The Lawyer Behind Bell’s Telephone Patent

Today is the 131st anniversary of Alexander Graham Bell’s historic first telephone call to his assistant, Thomas A. Watson, during which he uttered the famous words, “Mr. Watson — come here — I want to see you.” It is interesting to note that just three days earlier, on March 7, 1876, Bell obtained his patent on the telephone, U.S. Patent 174,465. Even more interesting, as this Wikipedia entry describes, were it not for the intervention of Boston lawyer Gardiner Greene Hubbard, Bell might not have had a patent for his invention.

Two years earlier, Hubbard, a prominent lawyer and son of a Massachusetts Supreme Court justice, began providing financial support for Bell’s experiments. The two met when Bell was a teacher to Hubbard’s deaf daughter Mabel. According to Wikipedia, on Feb. 14, 1876, Hubbard told his patent lawyer Anthony Pollok to file an application with the U.S. Patent Office on Bell’s behalf. Reportedly, he beat another telephone patent application by two hours. The Patent Office issued Bell’s patent on March 7. On March 10, Bell made his groundbreaking “call” to Watson. A year later, on July 9, 1877, Bell and Hubbard formed the Bell Telephone Company. Two days after that, Bell married Mabel. By 1886, more than 150,000 people in the U.S. owned telephones. As for Hubbard, among his many subsequent achievements was founding the National Geographic Society.