Collection Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers at the Library of CongressShow Featured Items
Letter from Alexander Graham Bell to Mabel Hubbard Bell, 1875
A month before they became engaged to be married, Alexander Graham Bell wrote Mabel Hubbard this letter, teasing her about her interest in "Woman's Rights": "I never suspected that you were one of these people who think women have rights. Do you actually suppose their wishes are to be considered with the same respect as those of men?" However, Bell may have actually been sympathetic to the women's movement, and he later admitted to Mabel that he wrote the letter because he was "hoping to rouse your indignation to a reply!"
Brochure for Alexander Graham Bell's School of Vocal Physiology, 1875
In 1872 Bell started his School of Vocal Physiology in Boston. His classes were largely based on Visible Speech, an alphabetical system developed by his father in which each symbol represented a position of the mouth when it made a particular sound. Bell taught Visible Speech and articulation to the deaf, individuals with speech difficulties, and teachers of the deaf. This brochure shows the kinds of classes he taught and the rates he charged.
March 10, 1876
Scientific notebook, 1876
Alexander Graham Bell's notebook entry of 10 March 1876 describes his successful experiment with the telephone. Bell's notes show him speaking through the instrument to his assistant, Thomas A. Watson, in the next room, and uttering these famous words, "Mr. Watson -- Come here -- I want to see you."
Petition from Bostonians to Alexander Graham Bell, 1877
This petition, signed by such notable Bostonians as Oliver Wendell Holmes and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, requests Alexander Graham Bell to give a public demonstration of the telephone. For months after the issuance of his telephone patent, Bell gave public lectures and demonstrations of his new invention. Such events not only provided him with needed income and increased publicity for the telephone but also helped establish Bell as its legitimate inventor in the face of such rival claimants as Elisha Gray. In his response to this petition, Bell agreed to give a series of three lectures in the Music Hall in Boston, each of which would be "illustrated by the actual transmission of speech and music from cities remote from Boston."
Letter from Thomas A. Watson to Alexander Graham Bell, 1878
While Alexander Graham Bell honeymooned in England with his new wife, his assistant Thomas Watson wrote to him about the progress of the newly-formed Bell Telephone Company, improvements made on the telephone, and developments by rival inventors. In this letter, Watson reports about tests he performed on Thomas Edison's Carbon Telephone. In the last segment of the letter, however, Watson is nostalgic for the days when he worked with Bell on the telephone: "I still retain the experiment room and your room...the wires are still there and it retains something of its old appearance. I shall feel badly when I leave these rooms as I prepare doing soon."
Letter from Charles L. Shattuck to Alexander Graham Bell, December 7, 1886
This letter is representative of correspondence written by parents who sought Alexander Graham Bell's assistance and advice for the education of their deaf children. Mr. and Mrs. C. L. Shattuck were anxious that their five-year-old deaf daughter not only attend the proper school but also learn to speak. The letter conveys their concern for their child and their faith in Bell as an "authority in these matters." Later correspondence, written several months later, reveals that Bell actually visited the family and that the little girl was showing progress as a result of his assistance. The Shattucks were extremely grateful to Bell, whose visit allowed them to "see light through what had been great darkness, and hopes yet of a final triumph."
Letter from Mark Twain to Gardiner Greene Hubbard, 1890
In this satirical complaint letter, Twain rails to Bell's father-in-law against the poor telephone service he has received in Hartford, Connecticut. Apparently, there is no night service and Twain is regularly cut off while practicing his cursing. In fact, Twain loved new inventions, as shown by his espousal of the typewriter; it was Twain who submitted the first typed manuscript to a publisher.
Letter from Helen Keller to Alexander Graham Bell, 1907
In January of 1907, Helen Keller was scheduled to speak at a meeting for the blind in New York. Her teacher, Annie Sullivan, was to have repeated the speech for those who found it difficult to understand Keller. When Sullivan suddenly became ill, Keller wired Alexander Graham Bell for help, and he immediately came up from Washington, D.C., to take her teacher's place. In this letter, Keller thanks Bell not only for coming to her rescue but also for his continual support. Ever since meeting Keller in 1887, Bell had served as her advocate and even provided occasional financial assistance. Keller's letter conveys the warm nature of their friendship and her gratitude for all he had done for her throughout her life: "I cherish ever the many tokens of your love."
Aerial Experiment Association Photograph of the June Bug, 1908
The third of four aircraft built by members of the Bell-led Aerial Experiment Association (AEA), the June Bug was designed by AEA member Glenn H. Curtiss. On July 4, 1908, at Hammondsport, New York, Curtiss made the first public flight in the United States of more than one kilometer, winning the Scientific American trophy..
Invitation from Theodore Vail and AT&T to Alexander Graham Bell, 1915
This is an invitation for Alexander Graham Bell to participate in AT&T's formal opening of the transcontinental telephone line on January 25, 1915. The event included a telephone conversation between Bell in New York and his old assistant, Thomas Watson, in San Francisco, as well as speeches by President Woodrow Wilson from the White House and AT&T President Theodore Vail from Georgia. When a duplicate of an 1876 telephone was connected to the New York line, Bell, echoing his famous words on the original occasion, called out, "Mr. Watson, come here, I want you." Watson replied that this time it would take him a week to do so.