‘Toy-Town Telephone Exchange’, child’s toy, British registered design 879566, play-used fair condition, with original packaging (less one end flap), made by Codeg (Cowan de Groot Ltd), British, c. 1955. Decorative children's toy with original packaging consisting of: a red metal (tin plate) toy manual telephone exchange with yellow plugs, sockets switch covers and rotary dial (with and a red plastic side-mounted hanging handset), and a separate free-standing red plastic desk telephone with yellow plastic rotary dial, made in the 1950s.
‘Toy-Town Telephone Exchange’ is a decorative children’s toy which mimics the real-life work of manual telephone exchange operators, mostly women. The toy was made and sold in the 1950s when manual telephone exchanges began to be replaced by automated telephone exchanges and automatic direct dialling. The most common automatic telephone system was the Strowger system, developed in the 1890s and popularised in the 1900s.
In a manual telephone exchange, the operator’s job was to connect calls on a switchboard with a plug and jack system. Automation of the British telephone system began in the 1920s to reduce labour costs and increase user privacy – in manual telephone exchange systems, telephone operators could listen in to conversations.
‘Toy-Town Telephone Exchange’ was made by Codeg, the tradename for Cowan de Groot. Cowan de Groot was established in 1919 and imported goods from around the world including large numbers of tin plate toys from Japan and Germany. As with many toys of this period, the decorative elements of the packaging are more interesting and higher in quality than the toy itself, which is made of tin plate and plastic and of quite cheap manufacture.