"Resolved, That it is the sense of the House
of Representatives that the life and achievements of Antonio Meucci should be
recognized, and his work in the invention of the telephone should be acknowledged."
On June 11 2002 the United States House of Representatives passed Resolution 269 honouring Antonio Meucci's (pronounced me-ooh-chee) work and acknowledging him as an inventor of the telephone. Meucci's supporters have read this to mean that Meucci invented the phone instead of Alexander Graham Bell. I was researching other telephone inventors, and was interested to see how Meucci had come to a working telephone, and how his telephone differed from Bell's. I had recently looked at Philipp Reis' Telefon, and it is obvious from the descriptions of the time that Reis' phone simply didn't work reliably enough to qualify him as the inventor of the telephone as we know it. That didn't stop unscrupulous people from overinflating his work for commercial gain. Meucci unfortunately appears to have suffered the same fate. In recent years a sustained publicity campaign has been waged on his behalf. This has coloured much of the information available on him, so I had to search for as much original information from historical sources as possible.
Some basics are uncontested. Meucci was born in Italy in 1808 and received an education that included some of the basics of mechanical engineering. He showed an aptitude for this, but before he could develop it into a career he became politically involved with Garibaldi's moves to unite all the Italian states, kingdoms and duchys into a single Italian Republic. Austria, who held major political power in the area, became concerned at this rise of nationalism. After some minor but increasing revolutions many Italians came to feel safer in exile. Some decided to go to America, where prospects seemed brighter. Meucci was one of these. Unfortunately the United States reacted against the number of impoverished immigrants and began turning some away. Ships were refused permission to land, and many went to Cuba instead.
Meucci got a job in the Havana Opera House and his inventive ability soon started to show. His interest in electricity developed, especially in the new field of medical electricity. There was a theory that electric shock therapy could be of value in treating a range of medical conditions, and Meucci set up a small laboratory in the rear of the theatre to work on this. The equipment was basically an induction coil connected to a battery of Bunsen-type cells. One lead from this would be placed in the patient's mouth and the other pressed to the afflicted part of the body. The voltage would gradually be increased until a result was achieved. In the absence of meters, Meucci would put an electrode in his own mouth to check the strength of the shock. One day a migraine patient yelled out at the anticipated shock to come, and Meucci "felt" the patient's voice through the electrode in his mouth. This gave him an interest in the transmission of sound by electricity.
He was able to enter the United States in 1850 and continue his experiments. By 1849 he had apparently made a working prototype of a telephone, which he continued to improve and demonstrate to his friends and business associates. By 1860 he was searching for financial backers to commercialise the device, but nothing came of this. Meucci was now becoming financially embarrassed. He had been supporting a number of fellow Italian revolutionaries who had escaped to the USA, including Garibaldi himself, and sending money back to Italy to support the ongoing revolutions. This severely strained his finances.
In 1861, 1862 or 1865 (the date is uncertain) the newspaper L'Eco d'Italia published the news of a telephone invented by Innocenzo Manzetti. Meucci wrote to the paper and recounted his own work. The details in this letter may have helped in later years to establish Meucci's claim to be the inventor of the telephone, but all copies of the issues of this period are lost.
In 1871 he was caught in the blast of an exploding ferry boiler and spent a long time in hospital. His wife, practically destitute, sold off his telephones to a secondhand dealer to raise some money.
Meucci tried to restart his experiments, and engaged an attorney to patent his work. The news of Manzetti's telephone may have encouraged him to do this. Meucci could not afford the $250 that a patent would cost him. His attorney, Mr Stetson, advised that they apply for a caveat instead - an official notice that they were in the process of inventing a telephone, and would continue until the device was patentable. This would give Meucci some priority if someone else tried to patent the same mechanism as well. Stetson said later in court that he had advised Meucci that in its present form his invention was unlikely to receive a patent. The first caveat was given in 1871, and Meucci renewed it each year until 1873. In 1874, completely impoverished, he had to let the caveat lapse. Note that a caveat was NOT a declaration that he had invented something, but a notice that he had an idea that he was working on. Some later writers claim that he patented the invention - this is not true. It is also important to note that Meucci's caveat does not mention a diaphragm, an important part of any later working telephone.
Once the invention was covered by the caveat, Meucci submitted his designs and notes to Mr Edward Grant , the Vice President of one of the Western Union operating companies, for testing. Grant, naturally, passed them on to the company mechanics for examination. There they appear to have been lost or ignored. It has been pointed out that the mechanics would probably not have known what the instruments were for in the absence of adequate English documentation. Grant was unable to trace them when asked by Meucci for their return two years later. This has been used as the basis for claims of collusion to hide the information, and that the details were passed on to Bell and Grey by Western Union. An incorrect and unsupported account appears on the Website of the Italian Historical Society of America at www.italianhistorical.org/MeucciStory.htm. This website is typical of the nationalistic bias of much of the pro-Meucci support.
Bell patented his telephone in 1876. He was also impoverished at the time, but had some financial backing. He and his supporters also tried to sell the invention to the Western Union Telegraph Company. Western Union rejected it as an electrical toy, a decision they soon regretted. Bell and his backers formed the American Bell Telephone Company, put the phone into production, and started making inroads into the telegraph business.
The system described in Meucci's caveat would have been based on an improvement to the electrode-in-the-mouth system he developed in Havana. We have a good drawing of the "Speaking Telegraph" in use in the December 19 1885 Scientific American, but not of its construction(8). The device was handheld, rather than being placed in the mouth. A second instrument was used as the receiver. The circuit was battery-powered and used an earth return. It also contained a push-button signalling system that produced a "tick" in the receiver when the circuit was broken. Meucci noted the need for a quiet room in which to operate the device. He was also aware of the need for higher quality, larger diameter wire for better transmission, and he performed and documented experiments to optimize this. Whether the phone itself would work efficiently is uncertain, but Meucci was apparently well aware of some of the problems that would occur with a working system. This is a point in his favour in his claim for priority. Against him, however, is Judge Wallace's statement that "the application does not describe any of the elements, of an electric speaking telephone. Its opening statement refutes the possibility that Meucci understood the principle of that invention. Meucci states that he employs the well-known conducting effect of continuous metallic conductors as a medium for sound, and increases the effect by electrically insulating both the conductor and the parties who are communication".
Meucci's wife was seriously ill and bedridden. In his new home on Staten Island he constructed a telephone system between his workshop and her bedroom in about 1851. He was able to publicly demonstrate it in 1860. He called it the Teletrofono, and briefly formed a small company to promote it. The company failed with the death or departure of two of the partners. The Scientific American gives a good drawing of this and subsequent phones. In the 1849 model a paper cone contains a copper spatula soldered to a loose coil of fine wire which is insulated in cork. In the 1852 version the cone is made of metal and the wire is wrapped around it. The copper spatula does not appear to serve any purpose in the circuit, and in fact it is hard to see how the circuit could function at a useable level, if at all. By the 1853 model the spatula was dropped and the first diaphragm of sheet iron was introduced. This followed an unsuccessful attempt using an animal membrane diaphragm. The iron diaphragm affected a crude magnet and coil built into the handle. This is coming very close to Bell's patented design. By 1865 the horseshoe magnet was introduced and the Teletrofono looked more than ever like the later Bell receiver.
Unfortunately these drawings were made well after the event, and the early models no longer exist, so it is not possible to corroborate any of the designs apart from the crude drawing included with the Caveat application. No explanation is given for the change from the spatula-in-the-mouth to the coil and magnet assembly, and this lack of documentation must have cost Meucci some credibility. In his summary of the evidence presented in the Globe case (7) the Judge's description of the original Teletrofono shows it was a "string telephone", a well-known device that transmitted sound along a tensioned wire or string. Meucci apparently tried to electrify this in some way to improve its efficiency, but the only real effect would be to produce the signalling "tick" when the circuit was broken.
In 1872-73, Meucci was asked if he would construct a telephone that could be used by a diver underwater. The telephones he produced are also shown in the Scientific American article, acknowledged to the November 1885 New York Electrical World. The diagram shows a device that looks like a watchcase receiver. He filed for a patent for this in 1880. The result of the application is unknown, but by this time the coil-and-magnet arrangement was well known.
