1940 10¢ Alexander Graham Bell
Famous Americans Series – Inventors
Issue Date: October 28, 1940
First City: Boston, Massachusetts
Quantity Issued: 13,726,580
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforation: 10 ½ x 11
Color: Dark brown
Alexander Graham Bell was a U.S. inventor and physicist featured on U.S. #893. He was the founder of the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf, inspired by his mother’s deafness. Bell is best known for his invention of the telephone. His first words over a telephone were to his assistant in the next room, saying, “Mr. Watson, come here – I want to see you.”
In 1938, the Post Office Department announced plans for a series of stamps recognizing 10 famous Americans and invited the public to submit recommendations. The response was so great that it was decided to increase the number from 10 to 35. This required an unexpected level of organization by the Post Office Department for this series.
Seven categories were decided upon – authors, poets, educators, scientists, composers, artists, and inventors. Each category of five has the same set of denominations – 1¢, 2¢, 3¢, 5¢, and 10¢. Each rate had a valid use. The 1¢ stamp paid for a letter that was dropped off at a post office to someone who had a box at the same office. The 2¢ was for local delivery. The 3¢ paid the normal non-local mail rate, and the 5¢ and 10¢ were used in combination for heavier letters and special rates. The denominations also shared a consistent coloring scheme: 1¢ is bright blue green; 2¢ is rose carmine; 3¢ is bright red violet; 5¢ is ultramarine; and 10¢ is dark brown.
Each category has its subjects arranged with the oldest birth date going on the 1¢ stamp, down to the most recent birth date on the 10¢ stamp. Each category has its own dedicated symbol in the engraving – a scroll, quill pen and inkwell for authors; a winged horse (Pegasus) for poets; the “Lamp of Knowledge” for educators; laurel leaves and the pipes of the Roman god Pan for composers; and inventors had a cogwheel with uplifted wings and a lightning flash to symbolize power, flight, and electricity.
The artists and the scientists have multiple symbols. Artists have either a paint palette and brush (for painters), and the sculptors have a stonecutting hammer and chisel. Scientists had the classical symbol of their particular profession.
Rise Of Long-Distance Telephones
On March 27, 1884, the first long-distance phone call between New York and Boston was made.
In March 1876, Alexander Graham Bell received the patent for his telephone and made his first phone call just three days later. That June, he presented his invention at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia which gained the attention of the press, who in turn shared news of the telephone with the public.
In August, Bell made the first two-way long-distance call between Brantford and Paris, Ontario, Canada, a distance of about six miles. In the early years of the telephone, it was mostly seen as a means of local communication. Telephone lines connected people within cities, or to neighboring cities. But few recognized the possibility that people could communicate with each other across hundreds of miles.
However, the Bell Company recognized the possibilities and began working on a New York to Boston line, which would stretch 235 miles. In addition to the long distance, the line would use copper wire instead of iron. At a cost of $70,000, it was a large gamble with its share of detractors. One Bell Company official claimed, “I wouldn’t take that line as a gift.”
On March 27, 1884, the final coil of copper wire was stretched into place and the first phone call was made between New York and Boston. The success of that first phone call opened the eyes of many to the idea that the telephone was more than a form of local communication – it could connect people across the country. In 1892, the first line was strung between New York and Chicago (950 miles) and in 1915, lines stretched from San Francisco to New York (3,600 miles), inaugurating transcontinental telephone service. Later that same year, radiotelephone transmitted a call across the Atlantic, from Virginia to Paris.