Our readers have already been informed through these columns that, notwithstanding the refusal of the Attorney-General, Mr. Garland, to institute suit for the nullification of the Bell patent, application has again been made by the Globe Telephone Co., of this city, the Washington Telephone Co., of Baltimore, and the Panelectric Co. These applications have been referred to the Interior Department and Patent Office for examination, and upon their report the institution of the suit depends. The evidence which the companies above mentioned have presented includes not only the statement of Prof. Gray and the circumstances connected with his caveat, but brings out fully, for the first time, the claims of Antonio Meucci.
MEUCCI'S CAVEAT, 1871.
The latter evidence is intended to show that Meucci invented the speaking telephone not only before Bell, but that he antedated Reis by several years. In a recent interview with Meucci we obtained a brief history of his life and of his invention, which will, no doubt, interest our readers. Meucci, a native of Italy, was educated in the schools of Florence, devoting his time as a student to mechanical engineering. In 1844 he gave considerable attention to the subject of electricity, and had a contract with the government of the island of Cuba to galvanize materials used in the army. While experimenting with electricity he read the works of Becquerel, Mesmer, and others who treated largely of the virtues of electricity in the cure of disease. Meucci made experiments in this direction, and at one time thought that he heard the sound of a sick person's voice more distinctly than usual, when he had the spatula connected with the wire and battery in his mouth.
FIGS. 1 AND 2. - 1849.
The apparatus he used for this purpose is shown in Fig. 1. It consists of an oval disk or spatula of copper attached to a wire which was coiled and supported in an insulating handle of cork. To ascertain that he was able to hear the sound, he covered the device with a funnel of pasteboard, shown in the adjoining figure, and held it to his ear, and thought that he heard the sound more distinctly.
These instruments were constructed in 1849 in Havana, where Meucci was mechanical director of a theater. In May, 1851, he came to this country, and settled in Staten Island, where he has lived ever since. It was not until a year later that he again took up his telephonic studies, and then he tried an arrangement somewhat different from the first. He used a tin tube, Figs. 3 and 4, and covered it with wire, the ends of which were soldered to the tongue of copper. With this instrument, he states, he frequently conversed with his wife from the basement of his house to the third floor, where she was confined as an invalid.
FIGS. 3 AND 4. - 1852.
Continuing his experiments, he conceived the idea of using a bobbin of wire with a metallic core, and the first instrument he constructed on this idea is shown in Fig. 5. It consisted of a wooden tube and pasteboard mouth piece, and supported within the tube was a bundle of steel wires, surrounded at their upper end by a bobbin of insulated wire. The diaphragm in this instrument, was an animal membrane, and it was slit in a semicircle so as to make a flap or valve which responded to the air vibrations. This was the first instrument in which he used a bobbin, but the articulation naturally left much to be desired, on account of the use of the animal membrane. Meucci fixes the dates from the fact that Garibaldi lived with him during the years 1851-54, and he remembers explaining the principles of his invention to the Italian patriot.
After constructing the instrument just described, Meucci devised another during 1853-54. This consisted of a wooden block with a hole in the center which was filled with magnetic iron ore, and through the center of which a steel wire passed. The magnetic iron ore was surrounded by a coil of insulated copper wire. But an important improvement was introduced here in the shape of an iron diaphragm. With this apparatus greatly improved effects were obtained.
FIG. 5. - 1853.
In 1856 Meucci first tried, he says, a horseshoe magnet, as shown in Fig. 6, but he went a step backward in using an animal membrane. He states that this form did not talk so well as some which he had made before, as might be expected.
During the years 1858-60 Meucci constructed the instrument shown in Fig. 7. He here employed a core of tempered steel magnetized, and surrounded it with a large coil. He used an iron diaphragm, and obtained such good results that he determined to bring his invention before the public. His national pride prompted him to have the invention first brought out in Italy, and he intrusted the matter to a Mr. Bendalari, an Italian merchant, who was about to start for that country. Bendalari, however, neglected the matter, and nothing was heard of it from that quarter. At the same time Meucci described his invention in L'Eco d'Italia, an Italian paper published in this city, and awaited the return of Bendalari.
