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Jefferson Electric "Junior Bell Ringer" Transformer
one lives in an old house, as I do, it's not hard to find a few curios
sprinkled around. The house I live in dates from the early 1900s and
it's been remodeled several times, most significantly in the mid 1940s
to early 1950s. There is evidence of many interesting things having
been removed as time wore on and more modern technology came along: a
covered opening into the chimney stack in the kitchen for some sort of
woodburning stove, various standpipes that were presumably for hand
pumps that seem likely to have been connected to a cistern and the
remants of a rainwater collection system with a diverting valve meant
to send water into the storm sewer or off to the cistern.
the most interesting thing was the one we noticed first, upon
inspecting the electrical panels, not long after moving in. It's quite
likely that this home, having been built by someone with wealth, was
equipped with electricity from the very beginning. Some of what I
believe to have been the original electrical service equipment is still
in use. In amongst those things is an electrical transformer that has
probably been forgotten. Identified as a Jefferson Electric "Junior
Bell Ringer", it probably did operate some kind of bell or signal.
Would it have run a doorbell, buzzer or even something else? I think
the curly wires leaving its secondary output look pretty cool, though
I've never been able to trace them. They soon disappear to points
unknown, and I'm not about to rip down the ceiling or wall material to
figure out where they go when so much equally elderly wiring runs
through that same area. (I've theorized about how to trace the curly
wires throughout the years, but have never actually invested the
effort.) Our "current" doorbell is a 1940s-something Rittenhouse
model that someone added, and it runs from a separate 24 volt
transformer mounted to the ceiling in another part of the basement.
(I'd say "modern", but that seems like a misnomer when it's been around
for seven decades and counting. Still, it was quite modern at the time,
having user selectable chiming patterns and adjustable volume. Its brain
is basically a small analog "computer" driven by a synchronous AC
motor.) Before you might suggest that the Rittenhouse chime is powered
from this Jefferson transformer, bear in mind that it outputs 12 volts
AC, where the Rittenhouse chime uses 24 volts. I also know exactly where the Rittenhouse transformer is! (It's the original and thus has Rittenhouse stamped into its frame.)
The upstairs used to contain a door
going outside to nowhere, other than a very sudden dropoff. At one
time, it probably led to some kind of deck or stairs. Although the
porch light and its switch were still present (however unused), there
was no sign of bell wiring anywhere near that door when it was removed
and walled over. We've blatantly hypothesized that this house (like so
many others) might have been set up as an apartment at one time. (If it
was, the kitchen facilites were almost certainly shared amongst its
occupants. A second bathroom located upstairs was added at some point
in the 1970s.)
All that's getting waaaay off the
subject, though. I've long been curious about this transformer's age
and possible purpose (beyond the obvious). I'd love to know
approximately how old it might be, and that's a lot of the reason why I
decided to throw this page up and see if anyone might write in with
more information. It's worked before!
There's not a whole lot of information to be found online about Jefferson Electric. Roger Russell's web pages
about Jefferson's line of mystery clocks are about it. Google's
book scanning project has collected a lot of interesting history. With
a bit more trawling than I'd done at first, some advertisments and
pictures of the Junior Bell Ringer I have did show up. You'll notice
that the input terminal design on my example is a bit different from
that shown. These date from around 1918 (or slightly before) to about
While there, I found another version of the Jefferson product and a different "junior bell ringer" product from the Viking Electric Company of New York.
One might suggest asking Roger
Russell if he's got any more information about the Jefferson Electric
Company or this transformer, and while he might, I'm hesitant to send
any e-mail that way. When I enquired of him about some projection clocks, I
never got a reply and that entire portion of his web site vanished. Coincidence? Probably. The timing was too perfect, though.
Jefferson Electric is still around today,
though they've been through many hands. I can't imagine that they'd
have any information about this transformer today, and so I've never
contacted them to ask.
In fact, about the only thing I can
tell you is that it still works here in March of 2018. (Yes, it took me
a long time to do that because brevity just isn't my style.) As their
advertisement said, "when once installed will last a lifetime without
I have to wonder if it is still
powering some forgotten thing within the walls of this house, as I'd
expect its open circuit voltage to be much higher.
If you've come to this web page
looking for more information about your
own Jefferson Electric Junior Bell Ringer, I'm sorry if I have
disappointed you. You might check back, though, because someone may
well drop out of the shadows with more information. And of course, if
you have some information about this transformer or the company, I'd really love to hear from you! Please feel free to send me some e-mail!
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Copyright © 2018 by William R.
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from the top level page of this server. Created 03/17/2018, updated 04/22/2018.