“I came to Brantford in 1870 to die; I was given six months lease of life, but I am glad to be alive today… As I look back upon it, visions come to me of the Grand River and of Tutela Heights and my dreaming place upon the heights where visions of the telephone came to my mind.” ~ Said Alexander Graham at the unveiling of the Bell Telephone Memorial, a memorial designed by Walter Seymour Allward to commemorate the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell at the Bell Homestead National Historic Site, in Brantford, Ontario, Canada.
Alexander Graham Bell. Image credit: Wikimedia
Visiting Alexander Bell Homestead in Brantford in Ontario
On one weekend of the spring off-season, take a trip to Brantford to Alexander Bell Homestead. Well, if Queen Elizabeth II did not hesitate to visit the estate, then, it’s a must for you.
Beautiful and interesting place. Even during the life of Alexander Bell, since 1910, it has been welcoming guests. Here, everything is preserved in its original form: library, living room, bedrooms, kitchen with a working stove made of cast-iron lace.All farm and household chores the owners managed almost independently, with minimal help from the servants. To facilitate washing, a mechanical washing machine was purchased – an assembly with a wooden barrel instead of a steel tank, the purpose of which is quite recognizable.
Alexander Bell’s “laboratory-study-bedroom”
Bell’s “laboratory-study-bedroom” is surprising: the room is large and bright enough, a table with several obscure objects on it is in the corner, the bed is in the middle, a night pot … Nothing, in my understanding, is associated with the “laboratory” and the “scientist’s study”.
The Bell Homestead National Historic Site, Brantford, Ontario
The Bell Homestead National Historic Site, which is also known by the name of its principal structure, Melville House, was the first North American home of Professor Alexander Melville Bell and his family, including his last surviving son, scientist Alexander Graham Bell. The younger Bell conducted his earliest experiments in North America there, and later invented the telephone at the Homestead in July 1874. Melville House has been described as “… this shrine, where lingers the spirit of the great inventor”.
The Homestead was named a National Historic Site on June 1, 1996, and was listed on the national Register of Historic Places on June 22, 2009. The federal commemorative plaque was unveiled in 2010 by Queen Elizabeth II during the 150th anniversary year celebrations for the birth of Alexander Graham Bell.
In 1870, handsome, tall and slender, but very pale, a 23-year-old Scot named Alexander Graham Bell came from England to Canada. The reason for the move was a family tragedy: in 1867, his younger brother died of tuberculosis, and in 1870, from the same illness another elder brother passed away, leaving behind a young widow. Aleck got sick too. Heartbroken parents did not want to lose their last son. Without hesitation, father, mother, their widowed daughter-in-law and Aleck went to the New World.
Getting a home in Ontario
After leaving the ship in Quebec, the family went to the small town of Paris, in Ontario, intending to stay with an old friend for the beginning. But the guests did not bother the hospitable host for long, having bought a 10.5 acre farm on the very bank of the Grand River near Brantford.
Over the next 11 years, Alexander Bell called this place in Brantford home. It was the very place where his most famous invention was created – TELEPHONE. It was the very place where the first office of the Bell Telephone Company was located. It was the very place where Aleck’s health was fully recovered despite his frail condition upon arriving in Canada.
From childhood, Aleck was in an atmosphere of music and recitation, where special attention was paid to the sounds of the human voice. When Aleck was 12 years old, his mother began to lose her hearing ability. This shocked the boy and made him study acoustics. Since then, father and son have been working together on the problems of the deaf.
Bell became an assistant to his father, a professor at the University of London, who invented the Visible Speech system, where the sounds of speech were indicated by written symbols, which enabled deaf-mute people to learn to speak.
Bell’s father, grandfather, and brother had all been associated with work on elocution and speech, and both Alexander’s mother and wife were deaf, profoundly influencing Bell’s life’s work.
Three years after arriving in Canada, Alexander Bell became a professor of speech physiology at Boston University and worked on the invention of the acoustic telegraph. He lectured and studied with deaf-mute students, one of whom was Helen Keller, the world-famous deaf-blind American writer, teacher and public figure. And 15-year-old girl Mabel Hubbard, who almost lost her hearing after severe scarlet fever and who Bell taught to read lips, later became his wife.
Ontario’s Brantford – the Telephone Birthplace
In 1874, Alexander Bell met Thomas A. Watson, an experienced electrical designer and mechanic at the electrical machine shop. With financial support from Gardiner Hubbard and Thomas Sanders, Bell hired Watson as his assistant, and the two of them experimented with acoustic telegraphy.
On June 2, 1875, Thomas Watson worked with a receiving apparatus, where steel plates of various lengths, rigidly fixed at one end and the other closing an electrical circuit, served as tuning forks. Cursing mercilessly, Watson was releasing the end of the plate, which was stuck in the contact gap. At that time, Bell was working with receiving plates in another room, and suddenly he heard a barely audible murmur that came over the wires: the stuck plate turned into a kind of flexible membrane.
The expected happened unexpectedly!
Bell’s patent #174,465 was issued to Alexander Bell on March 7, 1876, by the U.S. Patent Office. The patent covered “the method of, and apparatus for, transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically … by causing electrical undulations, similar in form to the vibrations of the air accompanying the said vocal or other sound”. TELEPHONE!
On March 10, 1876, three days after his patent was issued, a historic event took place: the transmission of the first articulate phrase “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you” which was carried out on a 12-meter wire connecting the two rooms. Watson, listening at the receiving end in an adjoining room, heard the words clearly.
The “world’s first long-distance call” was made on August 10, 1876, via the telegraph line between Brantford and Paris, Ontario, 13km distant.
1877 – $25 million for the phone patent
The Bell Telephone Company was created in 1877, and by 1886, more than 150,000 people in the U.S. owned telephones.
The invention of the telephone came at the height of the telegraph era and was completely unexpected. Bell and his partners offered Western Union to buy the patent rights for the phone for $100,000, but the president of Western Union considered the phone to be nothing but a toy. And two years later, he admitted to his colleagues that if he could get a patent from the Bell Telephone Company for $25 million he would consider it a bargain. But Bell Company no longer wanted to sell the patent.
On June 11, 1877, Alexander Bell and Mabel Hubbard got married at the bride parents’ house in Cambridge, Ontario. The bridegroom’s wedding gift to the bride was 1487 shares of the Bell Telephone Company of 1497 shares owned by Bell. In fact, Bell was a beggar, and if his wife decided to divorce him, then …
Alexander Graham Bell, his wife Mabel Gardiner Hubbard, and their daughters Elsie (left) and Marian ca. 1885. Image credit: Wikimedia
A telephone for Queen Victoria
On January 14, 1878, at Osborne House, Alexander Bell demonstrated the device to Queen Victoria, placing calls to Cowes, Southampton and London. These were the first publicly witnessed long-distance telephone calls in the UK. The Queen considered the process to be “quite extraordinary” although the sound was “rather faint”. She later asked to buy the equipment that was used, but Bell offered to make “a set of telephones” specifically for her.
Tribute and memory
On August 2, 1922, in the US and Canada, all phones were turned off for a minute. America buried Alexander Bell. About 13 million telephone sets of all kinds and designs fell silent, honoring the memory of the great inventor.
Decibel (dB) – a unit to measure the intensity of a sound
You probably know the word decibel. “Deci” is a prefix in Latin meaning one tenth of something, and what remains is the name of an outstanding person. Tribute and memory.
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By Natalia Grytsan