THE LEGAL CONTEST
This area is all a matter of public record, so can be verified.
Western Union had control of Elisha Grey's caveat for a telephone invention. This was lodged at the Patent Office some hours after Bell's Patent application. Bell's application therefore had priority over Grey. That did not stop Western Union using Grey's caveat in 1877 as the basis for entering the telephone business with their own phones, through their American Speaking Telephone Company. This set the stage for the world's most hotly contested patent over who actually invented the telephone.
American Bell set out to defend its patent. The telephone business was thriving and defence was critical. The patent could possibly be overturned on a number of grounds - the patented device did not work (noone seriously tried this one), malpractice (such as theft of the idea or corruption in the Patent Office), or Priority (also called "prior art" - someone else invented it first). American Bell went through more than five hundred such cases, and didn't lose a single one.
They made a fortunate choice in their two major lawyers. Chauncy Smith was a traditional lawyer - "dignified, ponderous and impressive". He was also an expert in patent law. In contrast to him, James T Storrow was the technical man. He developed an encyclopedic knowledge of the physics and technologies involved. He was unspectacular and absolutely unflappable in court. They were soon supplemented by a third man, Thomas D Lockwood. Lockwood joined American Bell in 1879 to establish its Patent Department. His phenomenal memory and knack for understanding inventions helped the two lawyers through many subsequent trials. (9)
American Bell went after Western Union's American Speaking Telephone Company in 1878. At this time Western Union had another big problem developing. They had invested a lot of capital in enlarging their nationwide telegraph network, and were starting to run short of money. Although asset-rich, they were becoming cash-poor and were facing a hostile takeover from a young financier, Jay Gould. Gould had set up a competing telegraph company and was making overtures to Bell to join forces. This competition was starting to affect the value of Western Union's shares. While the court case with American Bell dragged on, the prospective takeover became more important. Finally Western Union's Counsel, George Gifford, became convinced that they were not going to win the court case. He urged the company to come to an agreement with Bell and get the matter out of the way. He was supported by Western Union's chief electrician , Frank Pope. Pope had previously tried to keep Western Union out of telephones, after a lengthy examination of patents and literature had convinced him that Bell's patent could not be beaten. The directors finally accepted these recommendations and a committee of members of the two companies was formed to work out a peaceful agreement.
On November 10 1879 Western Union officially recognized Bell as the inventor of the telephone. They agreed to sell their telephone business to Bell in return for twenty percent of telephone rentals and royalties for the next seventeen years. American Bell was to stay out of telegraphs. The twenty percent royalty to Western Union would ultimately amount to over a million dollars. Note that a definite amount was not mentioned in the agreement - just a percentage. As a result of the David versus Goliath battle, American Bell shares now rose dramatically as buyers realized that the company should be taken seriously after all.
The decision was hailed as master stroke of diplomacy on both sides. It gave Western Union a useful cash flow, removed the problem of Gould, left the cost of development of the telephone to American Bell, gave American Bell all the patents it needed to protect its business, and gave them time to pay off Western Union. Another interpretation has been put on the agreement, but we will get to that later.
Further patent infringement cases occurred rapidly, and a succession of judges became progressively short tempered at the number of liars, cheats and charlatans that appeared before them and claimed to have invented the telephone first. It is significant that Bell did not lose a single case over priority. Many companies simply folded when challenged in court, taking their shareholders' money with them.
As the competing companies were challenged one by one, the stories became increasingly less plausible. They probably culminated in the gentleman who said he had invented the telephone some years before Bell, but until he saw Bell's patent he did not know what it was that he had invented.
The Bell company itself was not above using the legal system for its own benefit. Although they now had Edison's patent , they shelved it in favor of a new transmitter designed by Blake and brought to a production standard by Berliner. The various patents were ruled "in interference" (that is, they conflicted with each other) by the Patent Office. The Bell company used delaying tactics to hold off having the patents sorted out for many years, hoping that once a patent was given to Berliner, it would extend their control of the telephone for a longer period. At the urging of a number of Bell's opponents the Government tried to have the broad patent annulled. This would throw the telephone open to anybody. The Supreme Court ruled against the Government, and the patents stood.
THE GOVERNMENT VERSUS BELL
It was becoming clear that American Bell's patent would stand up in court. A group of promoters formed the Pan Electric Telephone Company and proceeded with the usual money-raising tactics. This time, however, they went on a different path of attack. Instead of just building patent-infringing telephones, they gave a large amount of stock (later found to be ten million dollars at face value) in their company to Augustus Garland, who later became the new U.S. Attorney General, and a number of other influential Government members. Pan Electric asked the Attorney General to review the patent, in line with Meucci's claims of corruption in the Patent Office. His claims were examined, testimony from a number of witnesses was taken and reported on, and in 1885 Garland ordered the Justice Department to take action against American Bell and Alexander Graham Bell for fraud. This, if successful, would result in the Patent being vacated (annulled).
The court case was bitter and drawn out. Meucci's claims were all brought up. It was claimed that Bell had worked corruptly with someone in the Patent Office to establish priority over Elisha Grey, and that Bell and Grey had both stolen Meucci's notes and demonstration instruments after he submitted them to the Western Union subsidiary for testing. It was even suggested that Judges had been bribed in some of the court cases that followed the issue of the patent. Again, many of these claims have been revived in recent times to support Meucci's case.
Finally Joseph Pulitzer's newspaper, the New York World, broke the scandal of Garland's shares in Pan Electric. President Cleveland ordered Garland to drop the case. It was tactfully allowed to die out by mutual consent. It was not, as is claimed by later writers, delayed by Bell's lawyers until Meucci died. It was delayed while copies of L'Eco d'Italia (in which Meucci said he had published details of his Teletrofono) were searched for, technical advice was sought, and the Patent Office investigation was completed. A Congressional Committee was appointed by the Speaker of the House to investigate the matter, and delivered its majority findings in favour of Bell on March 4, 1886. Garland was let off in what was regarded as a blatant whitewash. No evidence whatever was presented to support the idea of corruption in the Patent Office. This effectively stopped any further action on corruption grounds. (13)
THE GLOBE TELEPHONE COMPANY
With the potential profits to be made from a successful telephone, it is not surprising that many entrepreneurs set up companies to compete with Bell. Many of these had no intention of actually building a telephone network, but were simply a chance for the promoters to make money through share sales. As American Bell successfully defended its priority in case after case, it became necessary for a competing company to have an alternate telephone or be prepared to face court. Meucci's Teletrofono still looked like a good option to get around Bell's patent.
The Globe company initially bought the rights to the patent for the "Bassano-Slater" telephone, whose details are now lost. They also employed Meucci as their nominal Chief Electrician to obtain access to any priority his invention may have had. The Secretary of the company later admitted in court that this was simply a defensive measure. They then set about looking for investors. Although they had a nominal capital of ten million dollars, little of this money had actually been raised yet. To encourage investors, they built a set of Bell-type demonstration instruments for potential customers to try out in their offices in New York. They assured investors that they owned patents that would protect the company against litigation by American Bell.
Globe joined in the complaint against the Bell patent being investigated by the Justice Department, that later led to the fraud charge against Bell. At this point American Bell took Globe to court for patent infringement in 1885 and requested an injunction to stop them. As well as Beckwith (the company secretary) and the directors, they also included Meucci in the injunction request.
The case was presided over by Judge William J. Wallace (11). He was an appropriate choice as he had already presided over four Bell patent trials. He was familiar with many of the technical issues to be raised in the new trial. Many interesting claims came out of this case. It was the first real chance Meucci had to publicly state his case for priority , and he took advantage of it.
