Antonio Meucci

Antonio Meucci
Antonio Meucci

Born 13 April 1808(1808-04-13)
Florence, Italy
Died 18 October 1889(1889-10-18) (aged 81)
Staten Island, New York
Residence Staten Island, New York
Citizenship Italian and U.S.
Nationality Italian
Fields Communication devices, manufacturing, chemical and food patents
Alma mater Accademia di Belle Arti
Florence, Italy
Known for Inventor, innovator, business man, supporter of Italian unification

Antonio Santi Giuseppe Meucci (Italian: [anˈtɔːnjo meˈuttʃi]; 1808–1889) was an Italian inventor, a compatriot of revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi.[1] He was best known for developing a voice communication apparatus which several sources credit as the first telephone.[2][3]

Meucci set up a form of voice communication link in his Staten Island home that connected its second floor bedroom to his laboratory.[4] He submitted a patent caveat for his telephonic device to the US Patent Office in 1871, but there was no mention of electromagnetic transmission of vocal sound in his caveat. In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell was granted a patent for the electromagnetic transmission of vocal sound by undulatory electric current.


Early life

Meucci was born at Via dei Serragli 44 in the San Frediano borough of Florence in the present-day Italian Republic (but then in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, a protectorate of the Austrian Empire), on 13 April 1808, as the first of nine children to Amatis and Domenica Meucci.[5] Amatis was an officer of the local police and his mother was principally a homemaker. Four of Meucci's siblings did not survive childhood.

In November 1821, at the age of 15, he was admitted to Florence Academy of Fine Arts as its youngest student, where he studied chemical and mechanical engineering,[6] however he ceased full time studies two years later due to insufficient funds, but continued studying part time after obtaining employment as an assistant gatekeeper and customs official for the Florentine government.[7] Meucci later became employed at the Teatro della Pergola in Florence as a stage technician, assisting Artemio Canovetti.[8]

In 1834 Meucci constructed a type of acoustic telephone to communicate between the stage and control room at the Teatro della Pergola. This telephone was constructed on the principles of pipe-telephones used on ships and still functions.[9]

He married costume designer Esterre Mochi, who was employed in the same theatre, on 7 August 1834.[10]

Meucci was alleged to be part of a conspiracy involving the Italian unification movement in 1833–1834, and was imprisoned for three months with Francesco Domenico Guerrazzi.[8]

Havana, Cuba

In October 1835, Meucci and his wife departed Florence, never to return. They had accepted the proposal of a Spanish theater manager, Don Francisco Martí y Torrens, and emigrated to Cuba, then a Spanish province, where Meucci accepted a job at what was then called the Great Tacón Theater in Havana (at the time, the greatest theater in the Americas).[5] In Havana he constructed a system for water purification and reconstructed the Gran Teatro, which had since been almost entirely destroyed by a hurricane.[11][12]

In 1848 his contract with the Governor expired. Meucci was asked by a friend's doctors to work on Franz Anton Mesmer's therapy system on patients suffering from rheumatism. In 1849 Meucci developed a popular method of using electric shocks to treat illness and subsequently made an experiment developing a device through which one could hear inarticulated human voice. He called this device "telegrafo parlante" (lit. "talking telegraph").[13]

In 1850, the third renewal of his contract with Don Francisco Martì y Torrens expired. Meucci's friendship with the General Giuseppe Garibaldi made him a suspect citizen in Cuba. On the other hand, the fame reached by Samuel F. B. Morse in the United States encouraged Meucci to make his living through inventions.

Move to Staten Island, New York

On 13 April 1850 Meucci and his wife left Havana to immigrate to the United States taking with them approximately 26,000 Pesos Fuertes of accumulated savings (approx. $20,000 at that time, or $500,000 in 2010 funds), and settled in the Clifton area of Staten Island, New York City.[14][15] The Meuccis would live there for the remainder of their lives. In Staten Island he helped several countrymen committed to the Italian unification movement (the "Risorgimento") and who had escaped political persecution. Meucci invested the substantial capital he had earned in Cuba in a tallow candle factory (the first of this kind in America) employing several Italian exiles. For two years Meucci also hosted in his cottage his friends the General Giuseppe Garibaldi, who volunteered his services to President Abraham Lincoln and was offered the position of Major General of the Union Army in the American Civil War, and Colonel Paolo Bovi Campeggi, who arrived in New York two months after Meucci. They worked in Meucci's factory.

In 1854 Meucci's wife Ester became definitively invalid because of a serious form of rheumatoid arthritis, whereas Meucci continued his experiments. He is reported to have bought material from a certain Charles Chester's shop in New York.

Electromagnetic telephone

Meucci purportedly studied the principles of electromagnetic voice transmission for many years and was able to realise his dream of transmitting his voice through wires in 1856. He installed a telephone-like device within his house in order to communicate with his wife who was ill at the time.[16] Some of Meucci's notes purportedly written in 1857 describe the basic principle of electromagnetic voice transmission or in other words, the telephone:

«Consiste in un diaframma vibrante e in un magnete elettrizzato da un filo a spirale che lo avvolge. Vibrando, il diaframma altera la corrente del magnete. Queste alterazioni di corrente, trasmesse all'altro capo del filo, imprimono analoghe vibrazioni al diaframma ricevente e riproducono la parola».
[translation]: "It consists of a vibrating diaphragm and an electrified magnet from a wire that wraps around it in a spiral. The vibrating diaphragm alters the current of the magnet. These alterations of current are all transmitted to the other end of the wire, creating analogous vibrations to the receiving diaphragm and thus, reproduce the words."

Meucci purportedly constructed electromagnetic telephones.[17][dead link] He built a working model, purportedly an electromagnetic, not an acoustic version, as a way of connecting his second-floor bedroom to his basement laboratory, and thus being able to communicate with his wife. Between 1856 and 1870, Meucci purportedly developed more than 30 different kinds of telephones on the basis of this prototype.

In about 1858, the painter Nestore Corradi purportedly made a sketch of Meucci's ideas (this drawing was used as the image on a stamp produced in 2003 by the Italian Postal and Telegraph Society[18]).

