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[Physiological alphabet]Alexander Graham Bell Family Collection

Papers and photographs of the Bell family

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The papers of Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) and his family were donated to the Library by his heirs in 1975. Soon after his appointment as professor of vocal physiology at Boston University in 1873, Bell began a series of experiments that led to the invention of the telephone. His success enabled him to engage in numerous scientific activities while continuing his career as a teacher of the deaf. Bell's papers in the Manuscript Division include diaries, correspondence, printed matter, financial and legal records, and several hundred volumes of laboratory notebooks which record his daily work from 1865 to 1922. The collection documents patent disputes and early marketing of the telephone as well as Bell's varied scientific research in such fields as aeronautics, eugenics, and physics, his financial support of Science magazine, and his participation in the National Geographic Society and Smithsonian Institution. A family archive, the collection also encompasses materials of Alexander Melville Bell, the inventor's father; Mabel Hubbard Bell, his wife; and Gilbert H. Grosvenor, his son-in-law, as well as correspondence between the Bells and the Hubbards, the Grosvenors, and the Fairchilds, their relatives by marriage. Access to the 140,000-item collection is provided by a container list. Some material has been microfilmed. Nonmanuscript items--musical compositions, maps, and sound recordings--have been transferred to the appropriate custodial divisions. Of related interest are the Grosvenor and Hubbard Family papers, respectively totaling 65,000 and 8,000 items, that were received by the Library in 1977.

Like the Bell Family papers, the Gilbert H. Grosvenor Collection of Alexander Graham Bell Photographs in the Prints and Photographs Division centers on the professional and private life of Alexander Graham Bell. Included are professional portraits of several generations of the Bell family and photographs by family members. At present, annotated family photo albums which are listed in the division catalog are the principal access tool. Subject and portrait files contain a limited number of reference prints.


Brannan, Beverly W., with Patricia T. Thompson. "Alexander Graham Bell: A Photographic Album," U.S. Library of Congress. Quarterly Journal. v. 34, April 1977: 73-96; included in A Century of Photographs, 1846-1946, Selected from the Collection of the Library of Congress (Washington: Library of Congress, 1980. TR6.U62.D572), compiled by Renata V. Shaw.

The National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections. Washington, Library of Congress, 1972, 78-1688.

U.S. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, "Frontiers: Recent Acquisitions of the Manuscript Division," U.S. Library of Congress. Quarterly Journal. v. 33, October 1976: 360-365.

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  October 14, 2010
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