In the evidence presented, the directors retreated, and relied on the fact that they had not really built infringing telephones for sale, only for testing. Beckwith's defence was essentially that he believed Meucci's claim that he had invented the telephone and Bell had stolen it. It was then left to Meucci to carry the load. Meucci covered his invention of the Speaking Telegraph in Havana, and how he had developed it into good working electromagnetic instruments before1865. He covered the caveat application, but admitted that he did not pass on his invention to likely commercial promoters at that time or later. His Counsel made the point that Meucci was too poor to afford a patent, and had an inadequate command of English to accurately describe his instruments or to handle complex patent or business law. This now seems to be incorrect (2)
Meucci again claimed that corrupt staff in the Patent Office had let Bell (and possibly Grey) rifle through the records and steal Meucci's caveat documentation. He was unable to provide any proof of this. His claim that the information was published in L'Eco d'Italia could not be proved either. This lack of corroboration dogged much of Meucci's evidence.
Translations of Meucci's notebook were available, but without any corroboration they were of no value to his claims. About fifty sworn affidavits were available to support Meucci's prior invention, but only a few were presented for the same reason. Since his early Teletrofono seems to have been simply a string telephone, not an electromagnetic intrument, it is not surprising that this line of support was dropped.
The judge ruled that the caveat showed that Meucci had not, at the point of Bell's patent, developed a workable telephone. He also accused Meucci of attempting to gain money fraudulently from his various backers. The Bell patent would stand, and he granted the injunction against Globe and Meucci. (7)
Unfortunately, some of Meucci's claims were later revived to promote his case to be the inventor of the telephone. The Judge's findings are conveniently overlooked, the Judge's integrity questioned, and Meucci's testimony given as the truth in spite of the complete lack of supporting evidence.
Meucci died in 1889 in poverty. It was a sad end to a tragic life. The controversy remains, fuelled by nationalistic emotions and wishful thinking more than hard evidence.
This is of necessity a severely abbreviated history. I have had to leave out many interesting areas that do not relate directly to Meucci's Teletrofono. I have omitted many unsupported arguments and allegations raised by Meucci supporters. I have included the references that (mostly) seem impartial or can be verified.
Did Meucci invent a workable telephone? I think so. Eventually. Many witnesses report seeing it in action at his home, and he was able to demonstrate it publicly. A Judge's summary of a patent infringement case , however, describes it an electrified version of a string telephone, not an electromagnetic device. We do not, unfortunately, have much documentation available to us, so we don't know just how workable it really was or, more importantly, exactly when he got it to work. From the decisions of the judges and technical experts, it was probably another Reis telephone - perhaps close, but it would never have worked in the form shown in the drawings.
Was it a forerunner of Bell's design? There is no hard evidence one way or the other. Eminent and competent judges in various courts thought it wasn't, and since they were there at the time and worked through all the evidence, it is unreasonable to doubt their rulings. The critical issue here is when did Meucci change from his spatula-in-the-mouth (unworkable) to electromagnetic (workable) - before or after Bell patented his telephone?
Did Bell steal Meucci's work? Again, there is no evidence whatever to support this. The Patent Office didn't find any such evidence, neither did the judges or the Govenment inquiry. Since Meucci's later drawings look so much like Bell's design it is just as possible that Meucci copied Bell's work.
Did American Bell and Western Union collude over the patents during their court case to drive up their share prices? Just speculation. The explanation given earlier is more reasonable in light of the well-documented information available.
Is the House of Representatives Resolution 269 in error? Yes. It ignores the evidence presented in various courts, denies the rulings of a number of respected judges of the time, and repeats errors of fact. Just because a group of uninformed politicians pass a Resolution still does not make it fact. It should be remembered that the House of Representatives once wanted to make a presentation to Thomas Edison for inventing the Gramophone, in spite of the well-known (and patented) fact that it was invented by Emile Berliner. Politicians can make mistakes too; they just do it more publicly.
It should be noted that the text of the Resolution DOES NOT acknowledge Meucci as the inventor of the telephone. It does acknowledge his early work on the telephone, but even this is open to question.
The motion was reportedly debated in only forty minutes, so it is no wonder the errors were not noticed. Let's have a look at them.
"Meucci never learned English well enough to navigate the complex American business community". Maybe not at first, but he had an attorney who did, and a friend who translated English into Italian for him. He ran a brewery and a candle-making factory. A translation of a letter submitted at the Globe trial purports to show his poor knowledge of English, and also his poor understanding of some business matters. There is doubt about the accuracy of this translation. Professor Basilio Catania contends that the letter was edited to produce a false impression of Meucci's poor English and produces the original manuscript as proof.(1).
Prof. Catania also lists a number of Meucci's patents for other inventions, so he was certainly able to handle complex business matters like patents(2). He also appears to have been able to raise the money for these patents, even if much of it was provided by backers.
"Whereas in March 1876, Alexander Graham Bell, who conducted experiments in the same laboratory where Meucci's materials had been stored, was granted a patent and was thereafter credited with inventing the telephone" . Unsupported inference that Bell stole Meucci's ideas. There is no evidence that Bell worked in any such laboratory - Bell was a competitor of Western Union. Why would they allow him into their workshops? This appears to come from Chapter 15 of a book "Antonio Meucci: Inventor of the Telephone" by G E Schiavo in 1958. (3).
"Whereas on January 13, 1887, the Government of the United States moved to annul the patent issued to Bell on the grounds of fraud and misrepresentation, a case that the Supreme Court found viable and remanded for trial" . Partly false. There was no such case in the Supreme Court. The fraud case was ordered by Garland, the corrupt Attorney General, after reports from the Dept of the Interior and the Patent Office. It also ignores the fact that the case was commercially motivated and was found to be so by a Congressional Committee at the time. The reference to the Supreme Court seems to have originated in a book "Fifty Years of Italian Life in America" published in 1921 by Alfredo Bosi, and regularly quoted as fact by Meucci supporters. It is also used as the basis for false claims that Meucci sued Bell for fraud. The Government did indeed try to have Bell's patent annulled in an earlier case, but the Supreme Court in this case actually upheld the Patent.
"Whereas Meucci died in October 1889, the Bell patent expired in January 1893, and the case was discontinued as moot without ever reaching the underlying issue of the true inventor of the telephone entitled to the patent". Again this ignores the true outcome of the case. Bell's rights to the patent had been challenged many times and each time upheld by the courts. He was already legally acknowledged as the inventor of the telephone. There was therefore no "underlying issue". The case was corruptly brought and it was ordered stopped by the President because of that.
"Whereas if Meucci had been able to pay the $10 fee to maintain the caveat after 1874, no patent could have been issued to Bell" . Unsupported. There is no evidence to prove that Meucci's caveat design was in any way similar to Bell's. The caveat designs are nothing like Bell's design. Any other designs shown come from later post-patent publications and cannot be regarded as valid evidence on this matter since they lack any corroboration. This claim is based on an affidavit by the head of the electrical department of the Patent Office at the Globe trial, who was being paid to appear on behalf of Globe. By this time Meucci's papers submitted to the Patent Office could not be found, fourteen years after the caveat was first applied for, so the value of the unsupported affidavit is questionable. A caveat only applied for one year, so the papers may well have been destroyed by the time of the court case. Meucci also applied for and was granted other patents during this period (2), so the excuse that he could not afford a patent seems unlikely. The reason given by Mr Stetson, that the invention was not yet workable enough to be patentable, seems more credible. Meucci had a friend who backed some of his inventions at this time, but the friend declined to support the Teletrofono. He also seems to have decided that Meucci's Teletrofono was not yet workable. A group of friends initially invested in the invention, but one by one they dropped out or died. They also did not seem to believe that the invention was workable.
TWISTING THE EVIDENCE
One of the difficulties I faced when looking for information on Meucci is lazy reporting. Professor Basilio Catania, a Meucci supporter, did a number of lecture tours(10) and provided a Press Release and other publicity on the subject in recent years. In many cases I have seen the Press Release or parts of it, with the journalist's comments appended, delivered as fresh new evidence. Even the prestigious British newspaper, The Guardian, is guilty of this (4). Professor Catania's extensive writings are often quoted with no extra research done by journalists to check the validity of his statements. Some of these selectively repeat evidence from court cases that was found by the presiding judge to be wrong or fraudulent. For this reason I have gone to such original material as is still available. Professor Catania promises to provide more evidence for his conclusions in his next book. I await this with interest.
