NEWS
07/05/2019 13:36 EDT | Updated 07/05/2019 14:18 EDT

Alexander Graham Bell: Was He American Or Canadian?

The inventor of the telephone has strong links to both countries (oh, and Scotland).

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U.S. President Donald Trump and telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell.

The Fourth of July is a day to celebrate all that is American. 

That’s why it was so confusing for some when U.S. President Donald Trump made reference to the inventor of the telephone, a man closely associated with Canada and Scotland, during his speech Thursday in Washington, D.C.

“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 told the crowd. 

“For Americans, nothing is impossible.”

The U.S. president didn’t respond to the outrage online, as he often does, but there was plenty of it. After all, the famous inventor was trending on Twitter Friday morning.

The Canadian Encyclopedia issued its own take on the matter by putting the statement into historical context. The publication said Bell “conceived the idea” while watching currents beside an Ontario river, adding he divided his time between the U.S. and Canada. 

“We think we can split this one,” they wrote.

Trump wasn’t necessarily wrong to link Bell to the U.S. It appears both the U.S. and Canada played important parts in the inventor’s life.

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, Bell was born in Scotland in 1847 before emigrating to Canada with his parents in 1870, where he settled in Brantford, Ont.

A year later, Bell accepted a teaching job in Boston, but continued to spend his summers in Ontario. 

Bell credited the currents in the Grand River for sparking the idea for the telephone, the Canadian Encyclopedia said. He sketched a primitive telephone based on his observations, paving the way for one of the world’s greatest inventions.

On March 10, 1876, Bell used a telephone for the first time, three days after he received a U.S. patent for the creation.

In 1877, he was part of the group to launch the Bell Telephone Company. However, he surrendered most of his Canadian rights to his father. That same year, he married an American woman and he eventually became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1882.

Bell and his family spent their summers on Cape Breton Island and he divided his time between the two countries. He eventually died in Nova Scotia in 1922.

So technically speaking, Bell was American, but he wasn’t one when he invented the telephone. It was in Canada where he came up with the idea for the telephone, a fact the U.S. president did not mention during his speech. 

As one Twitter user put it, he was someone “we can all celebrate together.”

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