This Week in History


A Minute of Silence for Bell

This story was initially published in 2011.

On August 4, 1922 at 6:25 p.m., all telephone service in Canada and the United States was halted for one minute to mark the funeral of Alexander Graham Bell. The Canadian Bell Telephone Company, and the American Telephone and Telegraph Company dedicated this ‘silent tribute’ in honour of Bell, the famous inventor of the telephone. Bell had died on August 2 at his home, Beinn Bhreagh, near Baddeck on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia.

The liquid telephone, the device Bell used to transmit the first intelligible sentence using electricity
Public Domain

Although born and educated in Scotland, Bell spent a great deal of his life in North America. First immigrating to Brantford, Ontario, with his parents in 1870, Bell also lived in Boston and Washington, D.C. in the United States, and in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, conducting scientific research, making discoveries notably in sound, and teaching the deaf. On March 10, 1876, in the midst of developing a vocal telegraph, Bell was the first person to transmit speech using electricity. In doing so, he became one of the most well-known men in the world, and for good reason. With the telephone, it seemed as if anything was possible!

Bell, his wife, and their two daughters first visited Baddeck in the summer of 1885. The following year, Bell returned to establish their summer home, which he named Beinn Bhreagh, or “Beautiful Mountain” in Gaelic. Over the years, the estate would become more and more elaborate. There, Bell continued to conduct experiments, this time involving kites and hydrofoils, and in 1909, he even engineered the first powered flight in the British Empire!

A view of the architecturally striking Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site
© Parks Canada / J. Steeves / 1981

Following Bell’s death in 1922, his daughters kept his remarkable inventions, ranging from telephone prototypes to tetrahedral kites and the original plane used in the first powered flight. Eventually they donated the artifacts to the federal government. In 1952, the Government of Canada commemorated the importance of Bell’s inventions through the designation of Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, which opened two years later, near Beinn Bhreagh. This historic museum houses Alexander Graham Bell memorabilia. An architecturally striking structure, its exhibits are dedicated to telling the story of Bell’s extraordinary life as brilliant inventor, scientist and teacher of the deaf. Bell’s aeronautical accomplishment, the first airplane flying in Canada, was also designated a National Historic Event.

For more information about the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, please visit its pages on the Parks Canada and Canadian Register of Historic Places websites. To read more stories about Alexander Graham Bell, please visit: ‘M. Watson, come here, I want you!’ and Cape Breton Man Flies Through Air! in the This Week in History archives.

Follow us on Twitter @ParksCanada, and be sure to visit the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada webpage. Explore Canada 150!

Date Modified: