Tag Archives: telephones

Early 20th Century Technology in “The Statement of Randolph Carter”

SoRC_Andrew_Brosnatch                               The Statement of Randolph Carter by Andrew Bronsnatch

In H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Statement of Randolph Carter,” written in 1919 (The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stores by S.T. Joshi, 1999), several relatively new forms of early 20th century technology were utilized. First is the electric lantern. As Harley Warren and Randolph Carter travel through the Big Cypress Swamp in the dark they use electric lanterns to find their way. The first commercially successful, portable electric lantern used a dry cell battery and was available for purchase before the end of 1896 (www.candlepowerforums.com). The Acme Electric Lamp Company held the patent for the electric lantern. Unfortunately for Acme the electric lantern was short-lived as its popularity declined with the increased availability of the tubular flashlight, which was invented in 1898 (www.candlepowerforums.com). Ironically, while potable electric lighting was a relatively new technology, by the time electric flashlight was readily available, the electric lantern was rendered obsolete. Thus, even by 1919 the use of an electric lantern would have been thought of by at least some as antiquated.

vintage-antique-1920-s-1930-s-electric-flashlight-lantern_www.tearpeak.com                                                                                              A vintage electric lantern (www.terapeak.com)

antique-flashlight-lot-early-electric-flashlights-French-Rayolite-Winchester-Laurel-Leaf-Farm-item-no-nt718153-3           Antique electric flashlights

In contrast to the electric lantern, very little information is readily available on the portable telephone outfit, used by Henry Warren to communicate with Randolph Carter above-ground.  As Leslie S. Klinger has noted in The Annotated H.P. Lovecraft (2014) on “The Statement of Randolph Carter,” information on a phone system as described by Lovecraft – where two telephones are directly connected to each other by wire – is not widely available.  Apparently, Frederick F. Strong filed a patent application in 1905 for a portable telephone unit where two phones were connected with wire (Klinger, 2014).  However, in Lovecraft’s day, technological advances in the telephone technology was occurring at an accelerated pace, similar to the advances in the home computer through the 1980’s or current advances in hand held electronic devices.



Indeed, in the early 20th century as the quality and range of telephone technology increased, there were discussions of having “a wireless telephone outfit in a suit-case–or in any other convenient carrying receptacle–complete, and requiring only connection at any ordinary electric-light socket to make it capable of operating over a distance of fifty miles…” (from Technical World Magazine, 1912).  Additionally, the first coast to coast long-distance telephone call was in 1915 between Alexander Graham Bell in New York City and his formal assistant Thomas Augustus Watson in San Francisco.  By 1904 more than three million phones in the United States were connected to manual switchboard exchanges. Given the quick-based, technological evolution of the telephone, it was not surprising that Warren and Carter had a portable telephone outfit. However, what is surprising is the “thing” deep within the Earth knew how to operate the device. The next article will be a discussion of the creatures Harley Warren encountered underground. Thank you – Fred.

the_fate_of_harley_warren_by_frohickey The Fate of Harley Warren by Frohickey (www.deviantart.com)