Meucci had the intention of developing his prototype, however he didn't have the economical means to keep his company afloat so as to finance his invention. His candle factory went bankrupt and Meucci was then obliged to look for funds from rich Italian families. Unfortunately his efforts were in vain.

In 1860 Meucci asked his friend Enrico Bandelari to look for Italian capitalists willing to finance his project. However, military expeditions led by General Garibaldi in Italy had made the political situation in that country too unstable for anybody to invest.[19] Meucci then purportedly published his invention in the New York Italian-language newspaper "L'Eco d'Italia", although no copy of such reports have ever been located dating back to searches prior to his court case in the 1880s.

In 2002 some news articles of the U.S. House of Representatives' recognition of Meucci for his contributions to the invention of the telephone reported: "the resolution said his "telettrofono", demonstrated in New York in 1860, made him the inventor of the telephone in the place of Bell, who had access to Meucci's materials and who took out a patent 16 years later."[20][21] 10 days later the Parliament of Canada unanimously passed a motion reaffirming that Alexander Graham Bell was the inventor of the telephone.


At the same time, Meucci was led to poverty by some fraudulent debtors. On 13 November 1861 his cottage was auctioned. The purchaser allowed the Meuccis to live in the cottage without paying rent, but Meucci's private finances dwindled so that he soon had to live on public funds and by depending on his friends.

As mentioned in William J. Wallace's ruling,[22] during the years 1859, 1860, and 1861 Meucci was in close business and social relations with William E. Ryder, who was interested in his inventions, paid the expenses of his experiments, and invested money in Meucci’s inventions. Their close working friendship continued until 1867.

In August 1870, Meucci reportedly was able to capture a transmission of articulated human voice at the distance of a mile by using a copper plait as a conductor, insulated by cotton. He called this device, the "telettrofono". While he was recovering from injuries that befell him in a boiler explosion aboard the Staten Island Ferry, Westfield, Antonio Meucci's financial and health state was so bad that his wife Ester sold his drawings and devices to a second-hand dealer to raise some money.

Patent caveat

On 12 December 1871 Meucci set up an agreement with Angelo Zilio Grandi (Secretary of the Italian Consulate in New York), Angelo Antonio Tremeschin (entrepreneur), Sereno G. P. Breguglia Tremeschin (businessman), in order to constitute the Telettrofono Company. The constitution was notarized by Angelo Bertolino, a Notary Public of New York. Although their society funded him with $20, only $15 was needed to file for a full patent application.[23][24] The caveat his lawyer submitted to the US Patent Office on 28 December 1871 was numbered 3335 and titled "Sound Telegraph".

This is the text of Meucci's caveat, omitting legal details of the Petition, Oath, and Jurat:[25]


The petition of Antonio Meucci, of Clifton, in the County of Richmond and State of New York, respectfully represents:
That he has made certain improvements in Sound Telegraphs, ...

The following is a description of the invention, sufficiently in detail for the purposes of this caveat.

I employ 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 communicating. It forms a Speaking Telegraph, without the necessity for any hollow tube.

I claim that a portion or the whole of the effect may also be realized by a corresponding arrangement with a metallic tube. I believe that some metals will serve better than others, but propose to try all kinds of metals.

The system on which I propose to operate and calculate consists in isolating two persons, separated at considerable distance from each other, by placing them upon glass insulators; employing glass, for example, at the foot of the chair or bench on which each sits, and putting them in communication by means of a telegraph wire.

I believe it preferable to have the wire of larger area than that ordinarily employed in the electric telegraph, but will experiment on this. Each of these persons holds to his mouth an instrument analogous to a speaking trumpet, in which the word may easily be pronounced, and the sound concentrated upon the wire. Another instrument is also applied to the ears, in order to receive the voice of the opposite party.

All these, to wit, the mouth utensil and the ear instruments, communicate to the wire at a short distance from the persons. The ear utensils being of a convex form, like a clock glass, enclose the whole exterior part of the ear, and make it easy and comfortable for the operator. The object is to bring distinctly to the hearing the word of the person at the opposite end of the telegraph.

To call attention, the party at the other end of the line may be warned by an electric telegraph signal, or a series of them. The apparatus for this purpose, and the skill in operating it, need be much less than for the ordinary telegraphing.

When my sound telegraph is in operation, the parties should remain alone in their respective rooms, and every practicable precaution should be taken to have the surroundings perfectly quiet. The closed mouth utensil or trumpet, and the enclosing the persons also in a room alone, both tend to prevent undue publicity to the communication.

I think it will be easy, by these means, to prevent the communication being understood by any but the proper persons.

It may be found practicable to work with the person sending the message insulated, and with the person receiving it, in the free electrical communication with the ground. Or these conditions may possibly be reversed and still operate with some success.

Both the conductors or utensils for mouth and ears should be, in fact I must say must be, metallic, and be so conditioned as to be good conductors of electricity.

I claim as my invention, and desire to have considered as such, for all the purposes of this Caveat,

The new invention herein set forth in all its details, combinations, and sub-combinations.

And more especially, I claim

First. A continuous sound conductor electrically insulated.

Second. The same adapted for telegraphing by sound or for conversation between distant parties electrically insulated.

Third. The employment of a sound conductor, which is also an electrical conductor, as a means of communication by sound between distant points.

Fourth. The same in combination with provisions for electrically insulating the sending and receiving parties.

Fifth. The mouthpiece or speaking utensil in combination with an electrically insulating conductor.

Sixth. The ear utensils or receiving vessels adapted to apply upon the ears in conbination with an electrically insulating sound conductor.

Seventh. The entire system, comprising the electrical and sound conductor, insulated and furnished with a mouthpiece and ear pieces at each end, adapted to serve as specified.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand in presence of two subscribing witnesses.



Shirley McAndrew.
Fred'k Harper.


