On April 25th, we observe National Telephone Day.
The correct answer to a trivia question like “Who invented the telephone?” is the name on the patent. In this case, the whole world knows the answer is Alexander Graham Bell. Had his attorney been delayed by foul weather or poor planning, the answer may be a different name.
It was February 14, 1876, when Marcellus Bailey, one of Bell’s attorneys rushed into the US Patent office in Boston to file the patent for what would be the telephone.
Later the same day, Elisha Gray filed a patent caveat for a similar device. A caveat is an intent to file for a patent.
There is also a third contender. Antonio Meucci filed a caveat in November of 1871 for a talking telegraph but failed to renew the caveat due to hardships.
Because Bell’s patent was submitted first, it was awarded to him on March 7, 1876. Gray contested this decision in court, but without success.
Born March 3, 1847, in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, Bell was an instructor at a boys’ boarding school. The sounds of speech were an integral part of his life. His father developed a “Visible Speech” system for deaf students to communicate. Bell would later become friend and benefactor of Helen Keller.
Three days after the patent was approved, Bell spoke the first words by telephone to his assistant. “Mr.Watson, come here! I want to see you!”
By May, Bell and his team were ready for a public demonstration, and there would be no better place than the World’s Fair in Philadelphia. On May 10, 1876, in a crowded Machinery Hall a man’s voice was transmitted from a small horn and carried out through a speaker to the audience.
One year later, the White House installed its first phone. The telephone revolution began.
Bell Telephone Company was founded on July 9, 1877, and the first public telephone lines were installed from Boston to Sommerville, Massachusetts the same year. By the end of the decade, there were nearly 50,000 phones in the United States. In May of 1967, the 1 millionth telephone was installed.
Here’s a little humor from an early Saturday Night Live with Lilly Tomlin portraying Ernestine the telephone operator calling General Motors: