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Legacies: Collecting America's History at the Smithsonian, by Steven Lubar and Kathleen M. Kendrick
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Alexander Graham Bell's telephone prototypes, 1876
Alexander Graham Bell's telephone prototypes, 1876

Prototypes—working models that allow an inventor to think through the problems of bringing an idea to life—document the inventive process. In 1908 Bell presented to the Smithsonian a collection of his early telephone apparatus. Included were the 1876 liquid transmitter that relayed Bell's famous command to "Mr. Watson," and these devices, made a few months later, which he showed off at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.

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