Top of page

Collection Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers at the Library of Congress

1870 to 1879


  1. May 28, 1870

    Older brother Melville Bell dies of tuberculosis at the age of 25.

  2. July-August, 1870

    Bell, his parents, and his sister-in-law, Carrie Bell, emigrate to Canada and settle in Brantford, Ontario.

  3. April 1871

    Moving to Boston, Bell begins teaching at the Boston School for Deaf Mutes.

  4. March-June 1872

    Bell teaches at the Clarke School for the Deaf in Boston and at the American Asylum for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut.

    Photograph of the Pemberton Avenue School for the Deaf, Boston. Reproduction Number LC-G9-Z1-130,726-A. Gilbert H. Grosvenor Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
  5. April 8, 1872

    Bell meets Boston attorney Gardiner Greene Hubbard, who will become one of his financial backers and his father-in-law.

  6. Fall 1872

    Bell opens his School of Vocal Physiology in Boston and starts experimenting with the multiple telegraph. Brochure for Bell 's School of Vocal Physiology

  7. 1873

    Boston University appoints Bell Professor of Vocal Physiology and Elocution at its School of Oratory. Mabel Hubbard, his future wife, becomes one of his private pupils.

  8. Spring 1874

    Bell conducts acoustics experiments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He and Clarence Blake, a Boston ear specialist, begin experimenting with the mechanics of the human ear and the phonautograph, a device that could translate sound vibrations into visible tracings.

  9. Summer 1874

    In Brantford, Ontario, Bell first conceives of the idea for the telephone. Bell 's original sketch of the telephone Bell meets Thomas Watson, a young electrician who would become his assistant, at Charles Williams 's electrician shop in Boston.

    Alexander Graham Bell's design sketch of the telephone. Sketches, undated; handwritten text top and bottom of page, 1876. Box 273, "Subject File: The Telephone--Drawing of the Telephone, Bell 's Original." Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
  10. January 1875

    Watson begins working with Bell more regularly.

  11. February 1875

    Thomas Sanders, a wealthy leather merchant whose deaf son studied with Bell, and Gardiner Greene Hubbard enter into a formal partnership with Bell in which they provide financial backing for his inventions.

  12. March 1-2, 1875

    Bell visits noted scientist Joseph Henry at the Smithsonian Institution and explains to him his idea for the telephone. Henry recognizes the significance of Bell 's work and offers him encouragement.

  13. November 25, 1875

    Mabel Hubbard and Bell become engaged to be married. Letter from Bell to Mabel Hubbard Bell

  14. February 14, 1876

    Bell 's telephone patent application is filed at the United States Patent Office; Elisha Gray 's attorney files a caveat for a telephone just a few hours later.

  15. March 7, 1876

    United States Patent No. 174,465 is officially issued for Bell 's telephone.

  16. March 10, 1876

    Intelligible human speech is heard over the telephone for the first time when Bell calls to Watson, "Mr. Watson -- Come here -- I want to see you." Page from Bell 's notebook

  17. June 25, 1876

    Bell demonstrates the telephone for Sir William Thomson (Baron Kelvin) and Emperor Pedro II of Brazil at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Letter from Bell to Mabel Hubbard Bell

  18. July 9, 1877

    Bell, Gardiner Greene Hubbard, Thomas Sanders, and Thomas Watson form the Bell Telephone Company.

  19. July 11, 1877

    Mabel Hubbard and Bell are married.

  20. August 4, 1877

    Bell and his wife leave for England and remain there for a year.

  21. January 14, 1878

    Bell demonstrates the telephone for Queen Victoria.

  22. May 8, 1878

    Elsie May Bell, a daughter, is born.

    [Elsie May Bell as a child, bust portrait, facing front]. Reproduction Number LC-G9-Z1-155,855-A. Gilbert H. Grosvenor Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
  23. September 12, 1878

    Patent litigation involving the Bell Telephone Company against Western Union Telegraph Company and Elisha Gray begins.

  24. November 10, 1879

    Western Union and the National Bell Telephone Company reach a settlement. Newspaper article