Bell prepares to publish Visible Speech paper
In our world of electronic and digital communications, one wonders what evidence of our day-today lives will exist for our descendants in the next century. Modern technology has given us the ability to be in almost constant touch with one another. But, will our emails and texts still exist a hundred years from now? For decades, letter writing was often an everyday occurrence for most people. Keeping in touch meant sitting down with pen and paper. Receiving a letter was often an exciting event, especially from someone miles away. And, for many, including Alexander Graham Bell and his family, these letters were something to be kept, not simply discarded once read. The Bells were profuse writers and as a result, their story can be told today through thousands of letters.
Born in Scotland in 1847, Alexander Graham Bell lived a unique life. Influenced by his father, Melville, a professor of elocution, and his deaf mother, Eliza; the loss of his brothers, Melville and Edward, to Consumption; and marriage to his deaf pupil, Mabel Hubbard, Bell left a legacy to the world that few could imagine living without. How this came to pass is best revealed through the letters between these individuals. Here, we present those letters to you.
A short letter from Alec to his parents revealed that he was intending to take on the publication of a Visible Speech paper. This, he felt, would give good insight into the progress that had been made with his father’s phonetic alphabet in teaching speech to the deaf. Although Alec was at this time working at the development of his multiple telegraph, no mention is made here. He knew his father did not approve, feeling that his work should focus on furthering Visible Speech.
Salem Mass Jan. 15th/74 Dear Papa, Mama, Carrie and Charlie
Just a line to report myself in perfect health. I am anxious to hear about Carrie. Trust that the foot is getting on well.
I have not a moment to spare. Working like a Trojan. Up to all hours at night.
Convention to be held at Worcester on the 24th of January. Preparing a Paper for the occasion.
Wish Papa could come. Why won’t you? Will you? Do come.
I intend commencing on the 1st of March “The Visible Speech Pioneer”. You have Matrices for Visible Speech types. Will you go halves with me in having some type cast from these for the use of the “Visible Speech Pioneer”? I can get the types set and the whole thing printed free of cost by letting it be done by the boys of Miss Fuller’s School. If you can let me have the matrices here - I will take the expense of types upon myself if you will not be willing to share the expense. I feel that it is important that something should be done NOW for the system - so as to be able to show progress before the Convention of Teachers of the Deaf and Dumb assembles in Canada in July. I shall write fully about Mr. Moyle etc., when I can snatch time. In the meantime I must close. With fond love, Aleck P.S. Commence a new pupil (stammerer) on Monday. Have three other applications. AGB Prof. A.M. Bell, Brantford, Ont.
The Bell Letters are annotated by Brian Wood, curator, Bell Homestead National Historic Site.