1860
Antonio Meucci and the first public demonstration of instrument to transmit sound. He is considered by many to be the true inventor of the telephone.


To aver that the current interest in Antonio Meucci (1803-1889) is astounding is not mere hyperbole when one realizes that even the United States Congress felt obliged in 2002 to acknowledge him as instrumental in inventing the telephone. Meucci, who was born in Florence in 1803, exhibited an interest in mechanics as a youngster. In 1835 he emigrated to Cuba where he worked as theater machinist and where his experiments with electrical therapy led him to conceive the idea of transmitting speech electrically.

Meucci came to the United States in 1851, bought a home in Staten Island, New York and operated a candle factory where Giuseppe Garibaldi was briefly employed. A poor businessman, Meucci's trade failed leaving him chronically strapped financially. He also was seriously injured in an explosion but nevertheless persisted in his experiments to transmit voice over wire. Failure to come up with the required funds to prepare the necessary documents frustrated his efforts to patent the telephone in 1871. He did, however, take out a legal caveat -a one year notice of impending patent --in 1871, eventually assigning his telephone invention to the Globe Telephone Co., one of several such companies formed for that purpose. In the interim Alexander Graham Bell was undertaking his own experiments and was successful in obtaining a patent in 1886. Meucci objected to Bell's claim and the Globe Co. sought relief in the courts -a long process that was dismissed in 1892, two years after Meucci died. Over the years, controversy, much of it centering on legalistic and scientific matters, has attended the claim that Meucci was the first to invent the telephone. Yet his work has elicited the interest of some of the most prominent writers of the Italian American experience including Giovanni Schiavo as well as ethnic organizations.

In 2002, Congress passed a Sense of Congress Resolution that declared that in 1857 Meucci completed plans for an invention he called a teletrofono that would carry the human voice great distances. The resolution further states that unable to pay the patent fees and in poor health, Meucci was forced to abandon the project, which Alexander Graham Bell was given credit for nearly 20 years later in 1876. This constitutes the first official government recognition of Meucci's contributions. The home that Meucci lived in on Staten Island is now a free museum that holds Meucci memorabilia.






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