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Celebrating American Inventions: Beyond Morse Code

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The 4th of July celebrates the birthday of our country, and allows us to take time to reflect on life, liberty and all the other great freedoms we have living here.  As part of that celebration, this week we’re highlighting some prominent inventions that have impacted all of our lives since the founding of our country.

We’ll highlight one invention from the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. We can’t cover every invention, so feel free to share other great inventions in the comments, and check back throughout the week to share how you’ve been impacted by the inventions we’ve selected.

The Telephone

“Mr. Watson — come here — I want to see you.”

These famed words, the first communicated clearly over telephone, are historic in the world of American inventions. Spoken by Alexander Graham Bell to his assistant on March 10, 1876, they marked the beginning of a new era - the era of the telephone.

It’s hard to imagine a world without telephones now, but prior to 1876, the world communicated without them, often with a telegraph and Morse code. While Alexander Graham Bell was attempting to improve the telegraph, he came up with the idea of a telephone and the ability to “talk with electricity.”

The first sound transmitted over a telephone, the twanging of a clock spring, occurred June 2, 1875, and provided more motivation for Bell to continue improving his invention. He filed for a patent on February 14, 1876 and received United States Patent No. 174,465 on March 7 of the same year.

The patent filing came with some controversy surrounding it, as Elisha Gray, another inventor, filed for a caveat hours later on the day! A famous legal battle later ensued between Western Union (Gray’s telephone company) and Bell Telephone, which Bell won.

To see a full collection of Bell’s letters and drawings - including his experimental notebook - you can visit the “Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers”  from the Library of Congress.

Whether you’re watching fireworks or barbecuing with friends, make sure your own 4th of July celebration is safe and fun with these tips. And check the #july4 and #madeintheusa hashtags on Twitter to read about more American inventions this week.

Read this post in Spanish.