Kellogg Switchboard & Supply Company

Kellogg Switchboard & Supply Company

Kellogg Switchboard & Supply Company was a major manufacturer of telephone exchange equipment. It was founded in Chicago, Illinois, by Milo G. Kellogg, an electrical engineer. Along with Western Electric (who supplied the Bell system), Automatic Electric (who supplied General Telephone) and Stromberg-Carlson, it controlled the nation's supply of telephone equipment until after World War II.[1]



Kellogg was born into a prominent and wealthy New England family. He attended prep school, and received two degrees in engineering from the University of Rochester. He married into one of Chicago's most prestigious families, and relocated to Illinois.[2]

In the 1880s, Kellogg had been a manager at Western Electric (he was superintendent of Western Electric's Chicago manufacturing and research plant) and the Southern Telephone and Telegraph Company.[3] In 1897, with Alexander Graham Bell's patent for the telephone expiring, Kellogg set up his own manufacturing firm, Kellogg Switchboard & Supply Company. Kellogg himself held more than 150 patents, and he had invented and patented the Divided Multiple telephone switchboard. The new company manufactured the equipment as its flagship product. This switchboard offered greater flexibility and efficiency than earlier designs in handling large numbers of telephone subscribers at each urban exchange.[4] Kellogg Switchboard & Supply primarily supplied local independent telephone companies.[1]

Fight for control

In 1901, Kellogg fell seriously ill. His brother-in-law, Wallace De Wolf, proved to be a poor manager. Concerned that the company might fail, De Wolf secretly sold a majority of Kellogg's stock to Western Electric. Easily manipulated by Western Electric executives and legal advisors, De Wolf also helped Western Electric attempt to take over the country's other large telephone equipment manufacturer, Stromberg-Carlson. A bitter stockholder fight ensued, which led to Stromberg-Carlson's reincorporation as a New York state corporation in 1902.[1][3][4]

Milo Kellogg recovered his health, and discovered what De Wolf had done. Kellogg sued to stop the sale of his stock. In two separate decisions by the Supreme Court of IllinoisBrown v. Cragg, 230 Ill. 299 (1907) and Dunbar v. American Telephone and Telegraph, 238 Ill. 456 (1909)—Kellogg retained ownership of his company.[5]

1903 strike

In 1903, the Kellogg Switchboard & Supply Company was the target of a bitter strike by the Brass Molder's Union Local 83 and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Kellogg Switchboard & Supply was supported by the Bell Telephone Trust (which at the time owned most of Kellogg Switchboard's stock), the Illinois Manufacturers' Association, and the Employers' Association of Chicago. Kellogg Switchboard sued to stop the Teamsters from engaging in their sympathy strike, and won an injunction forcing the drivers back to work.[6] The Kellogg company refused to negotiate, fired nearly 90 percent of its workforce, and broke the strike.[1][7]

Post-WWII history

The company prospered in the early 20th century. It introduced the Relaymatic automatic switching system in 1939 and a crossbar switching system in 1950.[citation needed]

The ITT Corporation purchased a controlling interest in Kellogg Switchboard & Supply in 1951, rebranding the new division's equipment as ITT Kellogg for a decade.[citation needed] Among ITT Kellog's acquisitions in the 1950s was telephone manufacturer Federal Telephone & Radio.[8]

In 1989, ITT sold its telecommunications product lines, including ITT Kellogg, to Alcatel, now Alcatel-Lucent. The company's U.S. operations were later sold and went private. What is left of Kellogg Switchboard & Supply now goes by the name Cortelco Kellogg. It is owned by Cortelco (Corinth Telecommunications Corporation) and is based in Corinth, Mississippi.[citation needed]

On December 12, 2008 eOn Communications announced an agreement to acquire Cortelco Systems Holding Corporation.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d Cohen, The Racketeer's Progress: Chicago and the Struggle for the Modern American Economy, 1900-1940, 2004.
  2. ^ Chicago: Pictoral and Biographical, 1912.
  3. ^ a b Adams and Butler, Manufacturing the Future: A History of Western Electric, 1999.
  4. ^ a b "Kellogg Switchboard & Supply Co.," Dictionary of Leading Chicago Businesses (1820-2000), 2005.
  5. ^ Cohen, "Business Myths, Lawyerly Strategies, and Social Context: Ernst on Labor Law History," Law & Social Inquiry, January 1989.
  6. ^ Christensen v. Kellog Switchboard, 110 Illinois App. 61 (1903); "Facing Defeat Unions Weaken," Chicago Daily Tribune, July 18, 1903.
  7. ^ Ernst, Lawyers Against Labor: From Individual Rights to Corporate Liberalism, 1995.
  8. ^
  9. ^


  • Adams, Stephen B. and Butler, Orville R. Manufacturing the Future: A History of Western Electric. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. ISBN 0521651182
  • Chicago: Pictoral and Biographical. Vol. 2, Deluxe Supplement. Chicago: S.J. Clarke, 1912.
  • Cohen, Andrew Wender. "Business Myths, Lawyerly Strategies, and Social Context: Ernst on Labor Law History." Law & Social Inquiry. 23:1 (January 1989).
  • Cohen, Andrew Wender. The Racketeer's Progress: Chicago and the Struggle for the Modern American Economy, 1900-1940. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004. ISBN 052183466X
  • Ernst, David R. Lawyers Against Labor: From Individual Rights to Corporate Liberalism. Champaign, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1995. ISBN 0252065123
  • "Facing Defeat Unions Weaken." Chicago Daily Tribune. July 18, 1903.
  • Gable, Richard W. "Birth of an Employers' Association." Business History Review. 33:4 (Winter, 1959).
  • "Kellogg Switchboard & Supply Co." Dictionary of Leading Chicago Businesses (1820-2000). Chicago: Chicago Historical Society, 2005.

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