Collection of Alexander Graham Bell Postcards and Letters....Click the image to load the highest resolution version.
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DescriptionCollection of Alexander Graham Bell Postcards and Letters. A small archive of five postcards and five letters written by Bell, all addressed to Professor Abel S. Clarke at the American Asylum for Deaf Mutes in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1874, A. Graham Bell began printing the "Visible Speech Pioneer", a periodic publication that provided helpful information to various institutes for the deaf. The letters and postcards included in this archive relate to Bell sending various issues of the magazine to Clarke at the American Asylum.
All of the postcards measure 5" x 3", United States Postal Cards, and date from April-June 1874. The year is deduced based on letters by A. Graham Bell that are on file at the Library of Congress. The first postal card was written in Visible Speech letters in print format. A translation has been completed using published Visible Speech symbols, and reads in full: "Dear Mister Clarke, I trust you have received the first number of the Pioneer safely. Please do not send it off til you hear from me. Kind regards, A. Graham Bell." [Salem, Massachusetts; April, no year, circa 1874.] The second postcard reads, "Please forward Pioneer No 3 to Illinois. The thirteenth draws near. I hope to bring some totally new ideas before the Convention. I trust that Hartford may be able to give us some hints. Yrs. Respectfully A. Graham Bell." [Salem, Massachusetts; No date, circa 1874.] The third reads, "Pioneer No 1 was received safely. Please forward Pioneer No 2 to Miss Trask. As I find the cover makes little difference in postage &c please send it in cover as a greater protection. Yrs truly A Graham Bell." [Boston, Massachusetts; May 22, circa 1874.] The fourth describes Bell's disappointment in his travel arrangements and reads in full: "My dear Sir. I am extremely sorry that you may be unable to attend - and hope that Miss Sweet may. I have been rather disappointed about the arrangements as I had expected that Miss Rogers, as one of the Committee of Management, would have requested room &c as she did before. However, finding that she expected me to do this I have just secured the hall & made [illegible] arrangements. I do hope you may be able to come. A G. Bell." [Salem, Massachusetts; no date, circa 1874.] And the final postcard reads, "Visible speech Pioneer No III will reach you probably on Monday. Please retain Pioneer No II until you hear from me, as I fear the First Number has gone astray. I have not received any acknowledgement from Illinois. Yrs respectfully A Graham Bell." [No place; no date, circa 1874.]
The first letter in the archive is dated December 18, 1872 and is actually written in Visible Speech symbols in the script format. It has not been translated, but is accompanied by its original transmittal cover. The second letter from Bell shares a New Year's Day accident and inquires about if Clarke and his colleagues will attend a convention. Dated January 9, 1874, Salem, Massachusetts, it reads, in full:
"I have just returned from Canada and have seen the 'Annals'. Let me thank you most sincerely for the very excellent way in which you have defended Visible Speech. It gave me great pleasure to see your article. I had intended to pay you a visit on my way here but the Fates intervened. On New Year's Day, our horse, who has always been very quiet inoffensive animal, took a new departure and rushed off on his own account, leaving me on my back in the middle of the road, while he went off with the carriage, and my sister. My sister jumped into a snow drift and escaped with a sprained ankle. I received some slight injuries about the back which delayed me so long in Canada that I had to go directly to Boston without calling anywhere on the way. A few days more will, I hope, set me all to rights again. I am trying to arrange for a Convention of Teachers of Visible Speech, for the purpose of comparing notes and discussing plans for the advancement of the system. All the teachers of the Clarke Instit., and all the teachers of the Boston School have agreed to meet me at Worchester on Saturday the 24th of January. Will you and Miss Sweet join us? Miss Rogers will secure a room for us to meet in - and I shall inform you of the place of meeting in a few days. I think that Periodical Conventions of Teachers of Visible Speech to discuss practical points connected with the teaching of articulation - will do much for the advancement of the cause. If you and Miss Sweet can come - I can calculate upon at least 15 teachers of the system being present. Please let me hear from you as soon as possible. If you were to leave Hartford by an early train on Saturday we could have a session of about five hours - and all of us return to our respective towns the same day. With kind regards to Mrs. Clarke and yourself. A. Graham Bell." [5.25" x 8", four pages of a bifolium.] With original transmittal cover.
