Today in history

As I said yesterday, I was a history major in college. If I couldn’t be a pro basketball player (never actually an option. Although I did shoot a half court shot at a Kings game. I caught back rim. Then I got to shoot a 3 which I buried. Obviously.) I wanted to teach high school history. There are a number of reasons it didn’t work out. One of the biggest is that I want to teach history correctly.  I don’t think I would be very welcome in schools or districts.  I wouldn’t follow lesson plans or text books.

The way history is taught in schools is wrong. Not only is it planned poorly but it is factually inaccurate. I know what you’re thinking. “Eric, I’ve taken history classes all my life, and I turned out just fine.” Ya, you’re fine. You’re not great. Everything you were taught was wrong. Okay not everything. But lots of stuff. Which brings us to today’s lesson.

Today is the anniversary of the very first phone call between Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson on 3/10/1876. Now, there are two types of people in this world. Those that believe Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, and those who are right.

In 1857, an Italian immigrant named Antonio Meucci started making notes on what would become his idea for the telephone.  I bet you’re wondering, who the hell is Antonio Meucci?  Well, keep reading.  Meucci applied for his first patent on his “Sound Telegraph” in 1971.  Bell’s patent wasn’t filed until 1876 when Meucci’s had expired.  Antonio took his drawings to the American District Telegraph Company for testing.  But after two years of waiting, he went to get his paperwork back.  But guess what?  They had conveniently lost all his drawings and paperwork.  I seem to recall in previous reading or research that Bell had worked for American District, but cannot seem to find that for this post.  But if my memory is correct, the conventional wisdom would be that Bell is the one who stole the drawings, or had knowledge of the theft.  Maybe it’s too easy to make the connection.  Maybe I’m a conspiracy theorist.  Call me what you want.  Trust me, I’ve been called worse.

Meucci was not a wealthy man.  He did not have the financial wherewithal for a legal battle.  In fact, he was bankrupt by 1861.  All cases were eventually dropped upon his death in 1889.  In 2002, the House of Representatives passed HRes 269, which states that “if Meucci had been able to pay the $10 fee to maintain the caveat after 1874, no patent could have been issued to Bell.”

If you’re ever in New York, there is the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum on Staten Island that has a bunch of information on the subject.  Also, there was an episode of Mysteries at the Museum dedicated to this debate.

I like to think that Meucci did in fact invent the telephone. However there are people much smarter than I am who believe Bell was in fact first. I don’t pretend to know all the answers, but I do know there’s more to the story than I was taught in school. In my studies, I have found this to be the case more often than not. And that was the point of this post. Not necessarily to change your mind, but to open your mind. There are reasons I have major problems with school. Both high school and college.  Especially college.  This is one of many. So hopefully this will make you think for yourself, and go read a book.

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