Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Eighty-six years ago today, March 29, 1929, a telephone was installed in the Oval Office for the first time. President Herbert Hoover, who had been inaugurated earlier in the month, was the beneficiary of the installation.
President Rutherford B. Hayes had the very first telephone installed at the White House in 1878, but it was located in the foyer outside the President's office. At that time the office was located in the main part of the mansion. The Oval Office was not built until after the turn of the century.
The first Oval Office telephone set, manufactured by Western Electric, was placed on President Hoover's desk, although it "took a while to get the line...working correctly." Mr. Hoover's son was, for a time, unable to connect with his father from an outside line.
The telephone President Franklin D. Roosevelt used in the Oval Office was a Western Electric 202 which had no dial. This is reminiscent of the days when such phones were in hotel and motel rooms. You picked up the handset and the switchboard operator would answer and place your call.
President Harry S Truman had a Western Electric 302 with a manual dial while President Dwight D. Eisenhower was presented with a manual Western Electric 500 set trimmed in gold on November 18, 1953.
President John F. Kennedy was the first Chief Executive to use the ultra modern Western Electric Call Director telephone. This manual dial desk set included rows of 18 buttons by which JFK could connect with 18 different individuals directly. This telephone is on display now at the JFK Library in Boston.
President Lyndon B. Johnson also used a Call Director but added a Western Electric speaker and matching intercom signalling key. LBJ's Call Director had 30 buttons along with the rotary dial.
President Richard M. Nixon was the first to use a touch-tone Call Director which replaced the earlier manual dial models. President Gerald R. Ford used a telephone similar to Mr. Nixon's while President Jimmy Carter had an 18 button white Western Electric touch tone Call Director. President Ronald Reagan's telephone was much like Mr. Carter's.
President Barack Obama is the beneficiary of the most modern telephonic communication available to date, not only in the Oval Office, but on Air Force One and other locations as well.
Mr. Obama's office telephone is a Raytheon First Secure Phone. It is gray in color and bears the Seal of the President of the United States at the top.