Historical information

William Jackson Thomas is credited with making the first ever telephone call in Victoria. Thomas was a customs inspector at the Geelong Customs House and a keen amateur scientist, astronomer and woodworker. He experimented with electricity and induction to develop his own telephone soon after its invention by Alexander Graham Bell. He built most of the experimental telephone equipment himself – right down to the screws. According to the Geelong Advertiser, on 27 December 1877, Thomas held a telephone conversation with friends in a summer house 40 metres away.


This instrument is of great historic significance as the instrument which made Australia's first telephone call in 1877, between two houses in Geelong. Although predated by Alexander Graham Bell's invention, this instrument is an example of Australian innovation and design; characteristic of Australian communications history. The instrument has excellent provenance, carrying a descriptive plaque about the use of the item. As an early prototype of a telephone, it is an incredibly rare example of communications technology.

Physical description

Stained wooden rectangular box containing mechanism with circular turned section at one end being the receiver and transmitter. There are 3 metal screws at the rear and a leather strap running from one of these to the transmitter/receiver. A label is on the base.

Inscriptions & markings

On label: "First telephone made in / Victoria 1878 / Used experimentally between / Geelong and Ballarat and Geelong Queenscliff. / Maker WJ Thomas Esq. / Late H.M. Customs Geelong / Certified by A.C. Thomas For the above W.J.T."