Doorbells, Buzzers & Batteries: 1896 to 1903
The 1896 Summer Catalog provides the first relevant electric doorbell in our survey—the No. 63504 “Standard” three inch Electric Bell—
Most American homes had yet to be wired for electricity, so doorbells were marketed in outfits with batteries and wire.
Notably, these kits included a Walnut “Push” as the term “doorbell button” had not yet entered the vernacular. In the late 1800s, electricity was very much a novelty and doorbells were marketed next to other “essentials” like Electric Rings for Rheumatism.”
Buzzers make their Entrance
The 1897 Catalog significantly advances the idea of electric signaling devices for residential use with the introduction of the 6095 Buzzer. Available with a nickel box or wood box accompanied by this informative description:
- Buzzers are sometimes used in place of bells, as they make a low buzzing sound which can be heard but a short distance.
This banner year introduced “Push Buttons,” which were described as useful for door bells and other work.
In 1903 the Sears’ line expanded to include “skeleton bells”, with exposed works since the magic of electricity fairly required the mystery not be concealed with a cover.
The first decade of the 20th Century found an ever increasing variety of “Door or Call bells” featured prominently in Sears’ “Complete and Newly Organized Electrical Goods Department.”
Sears responded to America’s rapid electrification and the growing demand for electrical products by inroducing a “Special Electrical Goods Catalog.” beginning in 1907. It is likely a greater variety of doorbells and door chimes could be found in this specialty catalog, however our concentration here is on the doorbells marketed in Sears’ Spring and Fall “Big Books.”