Meucci Invented Telephone, Not Bell!

In response to my last post about Bell’s granddaughter Mabel passing away this week, a reader sent me an article from 2002 which points out that the United States Congress had recognized an Italian inventor with being the true inventor of the telephone, a feat he accomplished a full 16 years before Bell found fame and fortune by stealing this man’s ideas.
Scot accused of finding fame by stealing Italian’s ideas

Rory Carroll in Rome
Monday June 17, 2002
The Guardian

Italy hailed the redress of a historic injustice yesterday after the US Congress recognised an impoverished Florentine immigrant as the inventor of the telephone rather than Alexander Graham Bell.

Historians and Italian-Americans won their battle to persuade Washington to recognise a little-known mechanical genius, Antonio Meucci, as a father of modern communications, 113 years after his death.

The vote by the House of Representatives prompted joyous claims in Meucci’s homeland that finally Bell had been outed as a perfidious Scot who found fortune and fame by stealing another man’s work.

Calling the Italian’s career extraordinary and tragic, the resolution said his “teletrofono”, demonstrated in New York in 1860, made him the inventor of the telephone in the place of Bell, who had access to Meucci’s materials and who took out a patent 16 years later.

“It is the sense of the House of Representatives that the life and achievements of Antonio Meucci should be recognised, and his work in the invention of the telephone should be acknowledged,” the resolution stated.

Bell’s immortalisation in books and films has rankled with generations of Italians who know Meucci’s story. Born in 1808, he studied design and mechanical engineering at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, and as a stage technician at the city’s Teatro della Pergola developed a primitive system to help colleagues communicate.

In the 1830s he moved to Cuba and, while working on methods to treat illnesses with electric shocks, found that sounds could travel by electrical impulses through copper wire. Sensing potential, he moved to Staten Island, near New York City, in 1850 to develop the technology.

When Meucci’s wife, Ester, became paralysed he rigged a system to link her bedroom with his neighbouring workshop and in 1860 held a public demonstration which was reported in New York’s Italian-language press.

In between giving shelter to political exiles, Meucci struggled to find financial backing, failed to master English and was severely burned in an accident aboard a steamship.

Forced to make new prototype telephones after Ester sold his machines for $6 to a secondhand shop, his models became more sophisticated. An inductor formed around an iron core in the shape of a cylinder was a technique so sophisticated that it was used decades later for long-distance connections.

Meucci could not afford the $250 needed for a definitive patent for his “talking telegraph” so in 1871 filed a one-year renewable notice of an impending patent. Three years later he could not even afford the $10 to renew it.

He sent a model and technical details to the Western Union telegraph company but failed to win a meeting with executives. When he asked for his materials to be returned, in 1874, he was told they had been lost. Two years later Bell, who shared a laboratory with Meucci, filed a patent for a telephone, became a celebrity and made a lucrative deal with Western Union.

Meucci sued and was nearing victory – the supreme court agreed to hear the case and fraud charges were initiated against Bell – when the Florentine died in 1889. The legal action died with him.

Yesterday the newspaper La Repubblica welcomed the vote to recognise the Tuscan inventor as a belated comeuppance for Bell, a “cunning Scotsman” and “usurper” whose per- fidy built a communications empire.

Here is a brief chronological list of his inventions, innovations and discoveries, other than the telephone:

