1920 NYC Telegraph Police Call Box

Police call boxes were installed in large cities beginning in the 1880s and continuing until the 1960s. They were used by officers that “walked a beat.” Officers were required to “pull a box” every hour to confirm they were on patrol, to report crimes, to request a “paddy wagon” for the transportation of prisoners and to receive information from dispatch. With the invention of two-way radios and most recently cell phones, police call boxes have become a thing of the past. Police call boxes utilized two technologies: telegraph and telephone.

Early police and fire call boxes were made of cast iron and were extremely heavy, many weighting well over 120 pounds not including the cast iron stand.  Beginning in the mid-1920’s the call boxes were made of cast aluminum. This reduced corrosion due to inclement weather.

Early police and fire call boxes were made of cast iron and were extremely heavy, many weighting well over 120 pounds not including the cast iron stand. The 1900 combination police and fire harp below weighs in at 350 pounds. Beginning in the mid-1920s the call boxes were made of cast aluminum. This reduced corrosion due to inclement weather.

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