OTD: Alexander Graham Bell makes first of three test calls

On today’s date in 1876, Scottish-born inventor Alexander Graham Bell held the first of three monumental tests and made the first intelligible telephone call between Brantford, Ont., and nearby Mount Pleasant.

Only a few months earlier, Bell, who was also a resident of the U.S., received U.S. Patent #174465 for his proof of concept scientific experiment. After a series of public demonstrations, he soon began a series of groundbreaking tests.

In a one-way transmission on Aug. 3, 1876, Bell heard his uncle David Charles Bell recite Hamlet’s “to be or not to be.” The younger Bell received his uncle’s transmission from the A. Wallis Ellis store in the neighbouring community of Mount Pleasant.

The following day, Bell made another minor transmission, this from Brantford’s telegraph office to the Melville House, where a large dinner party exchanged a “speech, recitations, songs and instrumental music,” according to Inventing the Telephone By Erinn Banting.

Finally, on Aug. 10, Bell’s experiment concluded with the world’s first long-distance phone call. From his family homestead in Brantford, Bell phoned his assistant in Paris, Ont., which was about 16 kilometres away.


In 1947, Canada’s Post Office Department (now Canada Post) featured Bell on a four-cent commemorative stamp (Scott #274) marking the 100th anniversary of his birth and honouring his monumental discoveries.

Printed by the Canadian Bank Note Co., the deep blue stamp was designed by Herman Schwartz and engraved by Silas Allen.

The USPS also featured Bell on this 10-cent stamp (US Scott #893) issued in 1940.

The USPS also featured Bell on a 10-cent stamp (US Scott #893) issued in 1940.

With his incredible technological advancements, Bell is considered one of the most significant inventors of the 19th and 20th centuries. He left Scotland in 1870 before residing in parts of Canada and the U.S. While in Brantford, he worked on his new invention – the telephone – from 1874-76.

In 1936, he was also listed first on the U.S. Patent Office’s list of great inventors, which spurred the U.S. Postal Service to issue a commemorative stamp featuring Bell in 1940 as part of its Famous Americans series.

Bell died on Aug. 2, 1922, at his estate, Beinn Bhreagh, in Nova Scotia.

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