Patent Office
Dec. 28, 1871

Analysis of Meucci's Caveat

Meucci repeatedly focused on insulating the electrical conductor and even insulating the persons communicating, but does not explain why this would be desirable.[26] The mouth piece is like a "speaking trumpet" so that "the sound concentrated upon the wire" is communicated to the other person, but he does not say that the sound is to be converted to variable electrical conduction in the wire.[27] "Another instrument is also applied to the ears," but he does not say that variable electrical conduction in the wire is to be converted to sound.[27] In the third claim, he claims "a sound conductor which is also an electrical conductor, as a means of communication by sound"[28] which is consistent with acoustic sound vibrations in the wire that somehow get transmitted better if electrical conductors such as a wire or metallic tube are used.[29] He emphasizes that the conductors "for mouth and ears... must be metallic", but does not explain why this would be desirable.[30] He mentions "communication with the ground"[31] but does not suggest that a ground return must complete a circuit if only "the wire" (singular, not plural) is used between the sender's mouth piece and the receiver's ear piece, with one or the other person being electrically insulated from the ground by means of glass insulators ("...consists in isolating two persons... by placing them upon glass insulators; employing glass, for example, at the foot of the chair or bench on which each sits, and putting them in communication by means of a telegraph wire.").[32]

Robert V. Bruce, a biographer of Alexander Graham Bell, asserted that Meucci's caveat never became a patent and never could have become one because it never described an electric telephone.[21][33]

Conflicting opinions of Meucci biographers

According to Robert V. Bruce, who gave his personal interpretation of Giovanni E. Schiavo's research, Meucci's own testimony as presented by Schiavo, would demonstrate that the American inventor of Italian origin did not understand the basic principles of the electric telephone, either before Bell invented it, or for several years after Bell invented it.[33]

However, other researchers have pointed to several bias, inconsistencies, and inaccuracies in Robert V. Bruce's account of the invention of the telephone, firstly with the very name used by Meucci to describe his invention —Bruce referred to Meucci's device as a 'telephone', not as the 'telettrofono'. Meucci's purported relationship with Dr. Seth R. Beckwith was another example of Bruce's bias against Meucci. In fact, Meucci and his legal representative cautioned Beckwith against using and abusing his name for the company that Beckwith had founded in New Jersey .[34] [35]

Moreover, not only did Beckwith's Globe Telephone Co. base its claims against the Bell Telephone Company on Meucci's caveat, but the claims were also supported by approximately 30 affidavits, whereby it was stated that Meucci had repeatedly built and used different types of electric telephones several years before Bell did.[36] [37]

Additionally, English historian William Aitken did not share Robert V. Bruce's viewpoint, who indirectly referred to Meucci as "the silliest and weakest impostor".[38] Aitken went so far as to define Meucci as the first creator of an electrical telephone. [39]

Other recognition of Meucci's work in the past came from the International Telecommunication Union, positing that Meucci's work was one of the four precursors to Bell's telephone, as well as from the Smithsonian Institution, which has portrayed Meucci as one of the eight most important inventors of the telephone.[40]

Additionally, addressing the incompleteness and errors within Meucci's caveat, since it did not describe an electric telephone, a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers asserted on an article webpage that:[41]

"In December 1871 Meucci formed a partnership with three others to promote the telephone invention. They engaged a lawyer [J.D. Stetson] to prepare a patent application, but the partners did not provide the $250 fee, so all that was prepared was a caveat, which cost $20. The lawyer, who did not understand the invention, prepared the caveat hastily and did not include any drawings."

However the Amalza article and its predecessor sources did not explain why Meucci accepted, signed and returned by mail Mr. Stetson's completed caveat document several days after he received it, nor how Meucci was able to afford to create and file several other fully paid patents (at a cost of several hundred dollars) subsequent to his telettrofono patent caveat, if he was impoverished. These other patents were not related to voice transmission.

Meucci advocates allege that Mr. Stetson erased margin notes that Meucci had added to the document.[42] That same explanation was not accepted in Meucci's patent infringement court case.

Telettrofono Company

In the summer of 1872 Meucci and his friend Angelo Bertolino went to Edward B. Grant, Vice President of American District Telegraph Co. of New York (not Western Union as commonly related), to ask for help. Meucci asked him for permission to test his telephone apparatus on the company's telegraph lines. He gave Grant a description of his prototype and a copy of his caveat. After waiting two years, Meucci went to Grant and asked him to be given back his documents, but Grant reportedly told him they had been lost.[43][44][dead link]

About 1873 a certain Bill Carroll from Boston, who had news about Meucci's invention, asked him to construct a "telephone for divers". This device should allow divers to communicate with people on the surface. In Meucci's drawing, this device is essentially an electromagnetic telephone encapsulated to be waterproof.[45][46]

On 28 December 1874, Meucci's Telettrofono patent caveat expired. Critics dispute the claim that Meucci could not afford to file for a patent or renew his caveat, as he filed for and was granted full patents in 1872, 1873, 1875, and 1876, at the cost of $35 each, as well as one additional $10 patent caveat, all totalling $150, for inventions unrelated to the telephone.[23][24][47]

After Bell secured his patents in 1876 and subsequent years, the Bell Telephone Company filed suit in court against the Globe Telephone Company (amongst many others) for patent infringement. Purportedly too poor to hire a legal team, Meucci was represent only by lawyer Joe Melli, an orphan whom Meucci treated as a son.

While the "American Bell Telephone Company v. Globe Telephone Company, Antonio Meucci, et al." trial was going on, the Bell Telephone Company became involved with another notable trial "The U.S. Government v. American Bell Telephone Company", instigated by the Pan-Electric Telephone Company which had secretly given the U.S. Attorney General 10% of its shares, employed him as a director, and then asked him to void Bell's patent. Had he succeeded in overturning Bell's patent, the U.S. Attorney General stood to become exceeding rich by reason of his shares.[48][49][50]


Meucci's telephone was said to be described in the L'Eco d'Italia newspaper of New York in the beginning of 1861, though no issues of the 1861–1863 period are available in the libraries of the United States. Meucci swore in court proceedings what he remembered writing in the newspaper. However, no other contemporary news reports prior to 1875 were ever located to validate Meucci's priority claims of an electromagnetic telephone.