Meucci supporters draw on a reference in the Enciclopedia Treccani, which apparently is the Italian-language equivalent of the Encyclopedia Britannica. This article gives Meucci credit as the inventor, then gives unsupported details of a phone supposedly designed by Meucci, incorrect details of the Supreme Court case that never occurred, and other errors of fact. This is very sloppy practice for an encyclopedia article that is quoted so often in support of Meucci. It does nothing for his credibility. I do not speak Italian and I am unable to read the original article, so I have relied on Giovanni Schiavo's comments.(12)
Many Meucci supporters are overzealous in their interpretation of Meucci's diagrams and infer more than is contained in them. As an example, claims that he discovered the principle of variable resistance ( a critical principle used in later telephone transmitters) are totally unsupported (5). The efficiency of his early "Speaking Telegraph" may have been influenced by variable resistance, but Meucci does not describe it in his notes or mention it anywhere. He cannot be said to have discovered or exploited it if he didn't even notice it.
In another example, Professor Catania claimed in his lecture "In this drawing we see two persons, each holding two instruments, one for transmitting, the other for receiving speech. The user at the right end of the drawing is speaking, whereas the one at the left is listening. You may note that there is a complete separation of the two directions of transmission (indicated by arrows), unlike Meucci's previous layouts, in which he had inserted all four instruments in series in the same circuit. The present two-circuit layout was aimed to counteract the so-called "side-tone," that is, the hearing of the echo of the speaker's own voice in his own receiver, as well as any background noise picked up by his transmitter. This layout is known today as the "four-wire circuit" and it is one of the several anti side-tone circuits that the Bell Company was to adopt after the year 1900. You, as I, may be astonished that Meucci had conceived it 42 years before."(10) Again, Meucci did not comment on sidetone, describe the problem, or name it. He did not give any reason at all for using four wires. This sort of exaggeration is not helpful to Meucci's case.
There is a claim that Bell and Western Union colluded over Western Union's surrender to American Bell to push up share prices, and that Bell agreed to pay Western Union over one million dollars for this. This is false. The agreement turned out to be worth a lot of money, but a figure of twenty percent of sales and royalties was all that was actually agreed on. With the perilous state of American Bell's finances at the time, it could just as well have been worth nothing to Western Union. This claim can also be traced to Schiavo's book.
Too many information sources, websites especially, show a nationalistic bias in favour of Meucci by quoting evidence submitted at the various trials and enquiries as if it is fact. They ignore the outcome of the trial, the judge's comments, and the orders given at the trial's conclusion. Without some corroboration or supporting evidence being offered, such information is useless - it is simply opinion, not fact. That is why I have had to use words like "claim". Hopefully, further evidence will turn up with time and we may find if there is any truth to Meucci's claims.
1. Letter from A Meucci to J D Stetson produced at the Globe trial.
CLIFTON STATEN ILAND Januy 19 '72
J. D. STETSON Esq
DEAR SIR -- Your favor dated the 12th inst is at hand allowe me to thank you for your kindness, and for your incoragement to me so I may be successful in my new interprise. But now, I am to tell you the cause why I am not at liberty to proceed with my esperiments as you raccomend me to do.
The cause is this! On the 12th of December last for the insinuation of some of my friends that I know or I have been acquanteed for several years they all knew that I had the entention or knew that I hab some future days & where to form a Company for the purpose of carried on then my invention and so we had formed a Company of four person wthith me as one of the above said fourth the three beside me wher to pay for all the exsspenses and I am bound to make all the experiments as they may ask me until we get to successful end. But here is within a fues days two of the parties I cant say for what cause for not having enought money perhapts or for some reason unknown to me are willing to widraw from the contract. therefore there would be but one. I now ask you if you perhaps with your influence and acquaintance about the city if you would try to find some gentleman acquantance in Telegraphic bueseness and having some maens to jon in and replace the other two. In this away it would facilitate me very much in my exsperiments for having some interesting parties conected that are allready acquantens in Telegraphic buseness. I am sure that if you wish to take a part in it you can co-operate for me as much as any two men in the city together. I am sure mr Stetson that I must tank you for your kindness that you have shown me since I am your acquantance and I am almost sure that you will do for me as much as ever. if this should meet your approval I will remit to you the condition of our contract and at the same time all the Plan that I have in my possetion to today if it should meet your approbation.
Believe me sir your
Very respectfully your
Professor Basilio Catania shows a facsimile of the original letter at his website at http://www.esanet.it/chez_basilio/immagini/letter.pdf. He notes that the original contains fewer errors of spelling than the translation, and the version submitted to the court seems to have been edited to give a false impression of Meucci's poor English.
2. Some of the Patents granted to Meucci as listed by Prof. Basilio Catania on his website http://www.esanet.it/chez_basilio/meucci_faq.htm#11
Patent 22739 on Paraffin Candle Mould, and Patent 30180 on Rotating Blade to finish
1862 Patent 36192 on smokeless kerosene lamp using two electrified platinum plates to embrace the flame.
1862-63 Patent 36419 and Patent 38714 Process for treating and bleaching oil or kerosene to obtain siccative oils for paint
1864-65 Patents 44735 , 47068 and 53165 Processes to obtain paper pulp from wood or other vegetable substances
1865 Patent 46607 Process for making wicks out of vegetable fiber
1871 Patent 122478 "Effervescent Drinks," fruit-vitamin rich drinks that Meucci found useful during his recovery from the wounds and burns caused by the explosion of the Westfield ferry.
1875 Patent 168273 "Lactometer," for chemically detecting adulterations of milk. It anticipates by fifteen years the well-known Babcock test.
These patents suggest that either Meucci had good legal advice, or that he was competent enough in patent law to put together an application himself. He apparently had sufficient money from somewhere to pay for the patents. They also show Meucci's sheer inventiveness.
3. Schiavo,G. E., Antonio Meucci Inventor of the Telephone, The Vigo Press, New York, NY 1958, pp. 171-181], available from Basilio Catania's website http://www.esanet.it/chez_basilio/schiavo_xv.htm. Although Schiavo's theories could be regarded as slanderous to Bell, to his credit he corrects a number of other errors circulating in the available literature at the time. See also (12)
4. The article is shown at http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4434963,00.html
5. From the Website "Antonio Santi Giuseppe Meucci" at http://chem.ch.huji.ac.il/~eugeniik/history/meucci.html
" It may be remarked that Meucci, in this first experiment, exploited two quite advanced principles of telephone communication: the variable resistance principle, that was to be employed in either liquid or carbon "microphone" transmitters some 30 years later, and the variable capacitor principle, that was to be employed in the so-called "static telephone" at about the same time".
6. Text of a resolution to recognise Antonio Meucci as the inventor of the telephone, United States House of Representatives.
In the House of Representatives, U.S.,
June 11, 2002.
Whereas Antonio Meucci, the great Italian inventor, had a career that was both extraordinary and tragic;
Whereas, upon immigrating to New York, Meucci continued to work with ceaseless vigor on a project he had begun in Havana, Cuba, an invention he later called the `teletrofono', involving electronic communications;
Whereas Meucci set up a rudimentary communications link in his Staten Island home that connected the basement with the first floor, and later, when his wife began to suffer from crippling arthritis, he created a permanent link between his lab and his wife's second floor bedroom;
Whereas, having exhausted most of his life's savings in pursuing his work, Meucci was unable to commercialize his invention, though he demonstrated his invention in 1860 and had a description of it published in New York's Italian language newspaper;
Whereas Meucci never learned English well enough to navigate the complex American business community;
Whereas Meucci was unable to raise sufficient funds to pay his way through the patent application process, and thus had to settle for a caveat, a one year renewable notice of an impending patent, which was first filed on December 28, 1871;
Whereas Meucci later learned that the Western Union affiliate laboratory reportedly lost his working models, and Meucci, who at this point was living on public assistance, was unable to renew the caveat after 1874;
Whereas in March 1876, Alexander Graham Bell, who conducted experiments in the same laboratory where Meucci's materials had been stored, was granted a patent and was thereafter credited with inventing the telephone;
Whereas on January 13, 1887, the Government of the United States moved to annul the patent issued to Bell on the grounds of fraud and misrepresentation, a case that the Supreme Court found viable and remanded for trial;
Whereas Meucci died in October 1889, the Bell patent expired in January 1893, and the case was discontinued as moot without ever reaching the underlying issue of the true inventor of the telephone entitled to the patent; and
Whereas if Meucci had been able to pay the $10 fee to maintain the caveat after 1874, no patent could have been issued to Bell: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the life and achievements of Antonio Meucci should be recognized, and his work in the invention of the telephone should be acknowledged.
