Every family has its stories. Passed down through the generations as tales told at family gatherings or by grandparents to their grandchildren, they detail who we are and how we came to be. However, how many of us can tell our stories through the exact words of the people that lived them?
Alexander Graham Bell and his descendants would have no difficulty in answering this question. Born in an age when letter writing was commonplace with most people, Aleck and his family were copious writers who held that their epistles to each other should not be discarded. As a result, their story can be told, today, through thousands of letters dating as early as 1862, when the inventor was only fifteen years old.
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1847, Alexander Graham Bell lived a unique life. Influenced by his father, Melville, a professor of elocution, and his deaf mother, Eliza; the loss of his brothers, Melville and Edward, to Consumption; and marriage to his deaf pupil, Mabel Hubbard, Bell left a legacy to the world that few could imagine living without. How this came to pass can best be seen through the letters that passed between these individuals. These letters we present to you here.
With Alec in Philadelphia, Mabel wrote this encouraging note, hoping to alleviate his displeasure at being away from Boston and his Normal Class.
My darling Alec
How shall I tell you enough how happy and glad I am that you are in Philadelphia with all the distinguished scientists who will understand and appreciate you and your discoveries. I have been so unhappy and worried about the thing for so long, I can hardly breathe freely yet, but the more I think about it the more relieved I am.
It was very hard to send you off so unwillingly but I was sure it was for the best and you would be glad of it by and bye. Mamma had a long letter from Papa telling her his reasons for wanting you. I am so very glad you have gone for I know you will succeed, and it will be so nice to have your name brought home to England again to all your friends there.
If the English take you up as they should, I’ll think about becoming a “subject of Queen Victoria.”
There, are you not spurred on to use your utmost efforts. Oh, I am so glad I don’t know what to say.
Don’t get discouraged now, if you but persevere success must come. Anyway, it will be a great help to you to be connected with scientific men. I’ve been thinking about you every spare moment, followed you in your long journey to N. Y. to 16 East 14th St., and then in the cars again for Philadelphia and then, but you cannot have got any farther yet. How I miss you, there was no one to help me shut the house last night, at least no one stronger than I. No one to be called in the morning, the open door and made up bed had such a dreary empty look. But I am more than satisfied when I remember where you are. And when you come home, the duty will have been done and the opportunity taken hold of, and I know you, too, will not have the feeling of something lost, a sort of guiltiness which has borne down upon us. I know this is not a very nice or coherent letter but I have but one idea in my head, delight at your being at last with those men.
I took your note to Miss Locke this morning as you wanted her to do so much I thought she needed all the time she could get. She was out but the maid said she would be back tomorrow morning.
I must send my letter now. With a heart full of love to you dear,
The Bell Letters are annotated by Brian Wood, curator, Bell Homestead National Historic Site.