The Havana experiments were briefly mentioned in a letter by Meucci, published by Il Commercio di Genova of 1 December 1865 and by L'Eco d'Italia of 21 October 1865 (both existing today).[51]

One of the most important pieces of evidence brought up in the trial was Antonio Meucci's "Memorandum Book". This book, produced by Rider&Clark, contained Antonio Meucci's noted drawings and records since 1862 up to 1882. In the trial, Antonio Meucci was accused of having produced records after Alexander Graham Bell's invention and back-dated them. As proof, the prosecutor brought forward the fact that the Rider&Clark company was founded only in 1863. In the trial, Antonio Meucci said that William E. Rider himself, one of the owners, had given him a copy of the memorandum book in 1862; however, Meucci was not believed.[52]

On 13 January 1887, the United States Government moved to annul the patent issued to Bell on the grounds of fraud and misrepresentation. After a series of decisions and reversals, the Bell company won a decision in the Supreme Court, though a couple of the original claims from the lower court cases were left undecided.[53][54] By the time that the trial wound its way through nine years of legal battles, the U.S. prosecuting attorney had died and the two Bell patents (No. 174,46 and dated 7 March 1876 and No. 186,787 dated 30 January 1877) were no longer in effect, although the presiding judges agreed to continue the proceedings due to the case's importance as a "precedent." With a change in administration and charges of conflict of interest (on both sides) arising from the original trial, the U.S. Attorney General dropped the law suit on 30 November 1897 leaving several issues undecided on the merits.[55]

During a deposition filed for the 1887 trial, Meucci also claimed to have created the first working model of a telephone in Italy in 1834. In 1886, in the first of three cases in which he was involved, Meucci took the stand as a witness in the hopes of establishing his invention's priority. Meucci's evidence in this case was disputed due to lack of material evidence of his inventions as his working models were reportedly lost at the laboratory of American District Telegraph (ADT) of New York. ADT did not join with Western Union to become its subsidiary until 1901.[34][56]

Meucci's patent caveat had described a 'lover's telegraph' which transmitted sound vibrations mechanically across a taut wire, a conclusion that was also noted in various reviews ("The court further held that the caveat of Meucci did not describe any elements of an electric speaking telephone…..", and "The court held that Meucci's device consisted of a mechanical telephone consisting of a mouthpiece and an earpiece connected by a wire, and that beyond this the invention of Meucci was only imagination.") [48][57] Meucci's work, like many other inventors of the period, was based on earlier acoustic principles and despite evidence of earlier experiments, the final case involving Meucci was eventually dropped upon his death.[58]


Meucci's wife Esterre became increasingly frail and was invalided for approximately five years before dying in 1884.[59] Meucci became ill in March 1889, and died on 18 October 1889 in Clifton, Staten Island, New York City.[1][60]

Invention of the telephone

There exists much dispute over who deserves priority as the first inventor of the telephone, although Alexander Graham Bell was credited with being the first to transmit articulate speech by undulatory currents of electricity.

An Italian researcher in telecommunications, engineer Basilio Catania,[61] and the Federazione Italiana di Elettrotecnica have devoted a Museum to Antonio Meucci making a chronology of his inventing the telephone and tracing the history of the two trials opposing Antonio Meucci and Alexander Graham Bell.[62][63] They both support the claim that Antonio Meucci was the real inventor of the telephone[64] However, some scholars outside of Italy do not recognize the claims that Meucci's device had any bearing on the development of the telephone. Tomas Farley also writes that, "Nearly every scholar agrees that Bell and Watson were the first to transmit intelligible speech by electrical means. Others transmitted a sound or a click or a buzz but our boys [Bell and Watson] were the first to transmit speech one could understand."[65]

In 1834 Meucci constructed a kind of acoustic telephone as a way to communicate between the stage and control room at the theatre "Teatro della Pergola" in Florence. This telephone was constructed on the model of pipe-telephones on ships and is still functional.[9]

In 1848 Meucci developed a popular method of using electric shocks to treat rheumatism. He used to give his patients two conductors linked to 60 Bunsen batteries and ending with a cork. He also kept two conductors linked to the same Bunsen batteries. He used to sit in his laboratory, while the Bunsen batteries were placed in a second room and his patients in a third room. In 1849 while providing a treatment to a patient with a 114V electrical discharge, in his laboratory Meucci is claimed to have heard his patient's scream through the piece of copper wire that was between them, from the conductors he was keeping near his ear. His intuition was that the "tongue" of copper wire was vibrating just like a leave of an electroscope; which means that there was an electrostatic effect. In order to continue the experiment without hurting his patient, Meucci covered the copper wire with a piece of paper. Through this device he claimed hearing an inarticulated human voice. He called this device "telegrafo parlante" (lit. "talking telegraph").[13]

On the basis of this prototype, Meucci is claimed to have worked on more than 30 kinds of telephone. In the beginning he was inspired by the telegraph. Differently from other pioneers of the telephone, such as Charles Bourseul, Philipp Reis, Innocenzo Manzetti and others, he did not think about transmitting voice by using the principle of the telegraph key (in scientific jargon, the "make-and-break" method), but he looked for a "continuous" solution, which means without interrupting the electric flux.

In 1856 Meucci is claimed to have constructed the first electromagnetic telephone, made of an electromagnet with a nucleus in the shape of a horseshoe bat, a diaphragm of animal skin, stiffened with potassium dichromate and keeping a metal disk stuck in the middle. The instrument was hosted in a cylindrical carton box.[17] He purportedly constructed this as a way to connect his second-floor bedroom to his basement laboratory, and thus communicate with his wife who was an invalid.

Meucci separated the two directions of transmission in order to eliminate the so-called "local effect", adopting what we would call today a 4-wire-circuit. He constructed a simple calling system with a telegraphic manipulator which short-circuited the instrument of the calling person, producing in the instrument of the called person a succession of impulses (clicks), much more intense than those of normal conversation.[dubious ][citation needed] As he was aware that his device required a bigger band than a telegraph, he found some means to avoid the so-called "skin effect" through superficial treatment of the conductor or by acting on the material (copper instead of iron).[dubious ][citation needed] He said he used insulated copper wire.

