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    Alexander Graham Bell Autograph Letter Signed. One page, 4.75" x 8" (sight), on Volta Laboratory letterhead, Washington, August 2, 1881. Writing to Joseph Stanley-Brown, private secretary to President James Garfield, who had been shot just one month earlier, in full: "Will you kindly allow the bearer of this note to enter the basement room for the purpose of removing my batteries." Smoothed folds. The right edge of the letter has been cut at an angle slightly, affecting the final "L" in Bell's signature. Several spots of ink near the bottom edge.

    One week after Charles Guiteau shot President James Garfield in the chest (July 2, 1881), Baltimore's Simon Newcomb gave an interview with the local newspaper regarding his recent invention - the metal detector. According to Newcomb, a hum was emitted when metal was placed near the coils of his machine and it could potentially be used on the president to locate the bullet still lodged in Garfield's body. The hum produced, however, was currently too faint to be useful. Bell, after reading the article in the paper, contacted Newcomb with the theory that his telephone may be used to amplify the sound. The two set to work and very soon produced a working metal detector that could be used on a person. On the evening of July 26, 1881, the apparatus was used on President Garfield, but a faint, constant hum was heard all over the president's body. Returning to their lab, they found that the detector worked perfectly fine. On July 31, just two days before this letter was written, the pair returned to the White House and performed the experiment again with the same results. The two were unaware that the bed on which the president was laying was full of another recent invention - metal springs. Garfield meanwhile became worse and was moved to his New Jersey home, where he died on September 19, 1891. Due to Stanley-Brown's position as the president's private secretary, it is very likely that the "basement room" in question is the White House and the very batteries Bell requests were the same batteries used in his metal detector experiment just two days before.

    Matted with a portrait of the inventor and framed to an overall size of 13.75" x 12.5".

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2014
    3rd Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 16
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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