Here's a photo of a manhole cover


The letters form the word "ТЕЛЕФОН" ("telephone" in Russian in ALL CAPS).

What is on the picture in the center? Perhaps it is some part that should be associated with communications but I have no slightest idea what it might be.

I've Googled a lot and found that this image is a logo of a USSR state organization responsible for communications which acquired all the assets (logo included) of Svensk-Dansk-Ryska Telefon AB (rus Шведско-Датско-Русское телефонное акционерное общество) telecommunications company that used the same logo.

More Googling finds this one century old logo of a Stockholm telecommunications company that has the same image yet much simpler and with carefully depicted main details.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/49/Stockholms_Allm%C3%A4nna_Telefon_logo.jpg -- CC SA Licensed

So far I've seen various explanations of the image, including a receptacle and a candlestick telephone earphone (the earliest telephone design had a fixed microphone and the earphone had to be held next to ear). However none of the claims are backed with reputable sources.

What is the electric part on the image in the center of the cover?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Why do you think it represents an electric part? I think it's rather a (poorly designed) logo \$\endgroup\$
    – stevenvh
    Sep 24, 2012 at 8:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @stevenh: Well, if that's a logo, then what does the logo display? It looks like some electric part spreading sparks. Unless it's for a "Sparks Everywhere Company" it doesn't seem so clear. \$\endgroup\$
    – sharptooth
    Sep 24, 2012 at 8:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Monday morning quality answer: Maybe it's a warning: Don't drop your iron tools in here, they might get zapped. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 24, 2012 at 8:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Apparently it's a logo of People's Commissariat of Communications of the USSR. It doesn't have to be an electrical part, probably just artist's interpretation of how antenna works or something. \$\endgroup\$
    – Armandas
    Sep 24, 2012 at 10:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Armandas: Interesting. The description of this file commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NKS_SSSR.jpg (linked to from that atricle) in Russian says the emblem shows "an electrical plug and an insulator with lightnings". However such arrangement makes no sense. \$\endgroup\$
    – sharptooth
    Sep 24, 2012 at 10:06

3 Answers 3


It's a badly rendered communications tower or, just possibly, the end of a cable. BUT a tower looks far the more likely.

Olga can assist (that's her feet) -

enter image description here

From here

Which is from her Olga's feetography album

Failing that ...... :-)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Interesting. Looks like there's a whole set of possible rendering of the part. This one has the finest level of details I've ever seen. Also the description of this file commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NKS_SSSR.jpg (linked to from that atricle) in Russian says the emblem shows "an electrical plug and an insulator with lightnings", however such arrangement makes no sense. \$\endgroup\$
    – sharptooth
    Sep 24, 2012 at 11:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Gotta be a Tesla coil then. I never knew of any down manholes though. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 25, 2012 at 3:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Interesting to get a downvote after 8.5 years. \$\endgroup\$
    – Russell McMahon
    May 26, 2021 at 3:51

This part is an old telephone "receiver" having so-called "butterstamp" shape. Image from Wikipedia. It's the same "tower with two small legs" as on the manhole cover and on the old logo and it's actually a mostly wooden part which is held next to user's ear when the user is speaking on the telephone.

The "receiver" converts electrical signal from the telephone line into audible sound which the user can hear. The small legs are electrical contacts where wires from the telephone terminal device are connected.

It's from the 19th century when telephone sets didn't have handsets yet. Instead they used a separate "receiver" (equivalent of speaker held next to user's ear) and "transmitter" (equivalent of microphone which was either mounted on the telephone set or had to be held next to user's mouth depending on design).

I used this publication (text in Russian) to aid my search. The publication lists the following image (referenced in another answer which was deleted by the answer's author)

SAT logo

... which is a version of the same logo of the same Stockholm telecommunications company. It looks exactly like a neat drawing of the "butterstamp" telephone "receiver" pointed upwards and looking very much like "a tower with small legs".


Like other answers, I'm only speculating. Perhaps that logo includes a highly stylized high-voltage ceramic insulator, of which some kinds have two "feet", such as:

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

(The images of the logo that I've seen don't have enough detail to distinguish between such an insulator, a Van De Graaff generator, or a Tesla coil.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Trying not to be too negative, and admittedly I'm not that familiar with the Russian telephone system, but it seems unlikely it would involve large high voltage insulators, Van de Graaff generators or Tesla coils. ;-) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 8, 2015 at 17:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yup, those insulators are rated at thousands of volts and are for power transmission - not telecoms. Telephones operate at 50 V. You're barking up the wrong pylon. \$\endgroup\$
    – Transistor
    May 25, 2021 at 16:21

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