Antique Gamewell Fire Alarm
Telco. Automatic Repeater, dating from the 1880's - FOR
For years my mother has used this beautiful piece as a conversation piece
and coffee table in her private home. Now she is moving and no longer
has the space for it.
Near perfect, original, unrestored and unaltered condition!
Description: 1880-1890 - A very rare ten-circuit Fire Telegraph
Repeater, manufactured by Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraph Co., New York.
Enclosed in a beveled glass case with a silver nickel plated frame (probably nickel plated on brass), measuring
60" long, 24" wide and approximately 23" high.
Inscription on the side of the brass frame of the skeleton movement:
THE G.F.A. TELCO, NY (The Gamewell Fire
Alarm Telegraph Company, New York)
Pat. Apr.14.68 (Patent dated April 14th,
Reissued Oct.10.71 (Patent reissued on October
Pat. June.14.70 (Patent dated June 14th, 1870)
Pat. July.27.75 (Patent dated July 27th, 1875)
Pat. Jan.6.80 (Patent dated January 6th, 1880)
The intricate weight-driven lacquered-brass skeleton movement is
connected to a series of 10 solenoids that completed the circuits to
the remote telegraph station boxes. Some of the original wires are still present
and connected to the single end where they were when the unit was
removed from active service. The wires that remain connected can be
see in the photos below.
The brass wire connectors on the dark wood base are in excellent
condition. There are two sets of glass doors on each side, WITH the
original key, each of the four doors is fully functional. See the photo album
below for a clear view of the doors open and closed. With no cracks
or damage to the glass or frame, this repeater is remarkably well
preserved! With an interesting and artistic shape, and displaying
exceptional period workmanship and quality materials, this item can be a beautiful conversation piece
for a house, and serves as a functional piece of furniture closely
resembling a glass topped coffee table.
for the discerning collector it is a rare and historical piece of
firefighting memorabilia from the late 1800's.
The automatic repeater was an essential and central part of the
complete fire alarm system installed in many cities at the end of
the 1800's. The repeater was connected to a number of telegraph
station boxes scattered throughout the city. Activation of the switches
in these boxes
would broadcast a signal to the repeater and the signal would be
re-broadcast across all the boxes in the system, with a unique
signal from which the location of the fire could be ascertained. An
example of one of the Gamewell street telegraph boxes dating from
1879 (note the company logo and trademark cast into the top of the
cast iron box) is shown to the right. Please note, we do NOT have
one of the telegraph boxes for sale.
text shown below is taken from a Gamewell & Co. catalog of this era,
and it describes the Automatic System for which Gamewell was famous:
Picture left, shows the cover of a representative 1907 Gamewell
catalog. Note: we do NOT have a catalog for sale.
Picture right, shows one of the circa 1881 gongs that would have
been connected to the repeater to signal the alarm. Note: we do NOT
have a gong for sale).
Quoted text from a Gamewell catalog dating from the
Automatic Central Office
is furnished with a battery, lightning arrester, switch-boards, and
galvanometers, and is located in an engine house, city hall, police
station, or other public building, and is connected by telegraph
wires with as many street signal boxes and bell strikers or whistle
blowers, and engine-house gongs and indicators, as the size of the
city or town may require.
It may, if desired, have call bells and registers similar to the
manual central office, but its essential feature is the
automatic repeater and
transmitter, which instantaneously sends out over all
circuits, and to every alarm station (box), each signal received
from any of the alarm boxes in any part of the system.
It may be properly said that our
WATCHES ITSELF. If a battery becomes too weak to work efficiently,
or an intentional or accidental interruption occurs to any part of
the wire, in an instant notice is given by one blow upon all the
alarm bells and gongs, calling Attention! to its temporary disabled
condition; thus not only keeping watch over the city, but actually
watching itself, and guaranteeing reliability every moment.
In a complete Automatic System, such as is herein briefly described,
any one who discovers a fire, by opening an alarm box and by
(pulling the hook down once), can start into life a series of
electric and mechanical movements by means of which bells, whistles,
and gongs miles apart are instantaneously sounded, not only alarming
firemen and citizens, but announcing to them the locality of the
The cost of an automatic central office system will range from
$2,500 to $10,000 or more, according to the number and extent of
circuits, and the amount of apparatus required. In this system
no night watchman is required."
(Catalog text source: