Jeff Johnston is a medieval reenactor and avid history fan. He is also the publisher at Living History Publications.
Where Did Bell Invent the Telephone
Everyone knows Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, but the location of the invention seems to be the matter of some debate. I grew up knowing the location of the invention without question. It wasn't until I heard an American show discussing the invention that I ever questioned this knowledge. The show did a cartoon of the invention of the telephone, and everything happened exactly as I knew it did up until they mentioned the where, the claim was Boston!
The nerve, I was shocked and outraged. I knew that wasn't true, I had been to Bell's home, heck I had even been in the converted carriage house that was his laboratory, I knew the history of the telephone, Boston was where he taught yes, but it was Brantford, Ontario Canada that he invented the telephone. I was young at the time and didn't realize that facts are not always what they are cracked up to be. This was my first flirtation with the idea that what we know of history is just what was written down and may not be true.
I looked in history books and found... conflicting answers.
The Boston Argument
'Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.'
Proponents of the Boston argument make the claim that the first sentence ever heard over a telephone was "Mr. Watson, come here, I want you." This did indeed take place on March 10th 1876, and it did indeed occur in Boston Mass.. So it would seem that Boston's claim to be the home to the invention of the telephone was well founded. Upon learning this fact I was shocked, the reason for pride at growing up in Brantford (other than Gretzky) was that it was the Telephone city.
I soon learned however that this was not the end of the tale.
The Brantford Rebutal
Bell Weighs in on the Matter
It would seem that when the experiment was repeated, they couldn't do it. You see after Bell uttered those fateful words he and Watson switched places and read a book to Bell. Bell reported that he could tell that Watson was speaking, and could pick out a word or two, but it was garbled and not at all clear. It would appear that the first "phone call" was nothing but slightly improved earlier versions of experiments to transmit sounds. It was in August of 1876 that the first attempt to transmit speech over telegraph wires was successful, and this success occurred in Brantford. Thus it was that the first time a voice was carried over a distance occurred between Paris Ontario and Brantford Ontario. The following day Bell had some people in Brantford sing into his device and they listened to the singing in Paris, thus demonstrating that multiple voices could be transmitted simultaneously.
The linchpin in the Brantford argument is that Alexander Graham Bell himself claims the invention of the telephone occurred in Brantford. On October 24, 1917 during the unveiling of the Brantford Telephone Memorial Bell stated in a speech that "the telephone originated in Brantford and that the first transmission to a distance was made between Brantford and Paris."
Bell wrote up a timeline of the events surrounding the invention of the telephone, this is what he wrote:
- Summer 1874 - Brantford
Invention of the telephone at Tutela Heights.
- June 1875 - Boston, Massachusetts
First telephone constructed and speech and sound heard.
- September 1875 - Brantford
First draft of the telephone patent specifications prepared.
- March 10, 1876 - Boston, Massachusetts
Complete sentences first clearly understood by telephone.
- June 25, 1876 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Telephone exhibited at the Centennial Exhibition.
- July 7, 9, 12, 1876 - Boston, Massachusetts
First attempts to transmit speech over telegraph lines.
- August 1876 - Brantford
First successful attempt to transmit speech over a telegraph line.
- August 1876 - Brantford
First public demonstration of ability to speak over a telegraph line.
- August 1876 - Brantford
First transmission of a number of voices simultaneously over a telegraph line.
- October 9, 1876 - Boston, Massachusetts
First conversation (speaking both ways) by telephone over telegraph line.
- December 3, 1876 - Boston, Massachusetts
First long-distance conversation over a telegraph line (143 miles).
- February 12, 1877 - Salem, Massachusetts
First newspaper dispatch sent by telephone.
- April 4, 1877 - Boston, Massachusetts
First telephone line opened.
Brantford Or Boston - Which side do you support
Was the Telephone invented in Boston or Brantford?
Additional Information - About Alexander Graham Bell and The Invention of The Telephone
Want to learn more about Alexander Graham Bell and the invention of the Telephone? Check out some of these great links:
Alexander Graham Bell's wikipedia entry.
- Bell Homestead
Visit the historic Brantford Ontario Home of Bell.
- Alexander Graham Bell - Hall of Fame - Canada Science and Technology Museum
A brief Bio of Bell
- Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers: Home
The online version of the Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers at the Library of Congress comprises a selection of 4,695 items (totaling about 51,500 images).
- Alexander Graham Bell - Biography
In 1876 at the age of 29 Alexander Graham Bell invented a phone and a year later he started the Bell telephone company.
- Bell Homestead - "Melville House" - Photo Tour
Alexander Graham Bell moved from Scotland with his family for the sake of his health. In 1870, Bell's parents bought this home and the surrounding farmland and settled in Brantford, Ontario, Canada.
© 2012 Jeff Johnston
Ring my Bell
racingdatabase on February 21, 2013:
Scotland invented the light bulb, the telephone, the TV and penicillin. That's a fact. No matter where the Scottish inventors happened to be at the time :-)
Lori Green from Las Vegas on August 13, 2012:
That's like asking which came first the chicken or the egg. It was invented one place but didn't work properly until reinvented in another.