In 1864 Meucci is claimed to have produced his "best device", using an iron diaphragm with optimized thickness and tightly clamped along its rim. The instrument was housed in a shaving-soap box, whose cover clamped the diaphragm.

In August 1870, Meucci is claimed to have obtained transmission of articulate human voice at a mile distance by using as a conductor a copper wire insulated by cotton. He called his device "telettrofono". Drawings and notes by Antonio Meucci claimed to be dated 27 September 1870 show that Meucci understood inductive loading on long distance telephone lines 30 years before any other scientists.[66] The painting made by Nestore Corradi in 1858 mentions the sentence "Electric current from the inductor pipe".[citation needed]

It was additionally claimed that about 1873 Bill Carroll from Boston, who had heard news about Meucci's invention, asked him to construct a device to allow divers to communicate with people on the surface. In Meucci's drawing, this device appears to be an electromagnetic telephone, encapsulated to make it waterproof.

Historical debate

The question of whether Bell was the true inventor of the telephone is perhaps the single most litigated fact in U.S. history, and the Bell patents were defended in some 600 cases. Meucci was a defendant in American Bell Telephone Co. v. Globe Telephone Co. and others (the court’s findings, reported in 31 Fed. Rep. 729).

N. Herbert in his History of the Telephone said:

"To bait the Bell Company became almost a national sport. Any sort of claimant, with any sort of wild tale of prior invention, could find a speculator to support him. On they came, a motley array, 'some in rags, some on nags, and some in velvet gowns.' One of them claimed to have done wonders with an iron hoop and a file in 1867; a second had a marvelous table with glass legs; a third swore that he had made a telephone in 1860, but did not know what it was until he saw Bell's patent; and a fourth told a vivid story of having heard a bullfrog croak via a telegraph wire which was strung into a certain cellar in Racine, in 1851."[67]

However, an Italian researcher in telecommunications Professor Basilio Catania provided evidence that Alexander Graham Bell was accused of fraud and misrepresentation in 1887.[68] Catania recounted that Meucci gave his prototypes to Edward B. Grant, Vice President of the American District Telegraph Co. of New York.[69] Grant reportedly said that the prototypes were lost.

William J. Wallace’s ruling was regarded by historian Giovanni Schiavo as one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in the history of the U.S., and one of the most offensive, too.[70]

2002 congressional resolution

In 2002, on the initiative of congressman Vito Fossella, in cooperation with an Italian-American deputation, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution stating "that the life and achievements of Antonio Meucci should be recognized, and his work in the invention of the telephone should be acknowledged." Within its preamble it stated 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."[44][71][72] The resolution's sponsor described it as "a message that rings loud and clear recognizing the true inventor of the telephone, Antonio Meucci."[73]

A similar resolution was introduced to the U.S. Senate but no vote was held on the resolution.[74][75][76]

Some have disagreed with the House of Representatives resolution.[21][48][77] Additionally, there was some criticism that Resolution 269 impugned Alexander Graham Bell's morality.

The Government of Canada responded ten days later by unanimously passing a parliamentary motion stating that Alexander Graham Bell was the inventor of the telephone.[78][79]

Others, however, believe House Resolution 269 redressed a historic injustice, and the Italian newspaper La Repubblica hailed the vote to recognise Meucci as a belated comeuppance for Bell.[2]

Garibaldi-Meucci Museum

Garibaldi-Meucci House on Staten Island

The Order of the Sons of Italy in America maintains a Garibaldi-Meucci Museum on Staten Island. The museum is located in a house that was built in 1840, purchased by Meucci in 1850, and rented to Giuseppe Garibaldi from 1850 to 1854. Exhibits include Meucci’s models and drawing and pictures relating to his life.[80][81]

In popular culture

  • In the 1990 motion picture The Godfather Part III, the character Joey Zasa mentions Meucci as the inventor of the telephone. Meucci's name was also on the license plate of the Cadillac Zaza was auctioning off.
  • On 16 May 1996 Umberto Silvestri, President of Telecom Italia, and Guido Clemente, Florence spokesman for the Arts, put a memorial tablet on Meucci's birthplace, Via dei Serragli 44, Florence, with the text: "Qui nacque il 13 aprile 1808 Antonio Meucci, Inventore del Telefono". At the same time a memorial tablet is placed in Gran Teatro in Havana where Meucci had his laboratory with the text: "Antonio Meucci expatriado italiano en la Habana entre los años 1835 y 1850 aquí en el teatro Tacón realizó aquellos experimentos de tranmisión acústica que lo llevaron a la invención del teléfono. La ciudad natal de Florencia y la ciudad hospitalaria de la Habana en su memoria"[82]
  • In 2003 the Italian Communication Ministry and the Italian Postal and Telegraph Society produced a 0,52€ stamp portraying Antonio Meucci as the inventor of the telephone.
  • Google commemorated with a special logo (doodle) Bell[85] (3 March 2008 – 161st birth's anniversary); In April 2008 the Italian language Google website celebrated Meucci's 200th birth anniversary with a special holiday logo on their webpage (13 April 2008).[86][87] While Bell's logo was adopted by Google worldwide, the Meucci doodle was only visible on the Italian language Google.
Monument in Meucci Triangle, Gravesend, Brooklyn

Other inventions

This list is also taken from Basilio Catania's historical reconstruction[88]

