The Teleseme: Service Wheel for 19th-Century Hotels


Ever wonder how how 19th century hotel guests ordered room service?

This intricate object is a “Teleseme,” made by New York’s Herzog Teleseme Company and used in Paris’ Élysée Palace Hotel in the 1890s. The Teleseme was designed so that hotel guests could inform staff of a overwhelming array of wants and needs, without ever speaking with a person. Instructions asked guests to move the pointer, which could be collapsed and extended, to the square that represented their desire (“wine list,” “my maid,” “lemon squash”), and then push the button at the bottom.

Intended for uses including telephone exchanges, telegraphs, hotel services and private circuits, this automatic signaling apparatus was patented in 1883. Eventually, the Teleseme was superseded in the luxury hotel market by a telephone system.

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