The question of who invented the telephone has long been a subject of both popular history and scholarly debate. This article shows that the question itself is a legal artifact. "Who invented the telephone?" became a famous point of controversy in the 1880s, thanks to Alexander Graham Bell's patent monopoly and the intense litigation that surrounded it. During this legal struggle, Bell's lawyers set the terms of inquiry that continue to define the telephone question today. The article explores the legal, economic, and political background of the telephone patent litigation. At the same time, it argues that the implications of the telephone cases reach beyond the history of this one technology. Patent contests were an important phenomenon in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century America, and the article reflects more generally on how lawyers and the courts approached them.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 854-878
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.