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The History of the Gossip Bench

The gossip bench, sometimes known as the telephone table, was created as a direct result of the invention of the telephone (patented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876) and its subsequent adoption into daily life. Early telephones were cumbersome and stationary objects. Most were placed in a commonly used area of the home such as in the living room, hallway, or even the main bedroom. Long conversations often required that the speaker pull up a chair to sit down and continue talking. Soon, a piece of furniture was devised to meet this need to sit and talk that didn't require dragging a chair around — the gossip bench. Most popular from the 1930s through the 1950s, gossip benches were comprised of a seat attached to a small table that held the telephone itself and sometimes a lamp or notebook. Most also featured a storage cubby or drawer to hold a phone book, since the directory was also large and not easily moved around but necessary to keep close at hand in order to look up telephone numbers. Although gossip benches are no longer a common sight in homes, they are often sought after at antique shops today. And while the gossip bench is unlikely to make a widespread comeback in the modern age, there are some proponents of bringing back the telephone table by modernizing it as a space to organize cellphones, cables, and other pieces of technology that are helpful but also distracting to carry around the home and easy to lose if not regularly kept in a designated place.

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