• 1825 Chemical compound to be used as an improved propeller in fireworks
• 1834 In the Florence’s Teatro della Pergola, he sets up a “pipe telephone” to communicate from the stage to the maneuver trellis-work, at about eighteen meters height.
• 1840 Improved filters and chemical processing of waters supplying the city of Havana, Cuba.
• 1844 First electroplating factory of the Americas, set up in Havana, Cuba. Before, objects to be electroplated were sent to Paris.
• 1846 Improved apparatus for electrotherapy, featuring a pulsed current breaker with rotating cross.
• 1847 Restructuring of the Tacón Theater in Havana, following a hurricane. Meucci conceived a new structure of the roof and ventilation system, to avoid the roof to be taken off in like situations.
• 1848 Astronomical observations by means of a marine telescope worth $280.
• 1849 Chemical process for the preservation of corpses, to cope with the high demand for bodies of immigrants to be sent to Europe, avoiding decomposition during the many weeks navigation.
• 1849 First discovery of electrical transmission of speech
• 1850-1 First stearic candle factory of the Americas, set up in Clifton, NY.
• 1855 Realization of celestas, with crystal bars instead of steel, and pianos (one is on display at the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, in Rosebank, NY)
• 1856 First lager beer factory of Staten Island, the Clifton Brewery, in Clifton, NY.
• 1858-60 Invention of paraffin candles. US Patent No. 22,739 on a candle mold for the same and US Patent No. 30,180 on a rotating blade device for finishing the same.
• 1860 First paraffin candle factory in the world, the New York Paraffine Candle Co., set up in Clifton, NY, early in 1860, then moved to Stapleton, NY. It produced over 1,000 candles per day.
• 1860 Experiments on the use of dry batteries in electrical traction and other industrial applications.
• 1860 Process to turn red corals into a pink color (more valued), as requested by Enrico Bendelari, a merchant of New York.
• 1862 US Patent No. 36,192 on a kerosene lamp that generates a very bright flame, without smoke, (therefore not needing a glass tube), thanks to electricity developed by two thin platinum plates embracing the flame.
• 1862-63 Process for treating and bleaching oil or kerosene to obtain siccative oils for paint (US Patents No. 36,419 and No. 38,714). “Antonio Meucci Patent Oil” was sold by Rider & Clark Co., 51 Broad Street, New York, and exported to Europe.
• 1864 Invention of new, more destructive ammunition for guns and canons, proposed to the US army and to General Giuseppe Garibaldi.
• 1864-65 Processes to obtain paper pulp from wood or other vegetable substances (US Patents No. 44,735, No. 47,068 and No. 53,165). Associated Press was interested in producing paper with this process, which was also the first to introduce the recovery of the leaching liquor.
• 1865 Process for making wicks out of vegetable fiber, US Patent No. 46,607.
• 1867 A paper factory, the “Perth Amboy Fiber Co.,” was set up, in Perth Amboy, NY. The paper pulp was obtained from either marsh grass or wood. It was the first to recycle waste paper.
• 1871 US Patent No. 122,478 “Effervescent Drinks,” fruit-vitamin rich drinks that Meucci found useful during his recovery from the wounds and burns caused by the explosion of the Westfield ferry.
• 1873 US Patent No. 142,071 “Sauce for Food.” According to Roberto Merloni, general manager of the Italian STAR company, this Patent anticipates modern food technologies.
• 1873 Conception of a screw steamer suitable for navigation in canals.
• 1874 Process for refining crude oil (caveat)
• 1875 Filter for tea or coffee, much similar to that used in present day coffee machines.
• 1875 Household utensil (description not available) “combining usefulness to cheapness, that will find a ready sale.” (*)
• 1875 US Patent No. 168,273 “Lactometer,” for chemically detecting adulterations of milk. It anticipates by fifteen years the well-known Babcock test.
• 1875 Upon request by Giuseppe Tagliabue (a Physical Instruments maker of Brooklyn, NY), Meucci devises and manufactures several aneroid barometers of various shapes.
• 1876 US Patent No. 183,062 “Hygrometer,” which was a marked improvement over the popular hair-hygrometer of the time. He set up a small factory in Staten Island for fabrication of the same.
• 1878 Method for preventing noise on elevated railways, a problem much felt at the time in New York.
• 1878 Process for fabricating ornamental paraffin candles for Christmas trees.
• 1881 Process for making postage and revenue stamps.
• 1883 US Patent No. 279,492 “Plastic Paste,” as hard and tenacious to be suitable for billiard balls.

6 thoughts on “Meucci Invented Telephone, Not Bell!

  1. Also, he tried to steal idea from the Wright Brothers. After the Wright Brothers crashed airplane with volunteered police who was pronounced dead, AGB sneaked into the big white whereas the crash plane was located. AGB was hurried to sketch the copy of crashed plane. Later, he hired the best engineering only on the engine. AGB announced that he invented airplane. Then it became a big duel. The Wright Brothers and AGB somehow decided to have their planes on the same runaway to see if true business in whose plane really flew. It was like Duel Match. Before the flight test started, the Wright Brothers asked, “Do you know anything about the wings?” AGB looked very stunned. Both planes started to fly, then within 30 seconds AGB’s plane crashed after it was lifted up without any injury to best engineering pilot. The Wright Brothers flew their plane with their prides. Now, we lift our Deafhood pride. AGB, yes, was famous for stealing many idea.


  2. That explains AGB’s stance. Not only he stole invention, he also did try to take away the Deafhood with the proposal of bill not to allow deaf intermarriage. Read a book called A Deaf Mute Howls by Albert Ballins (1928) (deafened at 2 yrs old) who did an excellent job showing AGB’s true color.

    Anne Marie


  3. Yes, that’s RIGHT! Why there was one Board who was a president of AG Bell Org on the Gally BoT? It’s conflict of interest!

    IJK and his administration have to go NOW! They are not good for our mentally health community while we need to work hard healing ourselves!


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