  • 1825 Chemical compound to be used as an improved propellant in fireworks
  • 1834 In the Florence's Teatro della Pergola, he sets up a "pipe telephone" to communicate from the stage to the maneuver trellis-work, at about eighteen meters height.
  • 1840 Improved filters and chemical processing of waters supplying the city of Havana, Cuba.
  • 1844 First electroplating factory of the Americas, set up in Havana, Cuba. Before, objects to be electroplated were sent to Paris.
  • 1846 Improved apparatus for electrotherapy, featuring a pulsed current breaker with rotating cross.
  • 1847 Restructuring of the Tacón Theater in Havana, following a hurricane. Meucci conceived a new structure of the roof and ventilation system, to avoid the roof to be taken off in like situations.
  • 1848 Astronomical observations by means of a marine telescope worth $280.
  • 1849 Chemical process for the preservation of corpses, to cope with the high demand for bodies of immigrants to be sent to Europe, avoiding decomposition during the many weeks navigation.
  • 1849 First discovery of electrical transmission of speech.
  • 1850-1 First stearic candle factory of the Americas, set up in Clifton, NY.
  • 1855 Realization of celestas, with crystal bars instead of steel, and pianos (one is on display at the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, in Rosebank, NY)
  • 1856 First lager beer factory of Staten Island, the Clifton Brewery, in Clifton, NY.
  • 1858–60 Invention of paraffin candles. US Patent No. 22,739 on a candle mold for the same and US Patent No. 30,180 on a rotating blade device for finishing the same.
  • 1860 First paraffin candle factory in the world, the New York Paraffine Candle Co., set up in Clifton, NY, early in 1860, then moved to Stapleton, NY. It produced over 1,000 candles per day.
  • 1860 Experiments on the use of dry batteries in electrical traction and other industrial applications.
  • 1860 Process to turn red corals into a pink color (more valued), as requested by Enrico Bendelari, a merchant of New York.
  • 1862 US Patent No. 36,192 on a kerosene lamp that generates a very bright flame, without smoke, (therefore not needing a glass tube), thanks to electricity developed by two thin platinum plates embracing the flame.
  • 1862–63 Process for treating and bleaching oil or kerosene to obtain siccative oils for paint (US Patents No. 36,419 and No. 38,714). "Antonio Meucci Patent Oil" was sold by Rider & Clark Co., 51 Broad Street, New York, and exported to Europe. See expert comment.
  • 1864 Invention of new, more destructive ammunition for guns and cannons, proposed to the US army and to General Giuseppe Garibaldi.
  • 1864–65 Processes to obtain paper pulp from wood or other vegetable substances (US Patents No. 44,735, No. 47,068 and No. 53,165). Associated Press was interested in producing paper with this process, which was also the first to introduce the recovery of the leaching liquor. See expert comment.
  • 1865 Process for making wicks out of vegetable fiber, US Patent No. 46,607.
  • 1867 A paper factory, the "Perth Amboy Fiber Co.," was set up, in Perth Amboy, NJ. The paper pulp was obtained from either marsh grass or wood. It was the first to recycle waste paper. See expert comment.
  • 1871 US Patent No. 122,478 "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. See expert comment.
  • 1871 Filed a patent caveat, (not a 'patent') for a telephone device in December with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
  • 1873 US Patent No. 142,071 "Sauce for Food." According to Roberto Merloni, general manager of the Italian STAR company, this Patent anticipates modern food technologies. See expert comment.
  • 1873 Conception of a screw steamer suitable for navigation in canals.
  • 1874 Process for refining crude oil (caveat)
  • 1875 Filter for tea or coffee, much similar to that used in present day coffee machines.
  • 1875 Household utensil (description not available) "combining usefulness to cheapness, that will find a ready sale."
  • 1875 US Patent No. 168,273 "Lactometer," for chemically detecting adulterations of milk. It anticipates by fifteen years the well-known Babcock test. See expert comment.
  • 1875 Upon request by Giuseppe Tagliabue (a Physical Instruments maker of Brooklyn, NY), Meucci devises and manufactures several aneroid barometers of various shapes.
  • 1875 Meucci decided not to renew his telephone caveat, thus enabling Bell to get a patent.
  • 1876 US Patent No. 183,062 "Hygrometer," which was a marked improvement over the popular hair-hygrometer of the time. He set up a small factory in Staten Island for fabrication of the same. See expert comment.
  • 1878 Method for preventing noise on elevated railways, a problem much felt at the time in New York.
  • 1878 Process for fabricating ornamental paraffin candles for Christmas trees.
  • 1880 US patent application "Wire for Electrical Purposes"
  • 1881 Process for making postage and revenue stamps.
  • 1883 US Patent No. 279,492 "Plastic Paste," as hard and tenacious to be suitable for billiard balls. See expert comment.


