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March 29, 2011

Your Vintage Princess Phone – A Cleaning And Repair Tutorial

By Dave

Let’s say your hanging out in your living room, on the world’s greatest Heywood-Wakefield two tier end table from 1956  that’s right next to that great Danish Modern eight foot long sofa. Or maybe you’re more like me and you have some pretty decent mid-century stuff even though it doesn’t have a real “name” attached to it. In either case, the phone rings and you reach out for your  (horrors !)  silver plastic wireless phone made in China.

I’ve just lost the mood.

Know what you need? An aqua colored, 60’s Princess phone from Ma Bell. (for you younger folks, Ma Bell is what we used to call the phone company)


Oh, I know what you’re thinking. “How am I supposed to get one of these?” and “Do they work very well?” and “I have modular outlets and look, this thing uses some prehistoric connector!” Stop worrying, Uncle Dave is here to help you. Princess phones are available on the online auction sites averaging in price from $20.00 – $50.00. The one I’m going to use as my example was just bought on March 1st and I paid $20.50 plus $7.70 shipping. When your Princess phone arrives it will probably be dirty, the ringer may or may not work, it might have those prehistoric connectors on it, and the light probably will not work.

Here’s how to change the cord so it will fit into your modular outlet and a trick to make the ringer work if it doesn’t.

Here are all the tools you will need:

First let’s look at the bottom to see what we have. This one’s in fairly decent shape. You can see the ringer loudness control, the socket for the light bulb, and a plate with some information.


Let’s have a closer look at that plate. This is good information to have for when you start looking for your own princess phone. This phone is a Bell System (that’s the phone company) Model 702B. It was manufactured in November of 1964. And best of all – it’s a Princess®. Model 702B means it has a built in ringer. The 701 did not. If you want a phone that rings, go for a 702B.


Now let’s see what it looks like on the inside. You’ll need to remove two screws, one from either end of the phone.


Take the top off and this is what you should see. On the left is the ringer bell. This is what makes it a 702B. If this were a 701 there might be a chunk of steel acting as a weight there, or it might just be empty space, but there would not be a bell. You can also see the wiring.


Let’s look closer. This is the phone before I changed anything. These are the wires you’ll be working with when we put on our new cord. You can see raised letters. These are identifiers to tell you where the wires go. On the left you’ll see two green wires under a screw, and to the right you’ll see a red and a yellow under another screw. There will also be a black, white and yellow wires with the old wall cord.
Loosen the two screws and remove the red wire and the green wire that are part of the old wall cord. The black, white and yellow wires may also be unscrewed from their connectors, but nothing will go back in their place. The black, white and yellow wires are for making the light work which requires a separate transformer that plugs into a wall outlet. I don’t have the transformer to show you now. That may be a future article.  If you can’t get to the screws for the black, white, and yellow you may snip them with wire cutters but leave their ends long so that we may use them in the future.


I showed you what tools you’ll need but neglected to tell you that you’ll need an RJ-11 modular phone cord. I bought mine at W-Mart for $3.47 and it’s 12 feet long. Clip off one of the clear plastic ends, split the plastic covering exposing 4 wires (red, green, yellow, black) and strip about an inch off of the red and the green exposing the thin copper wire inside. I used a match to melt the red and green covering off as the wires are so thin it’s hard to strip them in the conventional manner.


In this picture you can see how I routed the new wall cord in through the side of the phone. You can also see the new red wire connected the screw marked L2.


In this picture you can see my new red and green wall cord wires attached to connectors L1 (green) and L2 (red). You’ll also see a black wire attached to L1. Following it back you’ll see it also connects to a connector labeled “G”. This black wire is what I added to make the ringer work. I can’t tell you why the ringers don’t work in these old Princesses, but this is the trick to try if yours doesn’t ring. You’ll also see in this picture the snipped ends of the black and white wires I mentioned earlier. I completely removed the yellow one. It was easy to get to.


Put the top back on, tighten up the two screws on the bottom of the case and it should now look like this. Notice that nice clean modular wall cord. There are ways to make the old aqua colored wall cord work, but this is what I did. I like the idea of no shorts in the wiring.


You may want to clean the case of your Princess. Sometimes the yellowing on an old plastic case just can’t be completely removed, but for scratches and polishing I like Novus plastic polish and scratch remover. It comes in a 3 step process and can be researched under the key work Novus Polish. It gets pretty cruddy under the dial sometimes. You can remove the dial to clean under it. You’ll need a paper clip. Straighten the clip. Now rotate the dial as far to the right as it will go. Insert the paperclip into the tiny hole between numbers 4 and 5 and press. You should feel a springy clip push in, when you feel it turn the dial further to the right and it should pop off into your hand.


Now you should have a fairly clean, working, dialing, and ringing mid-century modern Princess phone. They come in many colors to add to the completeness of your mid-century interior.

