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Invention of the Telephone: Topics in Chronicling America

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell received a patent for the telephone leading to a dispute with Elisha Gray. This guide provides access to materials related to "Invention of the Telephone" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"How Prof. Bell invented the telephone." July 9, 1899. The San Francisco Call (San Francisco, CA), Image 22. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

On March 7, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell successfully received a patent for the telephone and secured the rights to the discovery. Days later, he made the first ever telephone call to his partner, Thomas Watson. The telephone revolutionized communication by allowing conversations to take place between individuals at different locations. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


March 7, 1876 Alexander Graham Bell received patent 174,465 from the U.S. Patent Office for ‘the method of, and apparatus for, transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically, by causing electrical undulations, similar in form to the vibrations of air accompanying the said vocal or other sound.
March 10, 1876 Alexander Graham Bell called Thomas A. Watson using his device saying, "Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you."
June 1876 Telephone exhibited at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, PA.
1888 Supreme Court hands down a decision upholding priority of Alexander Graham Bell’s patent over Elisha Gray’s claim.
1915 First Transcontinental telephone call between Alexander Graham Bell in New York, NY and Thomas A. Watson in San Francisco, CA.