The Western Electric number 317 magneto wall phones were introduced in 1907 and remained in production for about thirty years. The model number remained the same however, many changes were seen in the phone through the years. Below are examples of some of the changes that were seen in this popular Western Electric telephone.
Picture Frame Front Cathedral Top
The earliest version of the 317 was in production for a short time. The back board had an arched top with the line terminals attached. This is called a cathedral top. The door had a decorative groove routed around the base of the transmitter which is referred to as a picture frame front. This phone used a No. 122 Western Electric receiver with external terminals (commonly called a 'pony' receiver) and a No. 229 solid-back transmitter. Internally, the earliest phones had a 'red bar' magneto that was commonly found in the model 301 phones. Note that the door was hinged to open left to right. This was found to interfere with the magneto crank and later versions of the 317 had door arrangements to open right to left.
Catalogs in 1909 show a new version of the No. 317. The external terminals were removed along with the need for a cathedral top. Along with eliminating the exposed electric terminals on the top of the phone, Western Electric eliminated the exposed wires on the receiver as well. The door hinges were moved from right to left as mentioned above. The phone's dimensions remained the same.
The 1911 catalog introduced the third version of the No. 317. While this version was slightly smaller than its predecessor, the major external difference is the absences of the decorative routing, or picture frame, around the transmitter.
The last version of the 317 was introduced around 1916. The long transmitter arm was replaced by a short bracket which held a new No. 323 transmitter. The phone is smaller size and sports a shorter and more slanted writing shelf. This version of the 317 was in production for a number of years and can be found in Western Electric Catalogs throughout the 1930's.