Bell plans Brantford-Paris telephone experience

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In our world of electronic and digital communications, one wonders what evidence of our daily lives will exist for our descendants in the next century. Modern technology has given us the ability to be in almost constant contact with each other. But, will our emails and texts still exist in a hundred years? For decades, letter writing was often a daily occurrence for most people. Keeping in touch meant sitting down with a pen and paper. Receiving a letter was often an exciting event, especially from someone miles away.

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And, for many, including Alexander Graham Bell and his family, these letters were to be preserved, not just thrown away when read. The Bells were abundant writers and therefore their story can be told today through thousands of letters. Born in Scotland in 1847, Alexander Graham Bell lived a unique life. Influenced by his father, Melville, a speech teacher, and his deaf mother, Eliza; the loss of her brothers, Melville and Edward, to consumption; and the marriage of his deaf pupil, Mabel Hubbard, Bell left a legacy in the world few could imagine living without. How it happened is best revealed through the letters between these people. Here we present these letters to you.

Still on his way to Brantford, Alec wrote about his time in Niagara Falls, describing Mabel’s scenery and atmosphere. His phone in tow, he reveals his intention to carry out a test on the Brantford-Paris telegraph line.

Atarret’s Western Hotel Niagara
Sunday evening (July 1876)

Dear may

I reached Niagara through Buffalo and found my book, my telegram and – thank goodness! – the cups and saucers waiting for me at the depot manager’s office.

A train leaves here for Detroit at half past nine tonight. This will take me to Paris (eight miles from Brantford) around one in the morning. I can then either stay all night in Paris or go home on foot.

If it’s cool at night, I think I’ll walk or hire a horse and go home. I have brought instruments for the transmission of vocal sounds with me and plan to experiment on the Brantford-Paris line in a few days. My dad or Charlie being at one end and me at the other.

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As I intend to rent a horse during my stay in Canada, I might as well take it from a Parisian stable or from a Brantford stable.

I would immensely like to surprise them all at breakfast tomorrow morning and I will certainly walk or drive this evening or very early in the morning from Paris to Brantford.

I’ve been walking around here for two hours. I walked down to the hot tub without worrying about giving fifty cents for a peek – as I’ve seen many times before. The manager told me that a male body was in the hot tub for several hours today, and it was eventually sucked into the funnel-shaped vortex in the center and swept away by the surf.

Hope you are paying attention to this horrible surf in Siasconset. Despite my trust in your promise, I must confess that I feel very nervous and anxious for you, my dear. Hope you will be very, very careful. I won’t feel comfortable until I know you’re completely out of danger.

I wish you were here to see the falls. At this distance (over a mile) they look very strange and very beautiful. I listened intently, but I can’t hear a sound from them. There is a low bank of white clouds in their direction. The mist from the falls rises like a white pillar and mixes at its top with the clouds above. The air is so clear and invigorating – so different from the hot and stuffy atmosphere of the past month.

Guess you don’t know what the heat is in Nantucket.

There’s a dog here that looks so much like your big yellow dog that I almost threw a stone at him by mistake!

Regards to Miss Blatchford, Miss Carrie and Mr. Scudder – and with so much love to my own darling.

Your Alec

Miss Mabel G. Hubbard,

Siasconset, Nantucket

Hope you received my postcard mailed yesterday from Framingham.

Bell’s letters are annotated by Brian Wood, Curator of Bell Homestead National Historic Site.

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