February 14, 1876, Graham Bell and Elisha Gray applied for telephone patent

Last modified: February 15, 2021

Bell and gray 14 february 1876 telephone patent

Seems like the race to file the telephone patent between Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray started on February 14th, 1876 when there was an apparent rush that day to fill and deposit the telephone patent forms for the telephone designs, however, it was too late for Gray an electric engineer founder of Western Electric Manufacturing Company and professor at Oberlin College, according to the records Bell’s lawyer filed #5 application of the day and Gray’s was the #39.

The last 3 days leading to that Monday, February 14 are very controversial. Gray has not told anyone about his invention for transmitting voice when he finally commented about it on February 11th, 1876. Some say that when Bell heard about Gray’s device, he asked his lawyer to start working on the documentation for the design he has been working on for a long time, however it had only been patented by Great Britain who would not accept patents on inventions that were patented in other countries before.

Some say Bell altered his application after knowing the details of Gray’s invention so that the patent office will find both proposals similar and his invention would be patented first and own all the rights to commercialize the device. Witnesses debate that Bell’s documentation were deposited on the patent office after Gray’s and for this reason should have been seen after Gray’s.

Adding some scandal was a less known inventor and Italian inmigrant called Antonio Meucci that in 1849 started developing the design of the telegraph to turn it into a “telegrafo parlante” or talking telegraph. In 1850 he and his wife moved to Stated Island, NY, where he continued to work from his basement home lab, he filed a caveat for his design on 1871, Meucci’s difficulties to communicate in fluent english made it harder to penetrate the scientist society, but he faced financial struggles due to his wife’s health state and could not continue the telephone patent process, after some Meucci and Bell started sharing the Western Union laboratory where Meucci was working on the “telegrafo parlante” and the equipments got lost or stolen as some say.

Bell’s telephone patent awarded

Bell was awarded US telephone Patent Number 174,465, Improvement on Telegraphy, on March 7, 1876. In January 1887 there was a move on the court to annul Bell’s telephone patent on the grounds of fraud and misinterpretation. The case was discontinued after Meucci died in October 1889 and the Bell was going to expire on January 1893.

On June 11, 2002, the United States Congress acknowledge the Florence immigrant Antonio Meucci as the true inventor of the telephone. In Florence he was already acknowledge as the telephone inventor without the government support.

Alexander Graham Bell remains known by most as the inventor of the telephone.

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