Inventing the Telephone

Many people know that Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray both filed a patent for the telephone on February 14, 1876 with Bell beating Gray to the patent office by just a few hours. Fewer know of Antonio Meucci who invented the telephone in Italy about 1850. Upon his arrival to the United Stated Meucci submitted his design to the New York District Telegraph Company which shelved the idea. Fed up with the run around from NYDTC Meucci finally submitted a patent cavet in 1871 which is less expensive than a patent but grants fewer rights and expires in three years. In 1874 Meucci had no money to renew the cavet and so he lost out on what was possibly the most popular invention of the period.

For his part, Bell offered to sell the patent outright to Western Union for $100,000. The president of the company balked, countering that the telephone was nothing but a toy. Two years later, he told colleagues that if he could get the patent for $25 million he’d consider it a bargain. By then it wasn’t for sale.

More information on the patent history surrounding the invention of the telephone can be found in this article at

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