Monday, September 18, 2017

20th Century Americana ~ The New England Telephone Museum in Warner, New Hampshire

This is another post in my series of stories about 20th Century Americana, which I use as story starters and for helping with oral histories.  Most of these subjects bring back great memories to the people who lived through the 20th century, maybe even YOU!

Since we spend many weekends driving around New England in the little red convertible in search of cemeteries, churches and repositories of family history, we often run across many quirky, small museums, too.   New England seems to be full of small yet fascinating small museums and historical societies with great collections.  In Warner, New Hampshire, just off Route 89, we found the New England Telephone Museum.

This great little museum holds phones from the very earliest versions to modern cell phones.  You can't walk around this museum without saying "I remember that one!" or "We had that phone!" or "Remember that?".   Everyone has owned at least one or two or more of the phones in this collection, or your friends and neighbors or workplace had a few more. 

The New England Telephone Museum started as the personal collections of two families who worked in the telephone industry.  Then the collection grew to over 1000 artifacts with donations and gifts.  You can see this museum in about an hour if you are just peeking, or spend hours oohing and ahhhing and asking questions of the very knowledgeable docents.  There is a great movie about the history of the telephone, and also a downloadable app with a mobile tour of the museum. Check the website for special events, too. 

One of the highlights of this museum was a demonstration of how a switchboard worked.  If you ever lived on a party line, or had one in your office, or remember calling a business with a switchboard, this demonstration was fascinating.  In the days before digital computer, the use of mechanical wires in switchboards was the latest in "high technology".  It was actually quite clever to learn how they worked.  The docent also had some funny and true stories about the operators who used to run these devices.   Was there a telephone operator or switchboard operator in your family tree? 

Do you remember any of these telephones?

The Telephone Museum also has a small library with a large collection of telephone books.  This collection might be useful to anyone researching family members in New England. I also believe that this would be a great place to bring older, and even younger, family members and then listen to the stories that come pouring out as they tour the museum.  We brought Vincent's Mom here, and she had fun recognizing some of the older phones and telling stories about some of the office phones she recognized, and about switchboard operators and party lines at home.  This could be some great oral history for your family history files!  

In the basement of the same building you can find the Warner Fire Fighters Museum.  This is one large exhibit hall filled with historic objects and memorabilia from the Warner Fire Department.   There are three vintage fire engines and lots of photographs of the fire department which was founded in 1830.  It is open by appointment and admission is FREE!  Call the phone number 603-456-2222 to schedule a visit to coincide with your next trip to the Telephone Museum.  

1927 Chevrolet Fire Engine

The New England Telephone Museum: 

The Warner Fire Fighters Museum:


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "20th Century Americana ~ The New England Telephone Museum in Warner, New Hampshire", Nutfield Genealogy, posted September 18, 2017, ( accessed [access date]).

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post. Can't wait to hear about other funky museums.

    You are a very talented blogger!