Stories From Main Street: Staten Island Museum Differs On Telephone’s Inventor

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — When asked who invented the telephone — most Americans would probably answer ‘Alexander Graham Bell.’

As WCBS-880’s Sean Adams explained, that is in dispute on Staten Island where some credit Italian-American inventor Antonio Meucci.

“He called it il-telotrofono,” Mariana Randazzo explained.

Randazzo teaches school programs at the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum on Tompkins Avenue.

“And in 1850 he was actually using the phone in this house and at the time, Alexander Graham Bell was about 2-years-old,” she said.

She said Meucci stumbled upon electromagnetic voice transmission while dabbling in electric shock therapy.

“He transmitted a shock through a wire, and the patient screamed and he heard it. So to him that was proof that the voice can travel through wire,” she said.

He developed prototypes.

“Bad luck came to him all the time and he trusted people with his ideas and he tried to get a patent,” Randazzo said.

A lack of money and a bit of a language barrier got in the way, and Alexander Graham Bell got the patent.

Meanwhile, Meucci hosted at his home an honored guest — General Giuseppe Garibaldi — one of the leaders who unified Italy.

“There’s hardly a city in Italy that you couldn’t find a Garibaldi statue,” museum CEO Joseph Ciami said. “These were two great men who lived at a time in history in the early 1850s, here on Staten Island. What we do here at the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum is to portray that positive image.”

 

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