Alexander Graham Bell Patents Telephone

Alexander Graham Bell Patents Telephone

U.S. #893 – Bell stamp from the 1940 Famous Americans Series.

On March 7, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell received the patent for the telephone.

Alexander Graham Bell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on March 3, 1847. His father taught speech and invented “Visible Speech,” a type of written code that made it easier for deaf mutes to learn to speak.

While a young adult, Bell enrolled as a student teacher at Weston House. There, he taught speech and music in exchange for the opportunity to study other subjects. After completing his academic work at Weston House, Bell studied at the Universities of Edinburgh and London. While at the University of London, he used “Visible Speech” to teach a class of deaf students.

U.S. #1683 was issued on the 100th anniversary of Bell’s famous first call.

It was Bell’s early work with deaf children that would eventually lead to the invention of the telephone. In the 1870s, he moved to Boston to teach at the Pemberton Avenue School for the Deaf. It was around this time he grew interested in transmitting speech over wires. The invention of the telegraph in 1843 made it possible for people to communicate over long distances, but only one message could be sent at a time via telegraph and hand-delivered messages were still necessary. Bell began working on a “harmonic telegraph,” which combined parts of the telegraph and record player.

Item #81562 – Commemorative cover cancelled on the 109th anniversary of Bell receiving his patent.

Later, Bell met Gardiner Greene Hubbard, the father of one of his students. A critic of Western Union, Hubbard provided financial backing for Bell’s research. Bell began working with machine shop employee Thomas A. Watson to develop a prototype of his invention. One day, while making refinements to his harmonic telegraph, Bell detected the first human voice sounds coming over the telegraph wire. After several more months of experimenting, Bell drew up the first specifications for the telephone and applied for the patent on February 14, 1876. The patent was issued to Bell on March 7.

Item #81888 – Commemorative cover cancelled on the 112th anniversary of Bell’s first call.

Three days later, Bell transmitted the first recognizable words over a telephone line, though the exact phrase is debated by historians. According to one story, while his partner, Watson, was in a different room, Bell spilled battery acid on his clothes and said, “Mr. Watson, come here. I need you!” Incredibly, the words carried over the telephone wire into the next room. Bell popularized his invention by giving public demonstrations.

When Bell filed his patent on February 14, his submission was recorded just two hours ahead of that of Elisha Gray, a fellow inventor with a similar claim. Gray and Thomas Edison worked with Western Union Telegraph Company to develop their own telephone. Bell sued them, with the Supreme Court upholding his patent rights. The Bell Company faced similar battles in the coming years before emerging as American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T), one of the nation’s leading communication companies.

Click the images to add this history to your collection.

Did you like this article? Click here to rate:
[Total: 59 Average: 4.9]


Share this article

8 responses to "Alexander Graham Bell Patents Telephone"

8 thoughts on “Alexander Graham Bell Patents Telephone”

  1. I was recently reminded that Bell’s work with the death led him to recommend that Helen Keller, the blind, deaf-mute child in Alabama might somehow be taught to understand words and language. That recommendation, in turn, led to the dispatch from the Perkins Institute for the Blind & Deaf in Boston, to which Bell was affiliated at the time, to Alabama of Miss Annie Sullivan whose efforts, depicted in the play and film “The Miracle Worker”, succeeded in achieving such a breakthrough with the child.

  2. The development of the tele (distance) phone (sound) in mid 1800s is convoluted, and many throughout the years would insist that the true ‘inventor’ was not GA Bell, but A Meucci who, through a series of misfortune (lack of money, etc), failed to maintain his US Patent application for the teletrofono.

    But fear not, the lapsed patent application (1874) was picked up by Bell who worked in the office where the application was lodged, and put in a patent application of his own (1876).

  3. The foregoing are interesting sidelights to the well-known story of Bell’s work; and Bell went on to back the early exploits in aviation by Glenn Curtis. The interconnection of important developments always astonishes. How relatively recent all this is brought home to me by the realization that my grandparents were born at about the time of the Bell patent.

  4. Alexander Graham Bell (1847-19220, Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), and John Muir (1838-1914) were all born in Scotland, immigrated to the U.S. had overlapping lives, and all achieved distinction in different fields. Bell as an inventor, scientist, and teacher; Carnegie as an industrialist and philanthropist; and Muir as a naturalist and author.

  5. According to my Paternal Grandfather, his Great Grandfather; my Great, Great Grandfather was Scottish. He may have had a prominent position, or had the ‘right’ government connections. This it appears, allowed him to captain his own ship. He was also if not one, the first to introduce photo- graphy to Cuba; since my Great Grandfather was a photographer. Of course, there might be inconsistency to this story.


Leave a Comment

Love history?

Discover events in American history – plus the stamps that make them come alive.

Subscribe to get This Day in History stories straight to your inbox every day!