7. The text of Judge Wallace's ruling in the case of American Bell vs. Globe Telephone Company / Antonio Meucci . It is quoted from website http://www.scripophily.net/globtelcom18.html
From 31 Federal Reporter 728-735
American Bell Telephone Co. v. Globe Telephone Co. and others
Circuit Court, S. D. New York. July 19, 1887.
1. PATENTS FOR INVENTIONS-INFRINGEMENT-ACTS WARRANTING INJUNCTION-BELL TELEPHONE.
Letters patent No. 174,465 were granted March 7, 1876, to Alexander Graham Bell, for certain improvements in telegraphy, the fifth claim of which, relating to the transmission of speech by electricity, became entitled, by judicial construction, to a broad interpretation in favor of the inventor. Prior to 1885 the Globe Telephone Company was incorporated under the laws of New York, the object of its formation being to manufacture, sell, license, and lease telegraphic, telephonic, and electric instruments, and supplies therefor, and to acquire and dispose of patents, patent rights, and inventions relating thereto. The company acquired certain patents, which were shown to be infringements upon the Bell patent, and put up in their office sample instruments of an infringing character. They also, by advertisements, invited the public to purchase their instruments, and become licensees of their patents and claims. No instruments, however, were ever actually made or used, except experimentally, and none were ever sold. Held, that the acts of the company were sufficient to warrant a decree restraining infringement.
2. SAME-INVENTION OF MEUCCI-PRIORITY
The experiments and invention of one Antonio Meucci, relating to the transmission of speech by an electrical apparatus, for which invention a caveat was filed in the United States patent office, December 28,1871, renewed in December, 1882, and again in December, 1883, do not contain any such elements of an electric speaking telephone as would give the same priority over or interfere with the said Bell patent.
E. N. Dickerson and J. J. Storrow, for complainant. D. Humphries and S. R. Beckwith, for defendants.
WALLACE, J. The complainant has filed this bill to restrain infringement of the patent granted by the United States to Alexander Graham Bell, dated March 7, 1876, No. 174,465, for improvements in telegraphy. Infringement is also alleged of the United States patent to Bell, No. 186,787, dated January 30, 1877, for improvements in electric telephony, but the proofs have not been addressed to the question of the infringement of this patent, and it is practically out of the case. The fifth claim of the first patent has been judicially construed in two cases by the circuit court for the district of Massachusetts, and in both of these cases it was substantially held that Bell was the discoverer of the new art of transmitting speech by electricity, and that the claim should receive the broadest interpretation to secure to the inventor, not the abstract right of sending sounds by telegraph without regard to means, but all means and processes described which are essential to the application of the principle. American Bell Telephone Co. v. Dolbear, 15 Fed. Rep. 448; Same v. Spencer, 8 Fed. Rep. 509. This court, in American Bell Telephone Co. v. Molecular Telephone Co., followed the construction thus placed upon the claim. 23 Blatchf. 253, 32 Fed. Rep. 214.
The proofs for the complainant show that the apparatus, which it is alleged has been used and offered for sale by the defendants, embodies the means and process for transmitting speech by electricity which are the subject of the fifth claim of the patent to Bell; and no evidence has been introduced by the defendant to controvert this fact.
The defendants answer separately. The answer of the Globe Telephone Company and of the defendant Rogers consists merely of general and specific denials of the averments of the bill. The answer of the defendant Meucci alleges that he was the first and prior inventor of the telephone; that in 1871, by a series of improvements and experiments in telephony, he had perfected a perfect speaking telegraph, which comprised all the electrical principles since known in the art of telegraphy; that he has never made, used, or sold any telephones or speaking telegraphs for any purpose whatever, except that for more than 24 years he has had, during most of the time, at his residence at Staten Island, a speaking telephone for domestic use; that prior to 1876 he endeavored to introduce the invention of said telephones into public use, but, by reason of his poverty, was unable to do so; and to that end did cause the same to be published in the newspaper the Eco D'Italia, and did endeavor to secure the assistance of others by making known to them his said invention. The answer of the defendant Beckwith consists of a general denial of the averments of the bill, and sets up the priority of the invention of Meucci.
Inasmuch as none of the defendants set up, by way of defense, any prior patents, publications, or instances of prior invention or public use, except the prior invention of Meucci, and their proofs consist only of evidence of Meucci's invention, and evidence to show that they have never used, manufactured, or sold electric speaking telephones, or procured or assisted others to do so, it is unnecessary, and would be extraneous to the real questions in the case, to consider the point, made in the brief of the counsel for one of the defendants, that the fifth claim of Bell's patent of 1876 is not entitled to the broad construction which has heretofore been given to it by the courts. The only questions really involved are whether the acts of the defendants are an infringement of the exclusive rights of the complainant to manufacture, use, and sell the electric speaking telephone, and whether the proofs establish the defense that Meucci was the prior and original inventor of that apparatus.
The bill was filed November 10, 1885. At that time the Globe Company had been incorporated about two years and a half. It was a New York corporation. Its certificate of incorporation recites that the objects for which the company is to be formed are to "manufacture, sell, license, and lease telegraphic, telephonic, and electric instruments, and supplies therefor of every description, and to acquire, by purchase or license or otherwise, and dispose of by sale, license, or otherwise, patents, patent-rights, and inventions relating thereto, and incidental to the manufacture of said instruments and supplies." In August, 1885, the defendant Beckwith became the general manager of that company. At that time he was interested in an invention patented in England known as the "Bassano-Slater telephone," and had agreed with the owners to procure a patent for the invention in this country, and had the right to use and introduce the invention here. That company was the owner of patents which had been issued to Shaw and to Hadden for inventions in telephonic instruments. When Beckwith became manager, the company entered into a written agreement with him by which it promised to use the Bassano-Slater invention in its business, unless by subsequent agreement the parties should agree to substitute other inventions. Beckwith was to have a large share of the profits of the company. It was also agreed between Beckwith and the company that the latter would secure, "for purposes of defense, the so-called Antonio Meucci claims evidenced by caveat filed in the United States patent office. From the time Beckwith became manager until this suit was brought the company seems to have been mainly engaged in advertising its pretensions as a competitor of the American Bell Telephone Company in trying to procure money, and in endeavoring to enlist others to become purchasers or licensees of its rights in telephone inventions. It had a capital stock of nominally $10,000,000, and but very little real capital. Its officers soon became aware that its patents were worthless, unless the Bell patent could be invalidated. It had not manufactured any telephone instruments, nor did it have any for sale, but it had in its office certain instruments, the history of which is stated by Mr. Bowen. one of its directors. He testifies as follows: "At a board meeting I raised the question, have we got any instruments of any kind?' and it was stated by Mr. Beckwith that we had the Bassano-Slater instruments. The Shaw and Hadden were both infringements upon the Bell, and could not be used. It was then suggested by Mr. Beckwith that we could use the Bassano-Slater instruments; that we could use them in connection with the Meucci instruments, and it would make a first-class instrument. Then I think the question came up before the board in reference to having made a set of instruments for a sample set, to have in the office to show what they were, as we had nothing, I think I stated at that time that as long as I had been a member of the company I had not seen anything that looked like an instrument to show anybody. At that meeting there was an order issued by the board authorizing Mr. Beckwith to have made a set of sample instruments, such as he deemed proper and sufficient for testing, for samples, to have in the office to be exhibited." These instruments were put up in the office of the company in the Mills Building, on Broad street, New York city, by Beckwith, and connected with the office of Mr. Hadden, the electrician of the company across the street. They were used for several weeks to communicate with Mr. Hadden, and for the purpose of illustrating to others what telephones, the company proposed to introduce to compete with the American Bell Telephone Company.
