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             Western Electric and Bell Telephone Laboratories

Western Electric was a powerhouse electrical equipment design and manufacturing company. Western was formed in 1869, before the telephone was invented. It was purchased by AT&T in 1881 and became a massive supplier for its needs.  Circa 1906, Western engineers began the investigations into what became the Rotary and Panel telephone systems.

Western Electric had at least 2,350 assigned patents in 1925. With the exception of General Electric and Westinghouse, no other US company could compare. Western Electric spent about one million USD in 1925 on R&D according to one reference (American Independent Inventors in an Era of Corporate R&D). For many years Western Electric's Chief Engineer was Charles E. Scribner, who during his career had 441 telephone related patents issued.

So, where does Bell Telephone Labs fit in? Certainly they have a reputation as a force behind AT&T's technological and scientific progress. On Jan 1st, 1925, a new corporation, the "Bell Telephone Laboratories," took over the Engineering Department of the Western Electric Company.  So, Western Electric Engineering then Bell Labs drove engineering innovation in the Bell System. 

Bell Labs was able to attract and retain some of the most brilliant minds in science and engineering, and fostered an environment of creativity and innovation that resulted in many groundbreaking discoveries and inventions including the transistor and the Laser (based on the theoretical work of Charles Townes and Arthur Schawlow, both of Bell Labs). 

The original 463 West Street NY location for Bell Laboratories, originally purchased by Western Electric in 1896 and later occupied by Bell Laboratories beginning in 1925 (Wikimedia). 

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