Meucci, however, kept at his experiments with the object of improving his telephone, and several changes of form were the result. Fig. 8 shows one of these instruments constructed during 1864-65. It consisted of a ring of iron wound spirally with copper wire, and from two opposite sides iron wires attached to the core supported an iron button. This was placed opposite an iron diaphragm, which closed a cavity ending in a mouthpiece. He also constructed the instrument which is shown in Fig. 9, and which, he says, was the best instrument he had ever constructed. The bobbin was a large one, and was placed in a soapbox of boxwood, with magnet core and iron diaphragm. Still seeking greater perfection, Meucci, in 1865, tried the bent horseshoe form, shown in Fig. 10, but found it no improvement; and, although he experimented up to the year 1871, he was not able to obtain any better results than the best of his previous instruments had given.
FIG. 6. - 1856.
When Meucci arrived in this country, he had property valued at $20,000, and he entered into the brewing business and into candle making, but he gradually lost his money, until in 1868 he found himself reduced to little or nothing. To add to his misery, he had the misfortune of being on the Staten Island ferryboat Westfield when the latter's boiler exploded with such terrible effect in 1871. He was badly scalded, and for a time his life was despaired of. After he recovered he found that his wife, in their poverty, had sold all his instruments to John Fleming, a dealer in second-hand articles, and from whom parts of the instruments have recently been recovered.
FIG. 7. - 1858-60.
With the view of introducing his invention, Meucci now determined to protect it by a patent; and having lost his instrument, he had a drawing made according to his sketches by an artist, Mr. Nestori. This drawing he showed to several friends, and took them to Mr. A. Bertolino, who went with him to a patent attorney, Mr. T.D. Stetson, in this city. Mr. Stetson advised Meucci to apply for a patent, but Meucci, without funds, had to content himself with a caveat. To obtain money for the latter he formed a partnership with A.Z. Grandi, S.G.P. Buguglio, and Ango Tremeschin. The articles of agreement between them, made Dec. 12, 1871, credit Meucci as the inventor of a speaking telegraph, and the parties agree to furnish him with means to procure patents in this and other countries, and to organize companies, etc. The name of the company was "Teletrofono." They gave him $20 with which to procure his caveat, and that was all the money he ever received from this source.
The caveat which Meucci filed contained the drawing made by Nestori, and as shown in the cut, which is a facsimile, represents two persons with telephones connected by wires and batteries in circuit. The caveat, however, does not describe the invention very clearly; it describes the two persons as being insulated, but Meucci claims that he never made any mention of insulating persons, but only of insulating the wires. To explain this seeming incongruity, it must be stated that Meucci communicated with his attorney through an interpreter, as he was not master of the English language; and even at the present time he understands and speaks the language very poorly, so much so that we found it necessary to communicate with him in French during the conversation in which these facts were elicited.
FIG. 8. - 1864-65.
In the summer of 1872, after obtaining his caveat, Meucci, accompanied by Mr. Bertolino, went to see Mr. Grant, at that time the Vice President of the New York District Telegraph Company, and he told the latter that he had an invention of sound telegraphs. He explained his inventions and submitted drawings and plans to Mr. Grant, and requested the privilege of making a test on the wires of the company, which test if successful would enable him to raise money. Mr. Grant promised to let him know when he could make the test, but after nearly two years of waiting and disappointment, Mr. Grant said that he had lost the drawings; and although Meucci then made an instrument like the one shown in Fig. 9 for the purpose of a test, Mr. Grant never tried it. Meucci claims that he made no secret of his invention, and as instance cites the fact that in 1873 a diver by the name of William Carroll, having heard of it, came to him and asked him if he could not construct a telephone so that communication could be maintained between a diver and the ship above.
Meucci set about to construct a marine telephone, and he showed us the sketch of the instrument in his memorandum book, which dates from that time and contains a number of other inventions and experiments made by him.
FIG. 9. - 1864-65.
FIG. 10. - 1865.
When Professor Bell exhibited his inventions at the Centennial, Meucci heard of it, but his poverty, he claims, prevented him from making his protestations of priority effective, and it was not until comparatively recently that they have been brought out with any prominence. - The Electrical World.