MassMoments reminds us that on this day March 7, 1876, Scotland-born inventor Alexander Graham Bell received a patent for a device that could transmit human speech over a wire – the telephone. Bell’s patents and the success of the Bell Telephone Company, which he established in 1877, made the young inventor a very rich man. There is a Lowell connection to the Bell story.
On the evening of April 24, 1877, in the reception room of Huntington Exhibition Hall above the Boston and Lowell railroad station the seeds of fortune were sewn. The financial foundation of the well-known Theodore Edson Parker Foundation is rooted at this historic event where less than a year after the patent was granted, and still some time before Bell Telephone Company was incorporated, an exclusive audience of 40 “gentlemen” gathered to see and hear a professor from Boston University named Alexander Graham Bell demonstrate his new invention, the “telephony.” A newspaper account of the evening relates that ” the test commenced . . . when a cabinet organ was played in Boston and was distinctly heard in this city [Lowell].” The invited guests heard such popular songs as “Yankee Doodle,” “Home Sweet Home,” and “Hold the Fort,” the last also sung by Thomas A. Watson, Bell’s assistant. History was made over the wires to and from Boston and Lowell. Dr. Moses Greeley Parker attended that night and ultimately became on of the biggest stockholders of both the American Telephone Company and the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company. A philanthropic man – Parker’s legacy continues. The bulk of his fortune was passed on to a nephew, Theodore Edson Parker Jr. who inspired and made possible the eventual formation of the Theodore Edson Parker Foundation, now dedicated to supporting non-profit organizations and causes in the city of Lowell. The Parker Foundation was one of the early and very important supporters of the Greater Lowell Community Foundation.
…in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell received a patent for the telephone. Born in Scotland, Bell settled in Boston when he was in his early 20s. He made his living as a teacher of the deaf; on the side he tinkered with transmitters and electromagnets. In the summer of 1876, Bell gave the first public demonstration of the “electrical speech machine” he had invented. A few months later he achieved his ultimate goal: transmitting and receiving spoken words over a telephone line. When Bell died on August 2, 1922, the nation’s telephones went silent for one minute in a fitting tribute to a man who had done so much to further oral communication.