The red telephone box is pretty much synonymous with the cities and ex-colonies of the United Kingdom, most famously London. While it’s an internationally recognized symbol of the country, I bet many people do not know the red box origins.
In the early 20th century the United Kingdom Post Office introduced the first public telephone kiosk…but the K1 received underwhelming support and use. After other design attempts failed, the Royal Fine Art Commission was brought in to determine a design for the box. They brought in three designers to work on the project and eventually selected Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s design, known as the K2. This was the first edition with red paint and a domed top. Subsequent designs didn’t fair as well in the population until the K6, which is what many of us see throughout London and the kingdom today.
Initial hatred of the red colored boxes softened, as they became a significant symbol of the United Kingdom – much like the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The bright red, once described as too loud, was desirable as new boxes began popping up. With every new batch of telephone booths introduced, people clung doggedly to their red boxes citing architectural laws to keep them in town. Today, roughly 11,000 of the traditional kiosks remain active.
While the red boxes were adopted in some areas of the United Kingdom and can still be found in some of the old colonies. They can also be found in various places outside as they were sold off to various parts of the world. You can even buy replicas for decoration.
Nowadays, most of the boxes are trivial with how readily available cell phones are to much of the population. But there’s something unique about calling from the red booths, despite how expensive international calls are on payphones.