jean O'Rourke of the Hawthorne Works became the first "Hello Charley" girl.
SEPTEMBER 30 - The Teletype Corporation became a subsidiary of Western Electric.
NOVEMBER - Nassau Smelting & Refining Company, a Western Electric subsidiary, took over the reclamation of operating company scrap from Kearny. Also, all non-ferrous scrap originating at Kearny and Baltimore was shipped to Nassau. In 1933, Nassau assumed Hawthorne's scrap function, and on January 1, 1941, the responsibility for the classification and disposition of all scrap and reclaimed material for the Bell System.
GENERAL -- The "300" telephone set was introduced. It
was the first desk set with the bell in the base. Earlier versions had metal housings, but plastic was substituted in the early 1940's.
From 1940 to 1945, the Contract Service Force grew from four specialists handling government contracts to 350 people negotiating a constantly changing pattern of formal contracts and purchase orders.
During the war, 1600 new contracts, 20,000 purchase orders and 10,000 modifications and supplemental agreements were processed. Peak wartime activity was reached during the second and third quar¬ters of 1944, when, in addition to other work, 3000 individual orders went to the radio shops alone.
JANUARY 1 - Clarence G. Stoll became WE's seventh president, succeeding Edgar S. Bloom.
JUNE - First radar manufacturing contract signed. Production began in the fall. The Company was the nation's largest source of radar during the war, supplying more than 57,000 units of 70 different types for airborne, ground and naval use. Bell Labs and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's radiation laboratory were leaders in the development of radar.
OCTOBER 1 - First contract signed assigning field engineers to government projects. In November, 12 engineers trained military personnel to use WE radar equipment. By the end of the war, the field force had grown to 637 engineers. They served in all theaters of operation for the Air Corps, Army and Bureau of Ordnance.
DECEMBER 12 - World's largest PBX installed in the Pentagon. The equipment occupied 22,000 square feet, had 125 operator positions and 13,000 lines of dial PBX equipment.
OCTOBER 17 - Telephone communications along the Alaska Highway completed by WE and the Army. At the time, it was the largest and most important project undertaken by the installation organization for the armed forces out¬side the continental United States. The first call on the network to Washington, D. C., was made from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, on December 1.
NOVEMBER - Hawthorne was producing 125 M-9 gun directors a month, a schedule it undertook when the rate of production for firing mechanisms of this size or type was under 100. The M-9, developed by Bell Labs, was the first computerized firing system for anti-aircraft and
a World War II milestone in fire control.
JANUARY - Employee suggestion system adopted. It was estimated it saved the company $23,247,000 by 1968.
AUGUST - WE's peak wartime employment reached 97,416. Women made up 54 per cent of the work force, compared to about 20 per cent in 1941.
FEBRUARY - WE and Bell Labs received a contract from the Office of the Chief of Ordnance, U. S. Army, authorizing a study of an anti-aircraft guided missile. This, and ensuing studies, led to the development of the Nike systems.
SEPTEMBER - The Bell System had a backlog of 2,130,000 applications for telephone service. Nearly half were for instruments.
OCTOBER 1 - Stanley Bracken became the Company's eighth president succeeding Clarence G. Stoll.
NOVEMBER 13 - The Bell System opened its first microwave radio relay system. It was used experimentally between New York City and Boston. A coast-to-coast microwave route was opened in August, 1951.
GENERAL - The first experimental transistors (designed at Bell Labs) were manufactured and shipped to military and civilian engineering organizations for early circuit development work. Shortly thereafter, other companies began manufacturing experimental units. WE's production of transistors (point contact transistors) for a specific commercial product -- the Bell System's customer long distance dialing equipment -- started in October, 1951.
GENERAL - The first "500" type desk set telephone, later the most commonly used telephone in the U.S., was introduced.
JANUARY 14 - The Federal Government filed a civil anti-trust suit against Western Electric and AT&T in the Federal District Court in New Jersey, alleging violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. It sought to separate WE from the Bell System, the Company's dissolution, and division of its manufacturing plants into three separate companies without common control, management, or stock ownership. The suit was terminated by a final judgment, January 24, 1956.
NOVEMBER 1 - At the request of the Federal Government, WE took over operation of the Atomic Energy Commission's Sandia Laboratory at Alburquerque, N. M., from the University of California. The Company formed a non-profit subsidiary, the Sandia Corporation, to run the laboratories. Sandia's responsibility is to bridge the gap between research and manufacturing operations on non-nuclear components of atomic weapons.