Collection of material by and about Mabel Hubbard Bell, Alexander Graham Bell, Alexander Melville Bell and education of the Deaf, 1872-1957

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Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library History and Special Collections for the Sciences
History and Special Collections Division for the Sciences
12-077 Center for Health Sciences
Box 951798
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Phone: 310/825-6940
Fax: 310/825-0465
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Descriptive Summary

Title: Collection of material by and about Mabel Hubbard Bell, Alexander Graham Bell, Alexander Melville Bell and Education of the Deaf,
Date (inclusive): 1872-1957
Collection number: 274
Extent: 21 folders (1 box, 0.5 linear ft.)
Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library.Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library History and Special Collections for the Sciences
Los Angeles, California 90095-1490
Abstract: A small collection of autograph letters, typescripts, reprints, photographs, and ephemera focusing on the teaching of speech to the deaf by Alexander Graham Bell, his wife Mabel Hubbard Bell, and his father Alexander Melville Bell. Included are reminiscences written by the Bells' two daughters about their illustrious parents and grandparents, letters from Mabel Bell to her younger daughter, a facsimile of a reader prepared by Alexander Graham Bell for one of his young deaf pupils, and a postcard written in "Visible Speech" from Alexander Melville Bell to one of his granddaughters.
Physical location: Biomed History and Special Collections Cage
Language of Material: Collection materials inEnglish


Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

Property rights to the physical objects belong to the UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library, History & Special Collections for the Sciences. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

Preferred Citation

Cite as: [Identification of item], Collection of material by and about Mabel Hubbard Bell, Alexander Graham Bell, Alexander Melville Bell and Education of the Deaf (Manuscript collection 274). Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library History and Special Collections for the Sciences , University of California, Los Angeles.

UCLA Catalog Record ID

UCLA Catalog Record ID: 6637990 

Acquisition Information

Purchased from aGatherin', February, 2004.


ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL (1847-1922) is world-renowned as a scientist and innovator, inventor of the first practical telephone. Less attention is usually paid to his deep interest in the problem of speech acquisition for the deaf, an interest that guided his early research on hearing and speech. Bell was born in Scotland into a family -- grandfather, father, brother -- who were all involved with elocution and speech, and both his mother and wife were deaf. The Bells moved to Ontario, Canada, mostly for health reasons. In 1871 the young Bell went to Boston in his father's stead to teach at the Boston School for Deaf Mutes and subsequently at the Clarke School for the Deaf, in Northampton, Massachusetts. By the next year Alexander Graham Bell opened a School of Vocal Physiology and Mechanics of Speech in Boston; he also established a highly successful private practice teaching language to the deaf. In 1873 he became Professor of Vocal Physiology and Elocution at Boston University. Throughout this period he had continued his experiments on hearing, hearing devices, and the transmission of sound and articulate speech but, finding the time for research to be insufficient, Bell gave up the private practice in 1873 and kept only two private pupils, George Sanders and Mabel Hubbard.
The fathers of these two pupils, Thomas Sanders and Gardiner Hubbard, were both well-established, wealthy men, who offered financial backing for Bell's further research into transmission of speech. The money enabled Bell to hire Thomas Watson, an engineer with the technical knowledge that Bell lacked, and together they continued experimenting with acoustic telegraphy. By 1875 Bell was able to submit a patent application for an acoustic telegraph and shortly after the patent was awarded, a prototype of the telephone was demonstrated at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. It was an immediate world-wide success. The next year Sanders, Hubbard, and Bell formed the Bell Telephone Company.
MABEL GARDINER HUBBARD BELL (1857-1923) was the daughter of Boston lawyer, financier, and philanthropist Gardiner Hubbard, and the granddaughter of a Massachusetts Supreme Court justice. Left completely deaf by an attack of scarlet fever at age five, she learned lip-reading and articulate speech and grew up well integrated into the hearing world. Mabel met Alexander Graham Bell at his school for the deaf in Boston, where she was his student; she also studied with him privately until Bell decided he would rather have her as a fiancé than a pupil. They were married in 1877. Mrs. Bell was well respected in her own right as a philanthropist and supporter of deaf education, carrying on the commitments her father had undertaken to aid the deaf community. She also supported her husband both intellectually and financially in his various research interests both during and after and the development of the telephone, such as constructing "a practical flying aerodrome or flying machine driven through the air by its own power and carrying a man."
ALEXANDER MELVILLE BELL (1819-1905) was a teacher and researcher of physiological phonetics, born in Scotland but later moving to Ontario, Canada. His father, Alexander Bell, under whom he studied, was an authority on phonetics and defective speech. Alexander Melville Bell lectured on elocution and philology at various universities in Scotland, England, Canada, and the Lowell Institute in Boston. In 1881 he moved to Washington, D.C., to teach deaf mutes by his "Visible Speech" method, a writing system he invented to help deaf students learn spoken language.
Visible Speech was a notation system for the sounds of speech, each of the symbols invented by Bell representing the positions and motions that the lips, tongue, mouth, etc. need to be in to articulate a particular sound. Visible Speech was independent of a particular language or dialect and was widely used to teach students how to speak with a "standard" accent. Visible Speech, also known as the Physiological Alphabet, was used in the education of the deaf for a dozen years or so, but was then found to be more cumbersome than other methods and was largely abandoned.

