Donor: Rufo Vollmer Accession #: 1979-0074-001
Nowanty battery operated telephone transmitter/receiver. This was the first telephone in McLeod County and was used at the Winsted Milling Company. Current was provided by wet cells, gallon glass jars with copper and zinc suspended in water and vinegar, and later dry batteries. The one-piece instrument that transmitted and received sound was named “Nowanty” which may have been a factory production name. To make a phone call, a person would diddle at the connection to break and then make contact with the electric current. This made a fairly loud clicking noise at the other end, instead of the later bell sound that would have been heard.
Two Winsted residents, Charles Otto Borgersrode and Felton Vollmer built the first telephone system in the County in 1892, as a convenience, when having to meet someone at the train in Lester Prairie, where the Great Northern Rail had been coming since 1886. Before the telephone line was built, if someone was expected to arrive on the train, the person meeting them would have to hitch up a horse and wagon and drive to Lester Prairie in hopes that it was the right day and time and that the traveler had made that particular train. The line stretched from the Winsted Mill office to the Depot in Lester. The 20-foot poles used to build the line were made from tamarack trees that came from a swamp south of Buffalo and were set 32 per mile. The wire was 12BB galvanized single wire and there were oak brackets and pale blue-green glass insulators. In 1913 Charles Otto Borgersrode sold the telephone exchange to his son Rudolph Borgersrode. The Ollig family took it over in 1931, becoming an independent telephone company called the Winsted Telephone Company.