During all this time the officers of the company were unwilling to commit it to any acts of open infringement of the Bell patents, fearing that the Bell Company might obtain an injunction, and thus embarrass their operations. But they were holding themselves out to the public as the owner of patents which would protect the purchasers or licensees against the claims of the Bell Company, and as prepared to furnish to purchasers or licensees telephone instruments made in accordance with such patents. In September, 1885, the company issued a circular, in which it recited the history of the first Bell patent, and the discovery of the prior invention of Meucci. The circular stated that the company was able to fully substantiate the fact that Meucci was the first inventor, and that, besides securing his title to the original invention of the Electro Magnetic Telephone, the company had procured telephone instruments operating upon a different principle from those of the American Bell Telephone Company, and which were not infringements of the patents of that company. The circular invited the public to purchase the instruments, and to promote the formation of companies to become licensees under its patents and claims.
The theory of the Globe Company is that it has never made or used telephone instruments, except experimentally, to test their operativeness; that it has never sold any; that its officers were aware that it could not do so without danger of legal proceedings by the American Bell Telephone Company until the Bell patent could be successfully contested; and that they were waiting until that time should arrive, and in the mean time proposed studiously to avoid allowing anything to be done that would bring their company in conflict with the American Bell Telephone Company. The testimony of its officers is inconsistent with their conduct. The instruments put up in the office of the company were undoubtedly put there and used to demonstrate to the public that the company could supply practical commercial telephones to licensee and subcompanies. When the September circular, inviting the public to purchase telephones, was issued, the officers of the company doubtless intended to refer to telephones of the description put upon exhibition in their office as the instruments which could be used. This is indicated by what took place subsequent to the filing of the present bill. It is shown that after this suit was commenced, and after an application for an interlocutory injunction against the company had been denied by this court because there was not sufficient proof of acts of infringement on the part of the company, the company, by its manager, Mr. Beckwith, procured a company to be organized in New Jersey, called the Meucci Telephone Company, for the purpose of erecting a telephone exchange in the city of Elizabeth, and purchasing the rights of Meucci in his invention of telephones for such purpose. The contract made by Beckwith with the Meucci Company authorized that company to use in their exchange the inventions of Meucci, Bassano, Shaw, and Hadden, one or more of them; and that contract was ratified by the board of directors of the Globe Company by a resolution of March 30, 1866 . Shortly thereafter the officers of the company concluded it would be safer not to execute the contract made in the name of Beckwith until it had the approval of their attorney, and, after consultation with the attorney, there was never any formal execution of a contract. The Meucci Company erected a telephone line in Elizabeth, and used upon it telephone apparatus similar to that which had been used in the office of the Globe Company.
The proofs establish satisfactory that the instruments used in the office of the Globe Company are infringing instruments; and it is plain that the use of these instruments in the manner and for the purposes disclosed by the proofs is sufficient to authorize an injunction against the defendant. All the defendants were acting in concert together. Rogers was the secretary and treasurer of the Globe Company. Beckwith, as has been stated, was its manager. Meucci was its nominal electrician. All of them were acting in cooperation, in endeavoring to incite others to appropriate and infringe the rights of the complainant.
The defense, so far as it rests upon the priority of invention by Meucci, may be briefly disposed of. The circumstance that this defense is not relied upon by the Globe Company in its answer, and that its counsel has insisted in his argument that it should not be considered because not satisfactorily presented by the proofs, although indicating that the principal defendant has no confidence in the asserted priority of invention by Meucci, ought not to prejudice the position of the defendant Beckwith, who relies upon this defense, has urged it with great zeal, and is evidently convinced of its truth.
As was held in the Drawbaugh Case, 22 Blatchf. 531, 22 Fed. Rep. 309, the patentee starts with the benefit of the presumption of law that he was the first and original inventor of that for which the letters patent were granted him, and whoever alleges the contrary must assume the burden of proof, and the defense of want of novelty or originality must be made out by evidence so clear and satisfactory as to remove all reasonable doubt.
According to Meucci's story, while he was at Havanna [sic], employed as a machinist and decorator of a theater there, and in the year 1849 or 1850, he discovered how to obtain the transmission of words by means of conducting wire, united with several batteries to produce electricity, and gave his discovery the name of the "Speaking Telegraph." In 1850 he came to this country, and took up his residence at Clifton, Staten Island, where be has ever since resided. He was engaged in various kinds of business, particularly candle making, and the manufacture of paper from vegetable fibre, and at one time had a brewery. He states that soon after coming here he resumed his experiments with the telephone; that before 1860 he had good working instruments; and before 1865 had instruments which embodied the essentials of the modern magnetic instruments. These instruments he asserts were known to his friends; were in use at his house before and during the years 1864 and 1865, and subsequently. He describes them from his memory. The originals are not in existence. He states that in 1860 he thought his invention sufficiently perfected to introduce it, and about that time applied to his friend Bendelari, who was going to Italy, to try to get assistance to perfect the invention, and bring it into use. He says that he felt anxious to have his invention first appear from his old home, and thought Bendelari would be able to bring the invention out there; and be therefore gave a pretty full description of it to Bendelari, and also about this time published the fact that he had made the invention in an Italian newspaper published in New York called "Echo L'Itallienne." He states that after this, until 1871, from time to time, he experimented to make improvements in his invention, but made no particular improvements after 1864 or 1865. He says that in 1871 be found that his wife, during his illness, bad, without his knowledge, sold all the instruments and devices he had used in his experiments in sound telegraphy, except some bobbin, a part of a permanent magnet, and some fragments of pasteboard, which lie subsequently found, to a dealer in second-hand articles. In the latter part of 1871 he entered into an agreement with three of his Italian friends, by which they became copartners in the business of perfecting and introducing his invention. The written agreement bearing date December 12, 1871, is produced, and recites the business of the copartnership as that of "making and trying all the necessary experiments for the accomplishment of the transmission of the human voice through electric wires invented by the aforesaid Antonio Meucci." These parties immediately took steps looking to the procurement of a patent, consulted Mr. Stetson, a patent expert and solicitor, and, under his supervision, an application for a caveat was prepared, and was filed in the patent-office, December 28, 1871. Soon thereafter Meucci consulted again with Mr. Stetson, with a view of making an application for a patent for the invention, but Mr. Stetson discouraged the attempt. Upon the application of Meucci, the caveat was renewed in December, 1882, and again in December, 1883. It is not claimed that Meucci made essential improvements upon his invention subsequent to the time he obtained the caveat, but, as has been said, he states himself that be made none after 1865.
Such in brief is Meucci's own history of his invention. There is no reason to doubt that for many years prior to 1865, and from that year until he applied for the caveat, he had been experimenting with telephonic and electrical apparatus with a view of transmitting speech, and during this time had convinced himself that he had made interesting discoveries, which might eventually become useful ones. To this extent he is corroborated by the testimony of a number of witnesses. But the proofs fail to show that be had reached any practical result beyond that of conveying speech mechanically by means of a wire telephone (my emphasis - Ed.). He doubtless employed a metallic conductor as a medium conveying sound, and supposed that by electrifying the apparatus or the operator be could obtain a better result. That he did not, believe he had accomplished anything of practical commercial utility is a reasonable inference from the fact that he did not communicate his invention to those who would have been likely to appreciate it and assist him in perfecting and introducing it to the public. Between 1859 and the time of his application for a caveat he filed many applications for patents for other inventions. During the years 1859, 1860, and 1861 he was in close business and social relations with William E. Ryder, who was interested in his inventions, paid the expenses of his experiments, and, in connection with others whom he introduced to Meucci, invested a considerable amount of money in Meucci's inventions, and their use in business enterprises. He was a constant visitor at Meucci's house, lived near him, and seems to have been his closest personal friend and business adviser. Their intimate relations continued until 1867, when Ryder became satisfied that Meucci's inventions were not sufficiently practical or profitable to devote more time and money to them, and their intimacy ceased, although as late as in 1871 he interested himself for Meucci to dispose of some of his inventions. During all these years, according to the testimony of Mr. Ryder, he never heard from Meucci, or anybody else, of Meucci's telephone. In 1864 and 1865 David H. Craig was a partner with Meucci and Ryder in the paper manufacture. He had been intimately associated with other telegraph inventions and patents, and his interest in such matters must have been known by Meucci. He never heard, from Meucci or otherwise, that Meucci had invented or was experimenting with the telephone.