Scope and Content

This small collection includes autograph letters, typescripts, pamphlets and ephemera dealing with three generations of the Bell family. Highlights are the reminiscences of the Bell daughters about their parents and grandparents, letters from Mabel Bell to her younger daughter, Marion, and a facsimile of a reader prepared by Alexander Graham Bell for one of his pupils.
The collection is organized into the following series:
  • Series 1. Mabel Gardiner Hubbard Bell and the Clarke School for the Deaf.. six folders
  • Series 2. Alexander Graham Bell.. ten folders
  • Series 3. Alexander Melville Bell.. five folders

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


Clarke School for the Deaf
Bell, Alexander Graham, 1847-1922
Bell, Alexander Melville, 1819-1905
Bell, Mabel Gardiner Hubbard, 1857-1923
Deaf children -- Education
Deaf children -- Language
Hearing-Impaired Persons -- education

Container List


Series 1. Mabel Gardiner Hubbard Bell and the Clarke School for the Deaf.

Physical Description: six folders
Box 1, Folder 1

"Mabel Hubbard Bell -- 1859-1923", a reminiscence by Caroline A. Yale. 1923

Scope and Content Note

four-page reprint with illustration of Dr. and Mrs. Alexander Graham Bell in the garden of their Nova Scotia home; the text includes quotes from Mabel Bell's speech of 1894 [see next entry]


from: "The Volta Review", March, 1923
Box 1, Folder 2

A speech by Mabel Bell on speech-reading, presented to the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf. 1894

Physical Description: 18 p. (9 sheets)

Scope and Content Note

Mabel Bell's typescript, with editing in her own hand; she describes her own experiences, and summarizes into six propositions
Box 1, Folder 3

"Mrs. Alexander Graham Bell -- a reminiscence", by Mrs. Gilbert Grosvenor [nee Elsie Bell]. 13 June 1957

Physical Description: 10 p. (5 sheets)

Scope and Content Note

printed and typescript versions of a speech given at a Clarke School Alumni Association reunion


Mrs. Grosvenor was the Bell's older daughter
Box 1, Folder 4

Letters from Mabel Bell to her younger daughter, Marion (Daisy). 1913-1919

Scope and Content Note

four partial or whole letters, mostly discussing family matters; Mrs. Bell speaks at length about the grandchildren who are staying at their Nova Scotia home, their schooling, friends, etc.; there is some mention of Montessori schools
Box 1, Folder 5

"The Montessori Method and New York Children". 1910

Physical Description: 15 p. booklet, 4.25 x 5.5"

Scope and Content Note

a booklet published by The Montessori Educational Association, New York chapter, outlining plans for establishing a Montessori school in the lower East Side of New York, in a 77th St. tenement


these family members served as officers of the New York Chapter: Mrs. Alexander Graham Bell, President; Gilbert H. Grosvenor [son-in-law], Treasurer; Alexander G. Bell, Charles J. Bell and Gilbert H. Grosvenor, Trustees; Mrs. David Fairchild [daughter], Executive Committee
Box 1, Folder 6

Photograph of Harriet Burbank Rodgers. undated

Physical Description: 6.5 x 9.5"

Scope and Content Note

bust portrait with caption on back; Harriet B. Rogers was the first principal of the Clarke School for the Deaf, 1867-1886, a pioneer oral teacher of the deaf

Series 2. Alexander Graham Bell.

Physical Description: ten folders
Box 1, Folder 7

Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell), Washington, D.C. undated

Scope and Content Note

typed sheet with two paragraphs on the purpose and founding of AG Bell, which includes a quote from a letter by A. Graham Bell: "Now we shall...teach speech to little deaf children...."
Box 1, Folder 8

Letter requesting the story of the introduction of the telephone at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia 20 March 1922

Physical Description: 2 p. (2 sheets)

Scope and Content Note

J. Hampton Moore, Mayor of Philadelphia, requested a statement that could be used for publication in connection with the upcoming Sesqui-Centennial in 1926


the story is told by Elsie Bell Grosvenor in a reminiscence of her mother - see Folder 3
Box 1, Folder 9

Printed fee schedule: "Mr. A. Graham Bell's Card of Terms". 1872

Physical Description: 1 p., 5.5 x 6.5"

