Italian immigration to the States has often been permeated by a burdensome anguish and
adumbrated by the erroneous perception of its powerful ethnic background. Many of our
colonists have been greeted as ignoramuses even when highly educated. Many of our fellow
countrymen have been discriminated against, insulted, mistreated.
Our heritage, which has oftentimes been misunderstood and derided, is our strength and
it has always allowed us to bypass the obstacles that ignorance and greed placed in front
of us. On and on goes the list of Italian surnames that have left a mark in the New World
against all the adversities created by intolerance and bigotry.
Unfortunately there is one name that has deserved an outstanding recognition, but that
the American society as a whole has decided to ignore to the utmost: Antonio Meucci.
Many associations have tried to grant Meucci the rightful place in the annals of
Science, but the hegemony of the large corporations over many aspects of todays
society have permitted these efforts to be obstructed and to terminate in vain.
Antonio Meucci is the forgotten genius whose inventions precede and usher every
significant transformation in communication technology which was attained during this
century. He was a prolific inventor, with profound knowledge of engineering, design and
practical chemistry. His downfall was to be an Italian immigrant at the wrong time in
history, and obviously to be poor, a fault that frequently cannot be neither forgotten nor
In a brief sojourn in Havana, Cuba, induced by the restrictive immigration laws of the
times that did not allow Europeans to even come near the North American ports, Meucci
developed many devices to control the application of electrical impulses for medical
purposes. Each researcher in this field of medicine independently rediscovered the Meucci
Electro-medical Method to alleviate an ample series of ailments.
Deplorably, most medical bureaucrats of the time, fearing the elimination of their own
pharmaceutical monopolies, coveted to dispel these revolutionary electro-medical arts. An
initial restraint quickly mounted into a full-scale assault on these methods and Meucci,
thorn between the needs to make a living and the impulse to investigate further in this
fascinating field, chooses a compromise. He dedicates his energy to further study the
communication of sounds through the body, product of a casual discovery in one of his
It is in such a matter that physiophony was born. This is his greatest discovery, and
only twenty-five years later an ecstatic Elisha Gray would rediscovered the phenomenon.
Long after this date, the same experimental evidence, taken first from Meucci, then from
Gray, eminently appears in Bells letters, copied to the smallest detail.
Meucci recorded his findings on physiophony and acoustic telephony in 1849, when
Alexander Graham Bell was just two years old. He fancied that American industry would
yield extensive production of his new technology. A telephonic system would revolutionize
any nation which managed its proliferation.
Lack of funding alone precluded large-scale demonstrations of his revolutionary
communication systems. Furthermore, prejudices tied to his ethnic background prevented New
York financiers from even being aware of his operation. Meucci turned to his fellow
countrymen for help. It was 1860 and Italy was thorn by the Independence War, which
absorbed the unconditional attention of every citizen involved. His fantastic
demonstration of the Teletrofonic System, with songs transmitted across several miles of
line, attracted substantial attention, but the possibility of a funding fizzled soon.
Italian production of the Teletrofono having never begun, Meucci became extremely
resentful over both the unconcluded affair and his own contingency in America. Meucci was
cautioned by supportive compatriots to avoid bringing any inventions to American
industrial firms without a legal protection: he needed a patent. Patents were never an
inexpensive proposition. It was clear that an independent inventor could not, even then,
obtain a patent without financial assistance from someone wealthy. Meucci, unable to
obtain a patent, secured a caveat, a legal document that declared the invention to be
successfully developed, a more economic alternative to the patent. The Meucci caveat
remains to this day on public record, but during the lengthy trial proceedings, it
"could never be found at all in the patent records". It is clear that without
the help of some unnamed friend at the Patent Office, Bell would never have succeeded in
defeating Meucci caveat. Reading the transcripts of the Meucci court battle is witnessing
the awe that such large conglomerate as the Telephone companies uphold on common people.
Meucci was publicly and ethnically labeled by leading journalists as "that old
Italian, that old
candlemaker". No technical proofs presented by Meucci to the
Court could satisfy and convince it to change the predetermined judgment. With no hopes of
financial reward and the impossibility to keep up with the rising legal fees, Meucci
desisted from continuing the fight.
The fact remains that Meucci was first to invent the telephone. Through the years, the
name of Meucci was not even mentioned in the history of telephonics, but the truth is that
information regarding the subject has been provided to school text companies by Bell
An Italian to be proud of, an Italian American forgotten, erased from the annals of
science by the omnipotence of the telephone monopolies. A man who could serenely assert
"The telephone, which I invented and which I first made known
was stolen from