Alexander Graham Bell Patents the Telephone

The original drawing filed with Thomas Edison's patent application for the telephone
The original drawing filed with Thomas Edison's patent application for the telephone

Historical Context

The invention of the modern telephone - and who exactly got the credit - came down to the wire in early 1876. The lawyers for Alexander Graham Bell and another inventor by the name of Elisha Gray both filed patents on the morning of February 14, 1876. According to research years later, Bell was the fifth entry of the day, and Gray the 39th, thus Bell was awarded the patent.

Cue decades of controversy and much disagreement over who reached the patent office first. Some have suggested that malfeasance at the US Patent Office had resulted in Bell wrongly getting the patent first. Other conspiracies suggest that Bell stole the information from Gray's invention. No defining evidence of this has ever been uncovered.

In any case, on March 7, 1876, the US Patent Office issued Bell with the telephone patent and the rest is history. Bell became the father of the telephone, and after his patent was filed the telephone gradually became a necessity in modern life. Bell built and tested the first working phone on March 10, 1876 (using a liquid transmitter, a similar idea as proposed by Elisha Gray) speaking to his assistant, Thomas Watson, saying the words "Mr. Watson - come here - I want to see you."

Bell refused to have a telephone in his office, considering the invention a distraction from his work as a scientist.

Patent Info


Photographer: US National Archives
Location: Washington D.C., USA

Source: Wikimedia Commons

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