Now if I could just find one of those cool old wire telephone stands.




Princess ad

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21 Responses to Your Vintage Princess Phone – A Cleaning And Repair Tutorial

  1. Uncle Atom Reply

    March 29, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Great how-to Dave. Hope you don’t mind I’m linking to this from my blog.

  2. Sara In AZ Reply

    March 29, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Really great post Dave, thanks for all the info!

  3. Deb Reply

    March 29, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    I wish I had seen your post a long time ago. For years I wanted a real blue princess phone in the worst way, but I was always intimidated by the rewiring and dirt. Finally I settled on a reproduction. It’s cute and it’s touch tone, but it’s just not the same. I’m glad to have the reference, though, in case I come accross a real princess phone again.


  4. Lee Reply

    March 29, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    I’ve got a 701, so… no ringer, unless I buy the ringer box. I’ve got yellowing on mine, so I’ll check out the novus.

  5. Dave Reply

    March 29, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    My pleasure.

    And as Al Pacino’s LTC Slade said in The Scent of a Woman – I’m just gettin’ warmed up.

  6. jm Reply

    April 23, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    a1telephone youtubed a ringerless one where they put in a modern bell ringer, and led lights too.

  7. deb Reply

    July 8, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    Any idea how to change the paper in the center? Ours is stained and we don’t see how to pop the center clear plastic. Our other phones had a little square opening to pop it off with. Help!

    • Carol Reply

      August 3, 2012 at 2:52 am

      To remove the dial to change the card check out this link


      The website oldphoneworks has dial cards printed on card stock that you can purchase if you want a more authentic look.

      The issue I have right now is that I have a Princess rotary phone and its transformer. I also have a DSL line for my computer. When I hook up the light transformer I get an incredible amount of noise on the line, so bad that conversations are unintelligible.

      If anyone knows a fix for this, I’d be interested in hearing about it.

  8. Cathi Reply

    October 11, 2012 at 2:23 am

    I am hoping Dave is still on here!! I have a princess phone dated sept.1965. It is in very good condition but when I bought it at an Elks lodge garage
    Sale the green and yellow wires were not attached to anything. I am not very good with this kind of stuff and got all messed up trying to follow what you did. I am sure it was my fault. Is there any way you could please help me? ThNk you so much


  9. mike.burke80@facebook.com Reply

    January 27, 2013 at 12:55 am

    Very cool post. I found an old wire telephone stand to go with it for $2 yay!! Also dry glad to finally hear it ring 🙂

  10. Carol Lambert Reply

    June 18, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    Hi, It’s so nice to see help posted in this way. I have a aqua princess push button. Very similar. The bell is plastic and there is nothing inside. It buzzes instead of ringing. Does this make any sense? Thanks so much for your help.

  11. Betty McKee Reply

    September 20, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    I have a yellow princess phone but both ends of the the receiver are broken (the little part that screws on). Is there any place I can get parts for it? Is there any value to the phone in it’s current condition.

  12. Joe Reply

    December 1, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    I have had a green Princess phone in my office for many years. It has never rung. Today I decided to do an internet search to see if there were wiring diagrams for the phone. I found your website and tutorial. In just a few minuets I had it ringing. Thank you !!

  13. TomT Reply

    May 21, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Thanks very much! This is exactly what I needed to get an old Princess phone working again, including ringing! Very much appreciated, especially the detailed photos.

  14. Jacki Reply

    May 22, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Now if someone can tell me how to get my dial princess phones working with Vonage. :^)

  15. Carolin Reply

    June 11, 2014 at 11:06 pm

    I have the opposite problem — I need to be able to turn off the ringer, which of course I cannot as they were designed that way. I just bought a lovely, nice and heavy, authentic Princess. The numbers on the bottom are 2702BM and 81090. No idea their significance, and can’t really guess when it was manufactured. Love this website!

    • Mark Reply

      January 17, 2015 at 12:33 pm

      Princess Telephone: 2702BM 81090
      2702 is the model and that number has other significance I can’t remember, but the BM means Internal “Bell” with Modular connections.
      The telephone was manufactured in Septembr of 1981.


  16. Sue Reply

    May 8, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    Can you tell me how to wire my 702B princess phone to the wall using the yellow, green, red, black wires? Some one told me to take the cover off the wall and I would see the wires and screws. i attached all the colors together(RED TO RED, GREEN TO GREEN ETC) but it still did not work. Any ides if I need to change the colors around?(red to yellow wire, green to red wire etc)? Any help would be wonderful

    • Sue Reply

      July 22, 2016 at 11:49 am

      Not sure if you got an answer I had the same problem and I hooked up red to red then yellow and green from phone to green of the wall. I also had a black wire from the wall and was told to snip it off at the wall. I also had a black and white wire from my phone that hooked up to the transformer. Hope this helps. Mine works great it rings and lights up

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