US patent images in TIFF format

See also


  1. ^ a b [1] Antonio Meucci's Illness. The New York Times. Published: 09 March 1889. Web. 25 February 2009.
  2. ^ a b See
  3. ^ Several Italian encyclopaedias claim Meucci as the inventor of the telephone, including: – the "Treccani" [2] – the Italian version of Microsoft digital encyclopaedia, Encarta. – Enciclopedia Italiana di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti (Italian Encyclopedia of Science, Literature and Arts).
  4. ^ Meucci, S., 2010. pp.71–72.
  5. ^ a b Meucci, S., 2010. pp.15–21.
  6. ^ Meucci, S., 2010. pp.16–17.
  7. ^ Meucci, S., 2010. pp.24 & 98.
  8. ^ a b Catania Basilio 2003 Antonio Meucci inventore del telefono, Notiziario Tecnico Telecom Italia, anno 12 n.1, dicembre 2003, pp. 109
  9. ^ a b Picture of the acoustic telephone, page maintained by the Italian Society of Electrotechnics
  10. ^ Meucci, S., 2010. pp.36–37 & 100.
  11. ^ Catania Basilio 2003 Antonio Meucci inventore del telefono, Notiziario Tecnico Telecom Italia, anno 12 n.1, dicembre 2003, pp. 110]
  12. ^ Meucci, S., 2010. pp.37 & 47–52.
  13. ^ a b Meucci's original drawings. Page maintained by the Italian Society of Electrotechnics
  14. ^ Meucci, S., 2010. p.66.
  15. ^ Biography of Antonio Santi Giuseppe Meucci, website, 25 February 2011.
  16. ^ Meucci, S., 2010. pp.72–73.
  17. ^ a b Meucci's original drawings. Page maintained by the Italian Society of Electrotechnics
  18. ^ Antonio Meucci stamp
  19. ^ Catania Basilio 2003 Antonio Meucci inventore del telefono, Notiziario Tecnico Telecom Italia, anno 12 n.1, dicembre 2003, pp. 112]
  20. ^ Carroll, Rory (17 June 2002). "Bell did not invent telephone, US rules". The Guardian (London). 
  21. ^ a b c Estreich, Bob. Antonio Meucci: The Resolution. Retrieved from website, 25 February 2011.
  22. ^ Globe Telephone Company 1884 – Famous ATT Patent Fight 1996 – 2007 Scripophily
  23. ^ a b U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. "The Story of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office". Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office. Washington:IA-SuDocs, Rev. August 1988. iv, 50p. MC 89-8590. OCLC 19213162. SL 89-95-P. S/N 003-004-00640-4. $1.75. C 21.2:P 27/3/988 – - – - Note: the 1861 filing fee is listed on Pg. 11, and the 1922 filing fee is listed on Pg. 22.
  24. ^ a b U.S.P.T.O. & Patent Model Association. Digital version of The Story of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office: (section) Act of 2 March 1861, 2001. Retrieved from website, 25 February 2011.
  25. ^ Text of Meucci's Caveat, pages 16–18
  26. ^ Caveat page 17 top
  27. ^ a b Caveat page 17
  28. ^ Caveat page 18
  29. ^ "metallic tube" in Caveat page 16 bottom
  30. ^ Caveat pages 17 bottom line – 18 top line
  31. ^ Caveat page 17 bottom
  32. ^ Caveat page 17, 3rd paragraph
  33. ^ a b Robert V. Bruce, Bell: Alexander Graham Bell and the Conquest of Solitude, Cornell University Press (1973), page 272.
  34. ^ a b Catania, Basilio (October 1992, pp. 973 – 984). Sulle tracce di Antonio Meucci – Appunti di viaggio. L'Elettrotecnica, Vol. LXXIX, N. 10, ARTI GRAFICHE STEFANO PINELLI, Milano. , [3]
  35. ^ “It seems likely that Bruce’s narrative account of Bell’s invention of the telephone will—with its shading and emphasis—be the definitive one. Bruce’s treatment of rival telephone inventors is less convincing, however, simply because he labels them in such an offhand fashion—Daniel Drawbaugh, the ‘Charlatan,’ Antonio Meucci, the ‘innocent,’ Elisha Gray, whose ‘bitterness’ caused him ‘to lash out [at Bell]’.” Hughes, Thomas P. (22 June 1973, p. 1268-1269). The Life and Work of Bell. Science. , [4]
  36. ^ The Telephone Claimed by Meucci, Scientific American, N. 464. Blackie and Son Limited. 22 Nov. 1884, p. 7407. 
  37. ^ The Telegraphic Journal & Electrical Review: The Philadelphia Electrical Exhibition. The Telegr. J. and Electr. Review. 11 Oct. 1884, pages 277–83. 
  38. ^ Bruce, Robert V. Bell: Alexander Graham Bell and the Conquest of Solitude, Cornell University Press (1973), page 278.
  39. ^ Aitken, William (1939). Who Invented The Telephone?. Blackie and Son Limited, London and Glasgow, pages 9–12. , [5]
  40. ^ Smithsonian Institution: Person to Person – Exhibit Catalog, 100th Birthday of the Telephone, National Museum of History and Technology, December 1976.
  41. ^ Amalza et al. Antonio Meucci, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers website, 3 September 2008, plus 25 revisions. Retrieved online 22 April 2011.
  42. ^ Nese, Marco & Nicotra, Francesco. Antonio Meucci, 1808-1889, Italy Magazine, Rome, 1989, pg.85.
  43. ^ Catania Basilio 2003 Antonio Meucci inventore del telefono, Notiziario Tecnico Telecom Italia, anno 12 n.1, dicembre 2003, pp. 114]
  44. ^ a b Vito Fossella's 2002 Press Release on Resolution 269
  45. ^ Catania Basilio 2003 Antonio Meucci inventore del telefono, Notiziario Tecnico Telecom Italia, anno 12 n.1, dicembre 2003, pp. 116]
  46. ^ Antonio Meucci's original drawing, page maintained by the Italian Society of Electrotechnics
  47. ^ Estreich Bob. Antonio Meucci: Twisting The Evidence. Retrieved from website, 25 February 2011.
  48. ^ a b c Rockman, Howard B."Intellectual Property Law for Engineers and Scientists." IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society, Wiley-IEEE, 2004, pp. 107–109. ISBN 978-0471449980.
  49. ^ "Augustus Hill Garland (1832–1899)". Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture website. Retrieved: 1 May 2009. Note: according to this article: "Garland soon found himself embroiled in scandal. While Garland was in the Senate, he had become a stockholder in, and attorney for, the Pan-Electric Telephone Company, which was organized to form regional telephone companies using equipment developed by J. Harris Rogers. The equipment was similar to the Bell telephone, and that company soon brought suit for patent infringement. Soon after he became attorney general, Garland was asked to bring suit in the name of the United States to invalidate the Bell patent. He refused...." However, in Rockman (2004), there is no mention of Garland refusing to do so, and moreover Garland had been given his shares in Pan-Electric, by the company, for free.
  50. ^ "Augustus Hill Garland (1874-1877)", Old Statehouse Museum website. Retrieved: 1 May 2009. Note: According to this biography: "He did, however, suffer scandal involving the patent for the telephone. The Attorney General's office was intervening in a lawsuit attempting to break Bell's monopoly of telephone technology, but it had come out that Garland owned stock in one of the companies that stood to benefit. This congressional investigation received public attention for nearly a year, and caused his work as attorney general to suffer."
  51. ^ Basilio Catania's Proofs of Antonio Meucci's Priority
  52. ^ Antonio Meucci's Memorandum Book, page maintained by the Italian Society of Electrotechnics
  53. ^ "U.S. Supreme Court: U S v. AMERICAN BELL TEL CO, 167 U.S. 224 (1897)
  54. ^ United states V. American Bell Telephone Co., 128 U.S. 315 (1888)
  55. ^ Basilio Catania 2002 "The United States Government vs. Alexander Graham Bell. An important acknowledgment for Antonio Meucci" Bulletin of Science Technology Society. 2002; 22: pp. 426–442.
  56. ^ History of ADT, website. Retrieved 8 July 2009.
  57. ^ Grosvenor, Edwin S. "Memo on Misstatements of Fact in House Resolution 269 and Facts Relating to Antonio Meucci and the Invention of the Telephone." website, 30 June 2002.
  58. ^ Bruce 1990, pp. 271–272.
  59. ^ Meucci, S., 2010. p.92.
  60. ^ "Funeral of Antonio Meucci". New York Times. 22 October 1889. Retrieved 2009-02-25. "The funeral services over the body of the Italian patriot, Antonio Mencci, will take place at Clifton, S.I., this forenoon at 10 o clock. ..." 
  61. ^ Basilio Catania Homepage
  62. ^ L'invenzione del telefono da parte di Meucci e la sua sventurata e ingiusta conclusione
  63. ^ Museo Storico Virtuale dell'AEIT Sala Antonio Meucci
  64. ^ Basilio Catania's reconstruction, in English
  65. ^ Antonio Meucci
  66. ^ Affidavit of lawyer Michael Lemmi , 1885.
  67. ^ Casson, Herbert N., "The History of the Telephone" Chicago: McClurg, 1910, p. 96-97
  68. ^ Basilio Catania 2002 "The United States Government vs. Alexander Graham Bell. An important acknowledgment for Antonio Meucci" Bulletin of Science Technology Society.2002; 22: 426–442. (subscription)
  69. ^ Catania Basilio 2003 Antonio Meucci inventore del telefono, Notiziario Tecnico Telecom Italia, anno 12 n.1, dicembre 2003, pp. 114
  70. ^ Catania Basilio "Antonio Meucci una vita per la scienza e per l'Italia, vol.1 "Antonio Meucci una vita per la scienza e per l'Italia, vol.2(in Italian), summary of Meucci's life and work and his trial against Alexander Graham Bell, written on the occasion of the Meucci Day celebration in 2003 by the Italian Telecommunication Ministry
  71. ^ House Resolution 269, dated 11 June 2002, written and sponsored by Rep. Vito Fossella.
  72. ^ Antonio Meucci and the invention of the telephone, Mary Bellis
  73. ^ "Rep. Fossella's Resolution Honoring True Inventor of Telephone To Pass House Tonight". office of Congressman Vito J. Fossella. 2002-06-11. Archived from the original on 2008-05-04. Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  74. ^ United States Senate. Bill Text: 108th Congress (2003–2004) S.RES.223.IS, U.S. Congress' Thomas website, 10 September 2003. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  75. ^ U.S. Senate. "SUBMISSION OF CONCURRENT AND SENATE RESOLUTIONS – (Senate – 10 September 2003)", U.S. Congress Thomas Website, Page: S11349, 10 September 2003.
  76. ^ S.Res.223 (108th Congress), Retrieved from website on 28 February 2011.
  77. ^ Bethune, Brian. "Did Bell steal the idea for the phone?", Macleans, 23 January 2008. Retrieved: 30 April 2009.
  78. ^ "House of Commons of Canada, Journals No. 211, 37th Parliament, 1st Session, No. 211 transcript". Hansard of the Government of Canada, 21 June 2002, pg.1620 / cumulative pg.13006, time mark: 1205. Retrieved: 29 April 2009.
  79. ^ Fox, Jim, "Bell's Legacy Rings Out at his Homes", Globe and Mail, 2002-08-17;
  80. ^ The Garibaldi-Meucci Museum
  81. ^ The Garibaldi-Meucci Museum (Staten Island site)
  82. ^ Antonio Meucci plaques
  83. ^ RAI "Meucci l'Italiano che ha inventato il telefono"
  84. ^ RAI International "Meucci l'uomo che ha inventato il telefono", pages in Italian
  85. ^ More Google: Holiday Logos
  86. ^ Altro su Google: Loghi per le festività
  87. ^ Google, Meucci e Bell
  88. ^ Basilio Catania's chronological list of Meucci's inventions

