The Father-in-Law of the Telephone

A few years after the telephone was introduced to the masses, Mark Twain made it clear that he wasn’t a fan of the invention via an article he wrote for New York World. In response, Alexander Graham Bell‘s father-in-law – Gardiner Greene Hubbard – wrote a light-hearted letter to Twain. Soon after, the reply shown below was delivered to Hubbard in an enveloped addressed to ‘The Father-in-Law of the Telephone‘.


Hartford, Dec.27/90

Dear Sir:

I doubt if it can be arranged.

You see – 1. If it had not been for Professor Bell, there would not be any telephone; 2. & consequently no Hartford telephone; 3 – which makes him primarily & therefore personally responsible for the Hartford telephone. The Hartford telephone is the very worst on the very face of the whole earth. No man can dictate a 20-word message intelligible through it at any hour of the day without devoting a week’s time to it, & there is no night-service whatsoever since electric-lighting was introduced. Though mind you they charge for night-service, in their cold calm way, just the same as if they furnished it. And if you try to curse through the telephone, they shut you off. It is this ostentatious holiness that grovels me. Every day I go there to practice & always get shut off. And so what it amounts to is that I don’t get any practice that can really be considered practice. Well, as you see, yourself, the inventor is responsible for all this. For your sake I wish I could think of some way to save him, but there doesn’t appear to be any. Now, then, reconcilement to his fate will be the next best thing. Let him come up & work the Hartford telephone till he pines for the solace & refuge of his long lost home.

Meantime, good wishes & a Merry Christmas to you, sir!

Mark Twain