The caveat itself is sufficient to indicate that he had reached no practical result. There is no reason to doubt that his application contained the best description of his invention which was then able to give. Before consulting Mr. Stetson, Meucci prepared a description of his invention, intending to make an application for a patent. After consulting Mr. Stetson, he concluded to make application for a caveat only. With the aid of an interpreter, and the manuscript containing the description, Mr. Stetson prepared the formal application. After it had been prepared by Mr. Stetson, it was sent by him to Meucci, and returned by the latter with amendment, to be inserted in it. It is sufficient to say that the application does not describe any of the elements, of an electric speaking telephone. Its opening statement refutes the possibility that Meucci understood the principle of that invention. Meucci states that he employs the well-known conducting effect of continuous metallic conductors as a medium for sound, and increases the effect by electrically insulating both the conductor and the parties who are communication." As originally expressed by Mr. Stetson, it contained this statement:
"The system on which I propose to operate consists in isolating two persons, separated at considerable distances from each other, by placing them upon glass insulators, employing glass, for example, at the feet of the chair or bench on which each sits, and putting them in communicaton by means of a telegraphic wire."
As amended, pursuant to Meucci's instructions, this statement was qualified as follows:
"It may be found practicable to work with the person sending the message insulated, and with the person receiving it in free electrical communication with the ground. Or these conditions may possibly be reversed, and still operate with some success."
It is idle to contend that an inventor having such conceptions could at that time have been the inventor of the Bell telephone. The application does, however, describe a mechanical telephone, consisting of a. mouth-piece and ear-piece connected by a wire. A letter written by Mr. Stetson of the date of January 13, 1872, is in evidence, and is important as confirmatory of the conclusion that beyond this the invention was only inchoate. This letter was written to Meucci when the latter was in communication with Mr. Stetson in reference to obtaining a patent for the invention. In this letter, Mr. Stetson, in substance, advised Meucci that his invention was not in a condition; telling him that it was "an idea giving promise of usefulness," and the proper subject of a caveat, but requiring many experiments to prove the reality of the invention.
Without adverting to other evidence tending to indicate that Meucci was merely an experimentalist who had not produced anything new in the art of transmitting speech by electricity, it suffices to say that his pretensions are overthrown by his own description of the invention at a time when he deemed it in a condition to patent, and by the evidence of Mr. Stetson. The evidence leaves the impression that his speaking telegraph would never have been offered to the public as an invention if he had not been led by his necessities to trade on the credulity of his friends; that he intended to induce the three persons of small means and little business experience, who became his associates under the agreement of December 12, 1871, to invest in an invention which he would not offer to men like Ryder and Craig; and that this was done in the hope of obtaining such loans and assistance from them as he would temporarily require.
A decree is ordered for the complainant.
8. Scientific American : Details of Meucci's phones
This excerpt is from The Project Gutenberg EBook of Scientific American Supplement, No. 520,December 19, 1885, by Various
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Title: Scientific American Supplement, No. 520, December 19, 1885
Release Date: September 8, 2004 [EBook #13401]
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN SUPPLEMENT NO. 520
NEW YORK, DECEMBER 19, 1885
Scientific American Supplement. Vol. XX, No. 520.
Scientific American established 1845
MEUCCI'S CLAIMS TO THE TELEPHONE.
Our readers have already been informed through these columns that, notwithstanding the refusal of the Attorney-General, Mr. Garland, to institute suit for the nullification of the Bell patent, application has again been made by the Globe Telephone Co., of this city, the Washington Telephone Co., of Baltimore, and the Panelectric Co. These applications have been referred to the Interior Department and Patent Office for examination, and upon their report the institution of the suit depends. The evidence which the companies above mentioned have presented includes not only the statement of Prof. Gray and the circumstances connected with his caveat, but brings out fully, for the first time, the claims of Antonio Meucci.
MEUCCI'S CAVEAT, 1871.
The latter evidence is intended to show that Meucci invented the speaking telephone not only before Bell, but that he antedated Reis by several years. In a recent interview with Meucci we obtained a brief history of his life and of his invention, which will, no doubt, interest our readers. Meucci, a native of Italy, was educated in the schools of Florence, devoting his time as a student to mechanical engineering. In 1844 he gave considerable attention to the subject of electricity, and had a contract with the government of the island of Cuba to galvanize materials used in the army. While experimenting with electricity he read the works of Becquerel, Mesmer, and others who treated largely of the virtues of electricity in the cure of disease. Meucci made experiments in this direction, and at one time thought that he heard the sound of a sick person's voice more distinctly than usual, when he had the spatula connected with the wire and battery in his mouth.
FIGS. 1 AND 2.-1849.
The apparatus he used for this purpose is shown in Fig. 1. It consists of an oval disk or spatula of copper attached to a wire which was coiled and supported in an insulating handle of cork. To ascertain that he was able to hear the sound, he covered the device with a funnel of pasteboard, shown in the adjoining figure, and held it to his ear, and thought that he heard the sound more distinctly.
These instruments were constructed in 1849 in Havana, where Meucci was mechanical director of a theater. In May, 1851, he came to this country, and settled in Staten Island, where he has lived ever since. It was not until a year later that he again took up his telephonic studies, and then he tried an arrangement somewhat different from the first. He used a tin tube, Figs. 3 and 4, and covered it with wire, the ends of which were soldered to the tongue of copper. With this instrument, he states, he frequently conversed with his wife from the basement of his house to the third floor, where she was confined as an invalid.
FIGS. 3 AND 4.-1852.
Continuing his experiments, he conceived the idea of using a bobbin of wire with a metallic core, and the first instrument he constructed on this idea is shown in Fig. 5. It consisted of a wooden tube and pasteboard mouth piece, and supported within the tube was a bundle of steel wires, surrounded at their upper end by a bobbin of insulated wire. The diaphragm in this instrument, was an animal membrane, and it was slit in a semicircle so as to make a flap or valve which responded to the air vibrations. This was the first instrument in which he used a bobbin, but the articulation naturally left much to be desired, on account of the use of the animal membrane. Meucci fixes the dates from the fact that Garibaldi lived with him during the years 1851-54, and he remembers explaining the principles of his invention to the Italian patriot.
After constructing the instrument just described, Meucci devised another during 1853-54. This consisted of a wooden block with a hole in the center which was filled with magnetic iron ore, and through the center of which a steel wire passed. The magnetic iron ore was surrounded by a coil of insulated copper wire. But an important improvement was introduced here in the shape of an iron diaphragm. With this apparatus greatly improved effects were obtained.
In 1856 Meucci first tried, he says, a horseshoe magnet, as shown in Fig. 6, but he went a step backward in using an animal membrane. He states that this form did not talk so well as some which he had made before, as might be expected.
During the years 1858-60 Meucci constructed the instrument shown in Fig. 7. He here employed a core of tempered steel magnetized, and surrounded it with a large coil. He used an iron diaphragm, and obtained such good results that he determined to bring his invention before the public. His national pride prompted him to have the invention first brought out in Italy, and he intrusted the matter to a Mr. Bendalari, an Italian merchant, who was about to start for that country. Bendalari, however, neglected the matter, and nothing was heard of it from that quarter. At the same time Meucci described his invention in L'Eco d'Italia, an Italian paper published in this city, and awaited the return of Bendalari.
