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Alexander Graham Bell

Bell cheerfully responds to an autograph request

Alexander Graham Bell, 1847-1922.  Inventor of the telephone.  Typed Letter Signed, Alexander Graham Bell, one page, 8" x 10½", on personal stationery, Washington, D.C., March 15, 1912.

Bell sends a delightfully pleasant response to an autograph seeker.  In full:  “In response to your request that I should send you the date, a sentiment and my autograph, I have much pleasure in giving the first above, and the two latter below.  /  Yours sincerely . . ."

In 1872, the Scottish-born Bell began experimenting with electricity to send sound through a wire.  The idea itself was not new, but Bell succeeded because he concluded that a transmitter could shape electricity into undulating sound waves of varying intensity and that a receiving diaphragm could act like the human ear, vibrating to produce sound from the electric current flowing through the wire.

Bell applied for a patent on February 14, 1876, and the patent issued on March 7.  Thereafter things moved quickly.  Three days later, after more experiments, Bell transmitted to his assistant the first telephone message:  Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.  By June, Bell displayed both magnetic and variable resistance transmitters at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.  On October 9, the first two-way telephone conversation took place, from Boston to Cambridgeport, and the next month the first long distance call, from Boston to Salem, occurred.  On April 4, 1877, the first telephone line was installed from Charles C. Williams home in Somerville to his office in Boston.  On January 28, 1878, the first commercial switchboard opened at New Haven, Connecticut.

The Bell Telephone Company was formed in 1877.  At Bell's death in 1922, all phones within the Bell system were silenced for two minutes.

This letter is on engraved stationery showing the address of Bell's mansion in Washington, D.C., 1331 Connecticut Avenue, just south of Dupont Circle.  Bell built the mansion in June 1891 at what was then a huge cost of $31,000.  The house was demolished in 1930 to make way for an office building.

Bell has signed this letter in gray fountain pen.  The letter has horizontal and vertical mailing folds, one of which runs between the words “Graham" and "Bell" in the signature but does not touch them.  The letter also has some soiling at the left, and for completeness we note that there is a small area of paper loss on the lower right margin, all affecting nothing.  The piece is in fine condition.




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