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Bell letter, phone drawing fetches over $92K in NH

Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – An 1878 letter from Alexander Graham Bell to his parents that includes rare and elaborate drawings of the telephone he invented has sold for more than $92,000, an auctioneer said Thursday.

The seven-page letter instructs Bell’s parents on how to ground the telephone to avoid harm from lightning strikes. He instructs them to run a sturdy copper wire from their house to the duck pond and bury it there.

“If you have a good connection with a permanently moist stratum of earth, you need never fear lightning and your posts will be safe,” Bell writes. He was in Washington, D.C., at the time.

Bell was responding to a letter from his parents in Tutelo Heights, Ontario, telling him how a lightning strike had damaged their wiring.

The letter was written just two years after Bell obtained the patent on the telephone and made his first call to his assistant, Thomas Watson.

Bidding on the letter offered by Amherst-based RRAuction began in December and ended Wednesday, with the top bid coming in at $92,856.

RRAuction Vice President Bobby Livingston wouldn’t name the top bidder, but he described him as “a prominent document collector in Texas who has an eye for the best stuff.”

“You’re not going to see a better Alexander Graham Bell on the market,” Livingston said.

Livingston said bidding was between collectors in the U.S. and Canada. “They both lay claim to him,” he said.

The Scotland-born inventor and his family moved to North America in 1870 and settled at Tutelo Heights near Brantford, Ontario. Bell moved to Boston the following year, where he taught the deaf and later became a professor at Boston University.

Livingston said the letter is particularly valuable because of Bell’s detailed discussion and drawings.

Bidding on the letter and its drawings exceeded Livingston’s expectations. He was hoping bidding would reach $80,000.

Livingston said the letter came from an archive kept by an associate of Bell’s. It had been in the associate’s family since 1910 and was recently purchased by a regular client of RRAuction.

“Everyone’s thrilled all the way around,” Livingston said.

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