Further reading

Documents of the trial

  • Antonio Meucci's Deposition (New York, 7 December 1885 – January 1886), New York Public Library – Annex, New York. NY (USA) National Archives & Records Administration, New York, NY, FILE : Records of the U.S. Circuit Court, Southern District of New York, The American Bell Telephone Co. et al. v. The Globe Telephone Co. et al.
  • Affidavit of Michael Lemmi (Translation of Meucci's Memorandum book) sworn Septemher 28, 1885. National Archives & Records Administration. Washington. DC. – RG48. Interior Dept. file 4513- 1885. Enclosure 2)

Scientific and historic research

  • Catania Basilio, 2002, "The U.S. Government Versus Alexander Graham Bell: An Important Acknowledgment", Bulletin of Science Technology Society ; 22: 426–442
  • Italian Society of Electrotechnics (Federazione Italiana di Elettrotecnica) Sala Antonio Meucci
  • Scientific American Supplement No. 520, 19 December 1885
  • Rossi Adolfo, Un Italiano in America. La Cisalpina , Milano 1881.
  • Schiavo, Giovanni E., Antonio Meucci : inventor of the telephone, New York : The Vigo press, 1958, no ISBN, IT\ICCU\SBL\0234690 (Italian National Library System).
  • Sterling Christopher H., 2004, CBQ REVIEW ESSAY: HISTORY OF THE TELEPHONE (PART ONE): Invention, Innovation, and Impact. Communication Booknotes Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 4, Pages 222–241 (doi: 10.1207/s15326896cbq3504_1)
  • Vassilatos Gerry Lost Science (ISBN 0-945685-25-4, review)

Other media

External links

US Congress Resolution 269

Museums and celebrations

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