Historical society finds room for antique telephone collection

At the Wisconsin location, this Eiffel Tower telephone, SSN 3109, with black cords, is listed at $2,500. 
(Ref. #225.) Photo courtesy Creator's Touch Ministry.

At the Wisconsin location, this Eiffel Tower telephone, SSN 3109, with black cords, is listed at $2,500.
(Ref. #225.) Photo courtesy Creator’s Touch Ministry.

A permanent location has been found for the H.G. Allen Telecommunications Historical Museum (Read Antique Trader, “Calling for help”); that is, a home for the museum’s antique telephone collection has been found. The Museum itself has been dissolved; excess inventory will be sold.

Consisting mainly of voracious telephone collector Robert Prosser’s prized telephones, the museum’s inventory, numbering a thousand pieces, found itself without a home when it lost its display space more than six years ago.

Tom Squires, president of the Manawa Telephone Company and voluntary caretaker of the displaced museum collection, told Antique Trader he was contacted by several people making inquiries after the article ran last February. Suggestions he received for the collection ranged from donating it to another museum to selling specific phones to interested collectors. Squires said contacts were made, but nothing really came of them.

Squires relates the events: Late in 2010, it occurred to Museum board president Dave Keating to transfer the museum assets to another non-profit organization for tax purposes. Keating, along with his wife Connie, are both ministers with Creator’s Touch Ministry (CTM), a 501(c)(3) Christian outreach program based in Onalaska, Wis., that attends to the practical and spiritual needs of the poor and underprivileged.

Keating, who is originally from Thorp, Wis., made contacts with his hometown historical society. He confirmed the society had a building and space to rent to the telephone museum. The preliminary work completed, the board passed a resolution to dissolve the Telephone Museum and transfer the inventory to Creator’s Touch Ministry.

The inventory has since been moved to Thorp and is now part of the Thorp Historical Society Museum, joining collections of old photos, publications, yearbooks and other items on display.

Creative Touch Ministry is making some of its excess inventory available for sale. The size and nature of the collection make it impractical to store due to the possible deterioration and devaluation of the telephones, as well as the cost associated with storage. According to Keating, “The proceeds from these sales will help keep the museum open in the future.” Some of the telephones listed for sale are in Fond du Lac, Wis., while the balance are in Caledonia, Minn.

Antique telephone sales:

Dozens of antique telephones are available from the former H.G. Allen Telecommunications Museum. Those needing more information on telephones, including other antique telephones that are available, can contact:

Minnesota: Robert Schroeder
711 S. Winnebago St., Caledonia, MN 55921

Wisconsin: Duane Johnson  
N5378 Hwy 45 South, Fond du Lac, WI 53935

Editor’s Note: All telephones are subject to prior sale.

Regarding museum funds, Squires commented, “They should be OK for four or five years, but they’ll need to look at doing some fundraising after that.” Deaccessioning some of the inventory will postpone the need to look at other fundraising options.

As Keating and his wife are ministering in Zambia, Africa, Robert Schroeder of Caledonia, Minn., and Duane Johnson of Fond Du Lac, Wis., are executing the telephone sales. Offerings include everything from a basic Western Electric top ringer box with chrome and brass bells that has its crank but no handset for $125, to a phenomenal Eiffel Tower example with brass bells and black and brass handset and mouthpiece for $2,500. Another very fine example is the American Electric single box telephone with decal, chrome bells and black handset listed at $250.

The Museum is located two miles east of Thorp on County Hwy. X (Yellowstone Trail), then 1/8 mile north on Gorman Avenue. Though the Museum is only open for regular hours on the weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day, additional viewing arrangements can be made by contacting Jim Hallin at 715-829-0409.

—> Third Annual Favorite Finds Contest Returns: ENTRIES DUE Sept. 30

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