Was Alexander Graham Bell American? Trump's speech sparks confusion
Published Thursday, July 4, 2019 9:46PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, July 4, 2019 10:49PM EDT
In his Fourth of July speech in Washington, D.C., U.S. President Donald Trump listed off a number great American patriots who’ve changed the course of history. But one of them is causing a bit of a fact-checking frenzy north of the border.
“Our quest for greatness unleashed a culture of discovery that led Thomas Edison to imagine his lightbulb, Alexander Graham Bell to create the telephone, the Wright brothers to look to the sky and see the next great frontier,” Trump said.
If Twitter is any gauge, Canadians were confused. Alexander Graham Bell quickly became one of the website’s top trending topics in Canada, with users questioning whether or not Trump could accurately claim Bell’s legacy as an American triumph.
The answer is fairly simple: Bell essentially had triple-citizenship.
Bell was born a U.K. citizen in 1847 in Edinburgh, Scotland, and moved to Brantford, Ont., with his parents at the age of 13. He was a U.K. subject in Canada and considered a Canadian citizen before the official creation of Canadian citizenship in 1947.
Bell later moved to Boston for a teaching job and officially became a naturalized American citizen after marrying his wife Mabel Hubbard. However, Bell split his time and research between both Canada and the U.S., and often spent his summers in Ontario and Nova Scotia.
Those looking to claim the telephone as a Canadian invention could cite the fact that Bell was in Brantford in 1874 when he got the inspiration for the idea. Bell was sitting beside the Grand River and watching the currents when it struck him that sound waves could move through the air with electricity. There’s also the fact that the first long-distance telephone call was made from Brantford to Paris, Ont.
However, Americans could point out that the first patent related to the telephone was submitted in the U.S. in 1876.
There once was a time that Canadians and Americans were united on Bell’s legacy. On the day of his funeral, every telephone in North America was silenced for a brief moment of respect.
His body was later buried on a hill with his wife overlooking Baddeck Bay in Nova Scotia. Bell’s descendents still live at the sprawling Maritime home, which has 37 rooms and 11 fireplaces.