Scope and Content Note

rates are listed for Private Instruction, Instruction of the Deaf in Speech, and Teachers of the Deaf and Dumb


A. Graham Bell opened his Boston "School of Vocal Physiology and Mechanics of Speech" in October 1872; one of his pupils was Helen Keller, another was Mabel Hubbard; soon much of his teaching time was taken up by five-year old George Sanders, whose wealthy father offered Bell a place in Salem, Mass. where he could live, teach and continue his experiments on the transmission of sound
Box 1, Folder 10

Facsimile of a reader prepared by Alexander Graham Bell for George Sanders. 1873-1874, 1917

Physical Description: 23 p., photographs mounted on heavy paper, bound; 7.75 x 8"

Scope and Content Note

a note on the first page reads: "1331 Conn. Ave., Washington, D.C. March 24, 1915. This little book of pictures, accompanied by stories, was prepared in 1873 for the use of George Sanders, then about six years of age. It represents my method of teaching written language to a very young congenitally deaf child. Alexander Graham Bell"; each of the 18 handwritten stories is one page long, accompanied by an illustration, and some also have questions for the reader; a few of the illustrations are missing


the facsimile copies were produced for contributors to the Volta Bureau
Box 1, Folder 11

Printed reproduction of letter written by A. Graham Bell to Annie A. Sullivan, teacher of Helen Keller. 1892

Physical Description: 1 p. (1 sheet); 13 x 20 cm.

Scope and Content Note

Bell is asking for more specific details about Sullivan's methods with Keller, to help him and others understand better the process by which deaf children can learn language


Bell introduced Helen Keller to Miss Sullivan. Keller laid the cornerstone in 1893 for Bell's Volta Bureau building
Box 1, Folder 12

Two flyers for a speech by A. Graham Bell, "The Science of Speech". 1901

Physical Description: 4.5 x 7"

Scope and Content Note

two versions of an advertisement for the New York lecture announced by The Bell Visible Speech Club
Box 1, Folder 13

American Genetic Association. circa 1910

Scope and Content Note

pamphlet describing the American Genetic Association, of whose Council Bell was a member; also a printed "with the compliments of" slip from Bell


Bell was interested in the question of inheritance of deafness
Box 1, Folder 14

Business card from Japan. 1921

Physical Description: 3.25 x 1.75"

Scope and Content Note

card from Dr. med. Kozo Uchida, South Manchuria Railway Co., with the note "I am Isawa's cousin - he is dead 5 year ago"


Isawa, whom Bell had taught in 1876, had helped in the testing of the telephone at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia
Box 1, Folder 15

Group photograph. 29 August 1901

Physical Description: 8 x 10"

Scope and Content Note

five adults in a rural setting, including A.G. Bell and his wife Mabel
Box 1, Folder 16

Photograph of Alexander Graham Bell. 1918

Physical Description: 5 x 9"

Scope and Content Note

full-length snapshot, with caption on back, taken by J. Reynolds Madart in front of Gilmore Gymnasium, the Clarke School, on graduation day


Dr. Bell was President of the Clarke School Board of Corporators until 1922

Series 3. Alexander Melville Bell.

Physical Description: five folders
Box 1, Folder 17

"A Biographical Sketch of Alexander Melville Bell". 1898

Physical Description: 5.5 x 7"

Scope and Content Note

pen and ink portrait and two pages of text, from "The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography", published by James T. White and Co. as a small pamphlet
Box 1, Folder 18

Entry tickets to "Shakesperian Readings". circa 1881-1889

Physical Description: 4.5 x 3"

Scope and Content Note

"Shakesperian Readings" printed on white cards, signed "A. Bell in ink and numbered 81 and 83


A.M. Bell moved to Washington, D.C. in 1881 and began giving elocution lectures and and literary readings
Box 1, Folder 19

Tools for teaching Visible Speech to the deaf. 1892

Physical Description: pamphlet: 16 p., 6 x 8"; flash cards: 2 x 3"; projection cards: 4.5 x 4.5"

Scope and Content Note

instruction pamphlet titled "Bell's popular shorthand or steno-phonography", American version; 15 flash cards, each with a simple drawing of an object and the object's name both in letters and in shorthand; 5 projection cards
Box 1, Folder 20

Postcard in Visible Speech. 17 October 1897

Physical Description: 5.5 x 3.5"

Scope and Content Note

a postcard written in Visible Speech from A.M. Bell (signed AMB) to his granddaughter, Marion H. Bell at Mrs. Pitt's School, Utica, New York
Box 1, Folder 21

Reminiscences by Marion H. Bell Fairchild. undated

Physical Description: 12 p. (9 sheets)

Scope and Content Note

autograph pages of memories about her Hubbard and Bell grandparents


Mrs. Fairchild mentions the lessons in Visible Speech that her Grandfather Bell gave her [see previous folder]