AMERICAN INVENTOR OF THE TELEPHONE
Letter Signed, two and one-half pages, quarto, Northampton, Massachusetts, March 15, 1906. To Dr. A. L. E. Crouter, president of the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf. Also signed by three witnesses.
“As I am about to sail for Europe, and since I have promised to give to the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf certain property to establish ‘The Alexander Melville Bell Memorial Fund’ the outline of which has been presented to the Association and accepted by its Board of Directors, and since most of this property will not come into my hands for several months, I desire to give to you a memorandum in black and white of what consists as a protection to the Association in case of accident to myself before the release of the property from the hands of the Administrator. 1st The house and lot of land in Georgetown formerly occupied by my father at the corner of 35th Street and Volta Place, valued at about $13,000. 2nd. All stocks and bonds which will come to me from my late father’s estate, except $20,000 which shall be given to members of my family and certain papers which have not had any value placed upon them by the Administrator. The amount of stocks and bonds to be transferred to the Association is estimated at $62,000, making the total gift by me to the Association about $75,000.”
Alexander Graham Bell’s generous gift to the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf is but one gesture among numerous endeavors in his lifelong association with the cause of the deaf. His work with the deaf dates back to age twelve, when his mother began losing her hearing. It prompted him to develop a technique of speaking in clear, modulated tones directly into her forehead, enabling her to hear him with reasonable clarity. During his teens he helped his father Alexander Melville Bell in his work with deaf mutes, and in 1871 Bell spent several weeks in Boston, lecturing and demonstrating the system of his father’s Visible Speech, published in 1866, as a means of teaching speech to the deaf. Young A. Graham Bell, as he then preferred to be known, showed using his father’s system, that speech could be taught to the deaf. His astounding results soon led to further invitations to lecture. Even while vacationing at his parents’ home Alexander Graham Bell continued his experiments with sound. In 1872 he opened his own school in Boston for training teachers of the deaf, edited his pamphlet Visible Speech Pioneer, and continued to study and tutor. In 1873 he became professor of Vocal Physiology and Elocution at Boston University. After his invention of the telephone in 1876, Bell continued his experiments in communication, and in techniques for teaching speech to the deaf. In 1880 Bell won the Volta Prize from France for his invention of the telephone, and used the winnings to set up Volta Laboratory. His share of the royalties subsequently financed Volta Bureau, a library holding information on deafness. Ten years later, in 1890, he established the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf in New York, with the objective of promoting oral communication (it later morphed into the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing); he was its first president. On May 8, 1893 Bell’s thirteen-year-old prodigy, Helen Keller, participated in the ground-breaking ceremony for the new Volta Bureau building-today an international information center relating to the oral education of the deaf. It was one of the happiest days in his life.
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