03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Anunciator Box

A few weeks ago, I was working on a shoot in an amazing 100+ year-old mansion in Long Island. In the hallway leading from the dining room into the kitchen, I noticed something on the wall near the butler's pantry...


This glass-covered box:


Later, I was in the living room...


...And noticed this button on the wall.


Of course, I couldn't resist...


Immediately, I heard a loud noise in the kitchen. Turns out, this is the original call system for servants. Press a button, and in the kitchen, a buzzer goes off and a number drops indicating which room is in need of assistance (below, I had pressed the living room button, as well as an upstairs bedroom):


Though broken for years, the new owner recently rewired it back into working condition for fun. There's a button in each of the downstairs rooms as well as the bedrooms...But for some reason, I couldn't find one in the dining room.


Turns out, it's a foot pedal located on the floor beneath the table (currently covered by the rug). A host or hostess could signal for servants without ever leaving the table!

The device was made by the "Knickerbocker Annunciator Co.," which is a pretty great company name for this sort of thing. A quick Google search reveals their business address at 116 West Street in Manhattan in 1921.


To reset the numbers, you just turn the knob below...


And they crank up into the box!


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