Meucci, however, kept at his experiments with the object of improving his telephone, and several changes of form were the result. Fig. 8 shows one of these instruments constructed during 1864-65. It consisted of a ring of iron wound spirally with copper wire, and from two opposite sides iron wires attached to the core supported an iron button. This was placed opposite an iron diaphragm, which closed a cavity ending in a mouthpiece. He also constructed the instrument which is shown in Fig. 9, and which, he says, was the best instrument he had ever constructed. The bobbin was a large one, and was placed in a soapbox of boxwood, with magnet core and iron diaphragm. Still seeking greater perfection, Meucci, in 1865, tried the bent horseshoe form, shown in Fig. 10, but found it no improvement; and, although he experimented up to the year 1871, he was not able to obtain any better results than the best of his previous instruments had given.
When Meucci arrived in this country, he had property valued at $20,000, and he entered into the brewing business and into candle making, but he gradually lost his money, until in 1868 he found himself reduced to little or nothing. To add to his misery, he had the misfortune of being on the Staten Island ferryboat Westfield when the latter's boiler exploded with such terrible effect in 1871. He was badly scalded, and for a time his life was despaired of. After he recovered he found that his wife, in their poverty, had sold all his instruments to John Fleming, a dealer in second-hand articles, and from whom parts of the instruments have recently been recovered.
With the view of introducing his invention, Meucci now determined to protect it by a patent; and having lost his instrument, he had a drawing made according to his sketches by an artist, Mr. Nestori. This drawing he showed to several friends, and took them to Mr. A. Bertolino, who went with him to a patent attorney, Mr. T.D. Stetson, in this city. Mr. Stetson advised Meucci to apply for a patent, but Meucci, without funds, had to content himself with a caveat. To obtain money for the latter he formed a partnership with A.Z. Grandi, S.G.P. Buguglio, and Ango Tremeschin. The articles of agreement between them, made Dec. 12, 1871, credit Meucci as the inventor of a speaking telegraph, and the parties agree to furnish him with means to procure patents in this and other countries, and to organize companies, etc. The name of the company was "Teletrofono." They gave him $20 with which to procure his caveat, and that was all the money he ever received from this source.
The caveat which Meucci filed contained the drawing made by Nestori, and as shown in the cut, which is a facsimile, represents two persons with telephones connected by wires and batteries in circuit. The caveat, however, does not describe the invention very clearly; it describes the two persons as being insulated, but Meucci claims that he never made any mention of insulating persons, but only of insulating the wires. To explain this seeming incongruity, it must be stated that Meucci communicated with his attorney through an interpreter, as he was not master of the English language; and even at the present time he understands and speaks the language very poorly, so much so that we found it necessary to communicate with him in French during the conversation in which these facts were elicited.
In the summer of 1872, after obtaining his caveat, Meucci, accompanied by Mr. Bertolino, went to see Mr. Grant, at that time the Vice President of the New York District Telegraph Company, and he told the latter that he had an invention of sound telegraphs. He explained his inventions and submitted drawings and plans to Mr. Grant, and requested the privilege of making a test on the wires of the company, which test if successful would enable him to raise money. Mr. Grant promised to let him know when he could make the test, but after nearly two years of waiting and disappointment, Mr. Grant said that he had lost the drawings; and although Meucci then made an instrument like the one shown in Fig. 9 for the purpose of a test, Mr. Grant never tried it. Meucci claims that he made no secret of his invention, and as instance cites the fact that in 1873 a diver by the name of William Carroll, having heard of it, came to him and asked him if he could not construct a telephone so that communication could be maintained between a diver and the ship above. Meucci set about to construct a marine telephone, and he showed us the sketch of the instrument in his memorandum book, which dates from that time and contains a number of other inventions and experiments made by him.
When Professor Bell exhibited his inventions at the Centennial, Meucci heard of it, but his poverty, he claims, prevented him from making his protestations of priority effective, and it was not until comparatively recently that they have been brought out with any prominence.
-The Electrical World.
9. Casson Herbert N "The History of the Telephone" 1910
10 . Professor Basilio Catania's lecture is reproduced on his website.
11. Judge William J Wallace . (1837-1917).
Born in Syracuse, Onondaga County, N.Y., April 14, 1837.
Mayor of Syracuse, N.Y., 1873;
Judge of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, 1874;
Judge of U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, 1887-1907.
Died March 11, 1917.
Incidentally, Judge Wallace in 1885 presided over another major patent infringement case over Thomas Edison's invention of the light bulb. He appears to have been a judge well versed in new technologies. See website http://americanhistory.si.edu/lighting/bios/edison.htm
12. Schiavo,G. E., Antonio Meucci Inventor of the Telephone, The Vigo Press, New York, NY 1958
" If, however, one were to ask the same Italian what proofs he could show to support his assertion, most likely he would be referred to any Italian encyclopedia, such as the monumental Enciclopedia Treccani, to mention only the most important reference work in the Italian language.
The Treccani encyclopedia, as a matter of fact, proclaims Meucci as the inventor of the telephone in two articles, first in Meucci's biography, and then in the article on the telephone. In the first, we learn that Meucci's "invention consists of a vibrating diaphragm and a magnet electrified by a coil around it. The vibrating diaphragm . . . alters the current of the magnet . . . these alterations of current being transmitted to the other end of the wire produce similar vibrations on the receiving diaphragm, thus reproducing the word."
Of course, the above description would be a good description of an electric telephone, even if it does not mention what causes the diaphragm to vibrate, but, unfortunately, the author of the article does not substantiate his assertion with any sources. The article also contains several mistakes, as for instance, the reference to "Clifter, Long Island" instead of "Clifton, Staten Island," or to Meucci's "patent," when it should have said "caveat."
the second article, by another writer, on page 405 of Vol. 33, we learn that "in
October, 1888, the Supreme Court of the United States decided that 'the Bell telephone
ought to be called Meucci telephone, the Bell Telephone Company having acquired
its patent fraudulently." It adds that Meucci discovered the first principles
of the telephone in 1849--a statement easy to disprove--and shows the section
of a Meucci telephone, complete with vibrating diaphragm and electromagnet. Furthermore,
it states that "In Meucci's original patent it is said that the electromagnet
may be set closer to, or farther away from, the vibrating diaphragm made of a
substance 'capable of induction,' thus showing Meucci's knowledge of the subject.
It cannot, therefore, be doubted that the real inventor of the modern telephone
was the Italian, Meucci."
In my files I have at least a score of articles which have appeared in Italian and English in as many newspapers and magazines, both in Italy and in the United States, all making the same assertions, as in the Treccani. One author even gives the volume and page of the U. S. Reports (October Term, 1888) in which the following words are alleged to be found: "The said invention was known and used by Antonio Meucci at Staten Island, N. Y. from 1856 to 1870, and by him published in the Eco d'Italia."
At any rate, the following facts should be made clear, once for all:
1. In 1871 Meucci was not granted
a patent, but a caveat, a kind of provisional patent. Anybody could get a caveat,
even if the invention was worthless.
2. Meucci's caveat does not describe any kind of a diaphragm--none whatever.
3. There is no United States Supreme Court decision either in favor or against Meucci, and the reference in the October Term of the 1888 U. S. Reports (or in any other volume), exists only in the imagination of some irresponsible people.
4. In the thousands of pages of manuscript and printed records dealing with Meucci consulted by me, there is no such description of the telephone as given in the Italian encyclopedia. Least of all, is there any reference to any substance "capable of inductive action" precisely defined. We have, of course, documentary evidence that Meucci constructed an electric telephone with material capable of inductive action, such as iron, as well as Meucci's description of the effect of the diaphragm on the magnet, but Meucci never used the precise scientific definition quoted in the Treccani article. Least of all in the caveat.
5. The various detailed articles on the Meucci telephone which appeared in the 1880's in American and British journals, such as the Telegraphic Journal and Electrical Review of London and the Electrical World of New York, with accurate drawings of the various instruments constructed by Meucci, have no legal value whatsoever.
6. The only court decision about Meucci's telephone in existence was rendered by Judge Wallace of the U. S. Circuit Court in 1887 in the case of the Bell Telephone Company against the Globe Telephone Co., Meucci et Al. That decision was against Meucci.
I have mentioned the above facts so as to clear the air of all the nonsense that has been written and is still being written about Meucci. As for the facts, the true facts, they will be found in the following pages."
13. Brooks, John "Telephone : The First Hundred Years" New York 11975