Bell gets George Brown on side for foreign patents

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In our world of electronic and digital communications, one wonders what evidence of our day-to-day lives will exist for our descendants in the next century. Modern technology has given us the ability to be in almost constant touch with one another. But, will our emails and texts still exist a hundred years from now? For decades, letter writing was often an everyday occurrence for most people. Keeping in touch meant sitting down with pen and paper. Receiving a letter was often an exciting event, especially from someone miles away. And, for many, including Alexander Graham Bell and his family, these letters were something to be kept, not simply discarded once read. The Bells were profuse writers and as a result, 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 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 is best revealed through the letters between these individuals. Here, we present those letters to you.

It would seem that Alec persuaded George Brown to take up his foreign patents for his telegraphic scheme by bringing forward an idea to approach Canadian shipping magnate, Sir Hugh Allan, to do so. Brown, hoping to break up the monopolies held by Sir Hugh, would surely jump at the chance to take on the scheme himself.


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Dear Papa

I got the idea this morning of getting a letter of introduction to Sir Hugh Allan – and trying to interest him sufficiently in the telegraphic scheme – to help me out with foreign patents. I called on Hon. George Brown (!) to request his advice in the matter. He was much interested. He seemed to see in the scheme a way of opposing the monopolies of Sir Hugh in regard to the Montreal Telegraph Company.

He offers – if the thing promises to be a good thing – either to take the matter up himself or to form a small company to do so. I am to write particulars to him at once (in confidence) and if they decide to make any arrangements they will telegraph at once to England to secure Patents there.

Hope for the best. Cough not troublesome. Charlie well.

Just off to see the McMasters.

Yr. loving son

Prof. A.M. Bell

The Bell Letters are annotated by Brian Wood, curator, Bell Homestead National Historic Site.

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