The police call box, or callbox, is a metal box containing a special-purpose direct line telephone or other telecommunications device. Before the introduction of two-way radios, some police agencies installed call boxes at various street locations as a way for beat officers to report to their dispatch office.
In 1852, Dr. William Channing and Moses G. Farmer developed the first practical fire alarm system, utilizing the telegraph system. Two years later, they applied for a patent for their “Electromagnetic Fire Alarm Telegraph for Cities.”
In 1855, John Gamewell of South Carolina, purchased regional rights to market the fire alarm telegraph. He obtained the patents and full rights to the system in 1859.
During the Civil War, the government seized the patents. John F. Kennard subsequently bought the patents and returned them to Gamewell.
In 1867 the two men formed a partnership, Kennard and Co., to manufacture the alarm systems. The Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraph Co. was established in 1879.
Gamewell call box systems were installed in 250 cities by 1886, growing to 500 cities by 1890. A new factory was opened in Newton Upper Falls, Massachusetts. By 1910, Gamewell had gained a 95% market share.
Today the company is called Gamewell-FCI (Fire Control Instruments), and is owned by Honeywell Automation and Control Solutions. They develop self-programming, networked, and sophisticated voice evacuation systems.