Writing from Boston University a week later, on January 16, 1874, Bell informed Clarke of arrangements for the convention and mentions that his Visible Speech periodical had been established and was being printed. It reads, in full: "Miss Rogers has been making arrangements with the Authorities of the Boston & Albany & the Connecticut Riv. Railroads (to Worcester) for tickets at reduced rates. If you can let her know how many will attend, from Hartford - she could get tickets for you, Miss Sweets or any others who will attend. I know of ten who are going from Boston alone. Probably a similar number from Northampton. Probably Miss Jones will prepare a Paper on new developments in teaching Articulation by V.S. I propose to read a paper on 'Lip Reading and the Education of Semi-Mutes.' I shall also propose the establishment of a Visible Speech Periodical, to be printed by means of the types at present at our disposal if a sufficient number of copies will be taken up by the Institutions." [5.25" x 8", two pages of a bifolium.] With transmittal cover.
Three days later, on January 19, 1874, Bell wrote again with further details of where the convention would be held and who would be speaking. He writes, "The Convention will be held in the High School Buildings. The meeting will commence at 10 o'clock, and terminate at 4 o'clock p.m. Recess for a short time about noon when we can all sally out in search of refreshment. You and Miss Sweet, and the Northampton teachers can leave by the 4:25 p.m. train. All the Boston Papers of Saturday have noticed the Convention. Prof. Monroe will give us a few hints on Physical Training and Prof. Treat will explain the Anatomy of the Larynx, illustrating with models - and give us the latest researches concerning the voice. F. Allen, who was instrumental in introducing Vis. Sp. into America, will make an address. I think it also not unlikely that J.W. Philbrick Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools, and one of the American Commissioners to the Vienna Exposition will attend and tell us something about Articulation Teaching abroad." [5.25" x 8", two pages of a bifolium.] With transmittal cover.
The final letter in the archive was written to Clarke from Boston towards the end of the year, on October 16, 1874. Following the Convention, Bell remained in touch with his friends at the American Asylum and continued to publish issues of the Pioneer periodical. In this letter, Bell provides detailed instructions to Clarke about how he wishes the publication to be sent through the mail, in full: "The Pioneer No IV received last night. Another number has been sent from Buffalo the postage on which is 4 cents. There seems to be no difficulty in forwarding the Pioneer if it is sent off as a Book-parcel without entering into any explanations about it. There is so much 'red tape' about the Post-office that if we take the Pioneer to the Post-Masters - they, not understanding that it is really and truly a Book-parcel, dispose of the matter by saying 'pay letter-rate.' The employees, on the other hand, finding a real book enclosed pass it perfectly readily. I should advise you to send the Pioneer through the post as a book-parcel and let us await the result. So far as I can find out no extra charge has ever yet been made upon it. The circulation of the Pioneer will be resumed on Monday the 2d of November. I trust you have had a pleasant summer vacation - and that you return to work with renewed health. Give my kind regards to Mrs. Clarke, and to all friends at the Asylum." [4.5" x 7", two pages of a bifolium.]
Visible Speech is a system of written symbols that represent sounds that can be made by the human voice. This system was developed by Alexander Melville Bell, father of Alexander Graham Bell, and was became popular with the publication of Alexander Melville Bell's book "Visible Speech" in 1867. Alexander Graham Bell went on to help his father with his research and during various tours. Visible speech can be used with not only English, but also with foreign and obscure languages. A. Melville Bell developed the Visible Speech system with the intent that it could aid deaf students in learning to speak through teachers trained in this system. He was invited to provide training to teachers at the Boston School for Deaf Mutes, but declined and offered his son's services instead. Alexander Graham Bell arrived in Boston in April 1871 and began to teach his father's system. By March-June 1872, A. Graham Bell was providing the same training to teachers at Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, MA and the American Asylum for the Deaf in Hartford, CT. Professor Abel Clarke taught at the American Asylum for the Deaf, and also authored the book "A Primer of English and American Literature" published by The American Asylum.
Overall, this small collection of correspondences represents the scientific leaps that were being made at the end of the nineteenth century in research on language, speech, and applications for deaf individuals. A fantastic addition to any collection.
Condition: The letters have flattened folds with minor toning, else very good. The postcards are lightly toned throughout, with some minor wear and bumping at edges and corners.
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