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07.02.2014

Navyphone (marine) Telephone by Alfred Graham & Co., United Kingdom, 1912

This example was actually raised from HMS Falmouth, the sunken cruiser of the Royal Navy of Great Britain, a casualty of First World War battle. The phone was found at the foot of the ship’s front conning tower, as evidenced by the inscription on the phone.

The activities of the Alfred Graham & Co. began in the early years of the emerging telephone, in 1880s, as a partnership between Edward Alfred Graham and Joseph Arthur Lovel Dearlove, which lasted until 1916. Arthur Lovel Dearlove owned several patents in telegraphy. In 1894 the Alfred Graham & Co. Company was founded, which took advantage of the niche market for the production of ship’s telephones.

The heyday of the Graham & Co. Company occurred in the period from 1900 to 1920, when active construction of warships and large liners took place. Many famous ships, such as the Olympic and the Titanic, were equipped with Graham phones.

Marine telephones were subjected to constant vibrations from the engines and the effects of salt and coal dust, which inevitably led to their failure. These phones were installed in areas with high levels of engine noise. Loudspeakers were traditionally used in such places, so Graham & Co.’s phones had to ensure the best possible sound. This was aided by a pipe attached to the microphone to amplify the sound during excessive background noise.

Ship’s phones were usually made of heavy brass, a favorite material of marine engineers for the simple reason that surface corrosion was easily limited by regular polishing. Telephones, designed for installation on the bridge, were made of bronze in order to prevent exposure of the telephone’s inner magnet to the ship’s compass.

Apparently Edison tested this apparatus but failed to express an interest in it, as he found the transmitter too cumbersome. In contrast, the size of the transmitter did not matter to Graham & Co. marine telephones.