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Antonio Meucci • Deruta Ceramics

Antonio Meucci • Deruta Ceramics

Did you know?
Antonio Meucci invented the first telephone several years before Alexander Graham Bell was recognized as the father of telephony. Born Antonio Santi Giuseppe Meucci on 13 April 1808 in San Frediano near Florence, the brilliant inventor studied at the Florence Academy of Fine Arts.

In 1835 he moved with his wife first to Cuba and then to America. In 1850 he constructed an early form of the telephone when Bell was only 2 years old in Scotland. Acclaimed General Giuseppe Garibaldi lived at his home for four years, worked at Meucci’s candle factory, and used one of his first models of the telephone. U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 269, passed on 11 June 2002 in the 107th Congress states, “it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the life and achievements of Antonio Meucci should be recognized, and his work in the invention of the telephone should be acknowledged.” Vito Fossella, a U.S. Congressman for Staten Island, N.Y., authored the resolution. Meucci died on 18 October 1896 in Staten Island, New York, and 113 years after his death he was afforded the recognition he earned. For a complete story about Antonio Meucci and House Resolution 269, read more at the bottom of this issue.

Famous Italian
Raphael was born Raffaello Sanzio on 6 April 1483 in Urbino. A Renaissance painter and architect, Raphael is remembered for his exquisite Madonnas, the large figure compositions in the Vatican and for creating the winged, angel-like dragons that carry his name to this day in Deruta ceramics. Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, painted in 1513, depicts the Virgin Mary with Christ as a child and two of the most famous and internationally known angels at the bottom of the painting. 

Raphael worked as one of the leading architects for building St. Peter's Basilica. He drew cartoons for Sistine Chapel tapestries, and was named chief for the excavation of ancient Rome. Raphael died on his 37th birthday in 1520. His funeral mass was celebrated at the Vatican and he’s buried in Rome’s Pantheon, a place of great honor where two of Italy’s kings were later buried.

New phrase
In bocca al lupo. Literal translation: Into the mouth of a wolf. Similar to “break a leg” it’s used to wish someone good luck, for example before an exam. The common reply is then: "Crepi!" which literally means "May it (the wolf) die!" (so I can do well).

Place to visit
Deruta. Fodor’s praises Umbria as the “…birthplace of saints, heart of Italy and home to some of the country's greatest artistic treasures-- Umbria is at once ancient and timeless.” The famous Tevere (Tiber) River flows through Deruta all the way to Rome. Prominent in the town center is the Gothic style Church of San Francesco built in 1388. Ceramic lovers start to rev their engines as they draw nearer to the quaint medieval town of Deruta, home to 7,000 people and world capital for hand painted Maiolica pottery found in homes, villas and finer stores around the world. Raffaello created the famed angel-like dragons that bare his name.  

Hotel, Restaurant & Bar
Asso di Coppe. Via Tiberina 200, Deruta, PG Perugia 06053.  Tel: 0759710205 Lina Mancinelli, her daughter Imola Romoli and Francesco Roscini, their kids Andrea Roscini and Fabiola Roscini Marchi run a comfortable, clean and reasonably priced hotel with a popular restaurant. Homemade lasagne is a favorite. Excellent wine selection. Bar and restaurant closed Mondays.

Giorgio Lungarotti. Torgiano, PG Perugia. It’s hard to imagine Torgiano without Lungarotti and vice versa. If Umbria has a name as a wine region, much of the credit must go to the pioneering work carried out at this estate by its charismatic founder Giorgio Lungarotti and to a territory that stimulated and accommodated his lucid, visionary “follies”. The founder passed away in 1999. Now it is his daughters, Chiara Lungarotti and Teresa Severini who run the estate that was founded in 1962. They remain guided by tradition but have invested heavily and especially in the last few years, they have given a new look to their wines. When in Torgiano, be sure to visit Lungarotti Winery at Via Mario Angeloni 16 and the Wine and Olive Oil museums in the town center. The Wine Museum boasts 2,800 pieces displayed in 20 rooms and some of the artifacts date back to Roman, Etruscan and Greek times.

Italy Heralded by Mauro Battocchi, former Consul General of Italy in San Francisco:
The Designs of Mice and Men

The first computer mouse was wooden. Designed by Douglas Engelbart in 1967, the gadget was essentially a wooden block with two wheels on it. Rudimentary to say the least, but the mouse marked a huge step forward in computer user interface. Check it.

Guerrino de Luca, the former Italian CEO of Logitech, recently let us in on a little secret. The boss (of the company made famous by the first wireless mouse in 1991) has one of these wooden buggers at the Logitech headquarters in Newark, California. It may seem trivial, but this device is the prototype for a device that quite literally covers the entire planet. Computer engineers would go knock-kneed in its presence. That wooden mouse spawned a basic design that has been replicated millions, if not billions, of times.

Mice themselves might begin to worry that they will be over taken in number by the computer mouse. Way to go, Dr. Engelbart!

In 1983, Apple designer David M. Kelley developed Apple’s first mouse. His innovation on the design was to incorporate a trackball, which in turn rotated two perpendicular wheels. In vintage Apple style, the mouse had one big, friendly button. Don’t you remember those mice? Taking out the track ball and cleaning the dust from the little wheels? Minute work…fit for a mouse.

Apple is founded on design, and the designer of the Apple mouse wisely chose Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass to create his house in Woodside, California.

Sottsass is an icon of Italian design, stunning critics for decades with his work in architecture, furniture, jewelry, glass, lighting and office machines. He even work the 1959 Compasso d’Oro prize for his work on the Elea 9003, the first Italian mainframe computer. He has a gift for taking the ordinary and breathing creative life into it. Check out his Valentine typewriter created for the Olivetti company in the 50’s. It would be hard to decide whether to use it to draft an essay or take it out for a glass of wine. Gorgeous.

Sottsass’s work, among with a slew of fantastic Italian designers past and present is on display at Milan’s Triennale Design Museum. Located inside the Palace of Art building next to the Castello Sforzesco, this world-class museum houses contemporary Italian design, architecture and media arts and serves as the venue for the Milan Triennial Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Modern Architecture.

Italy is an epicenter, from which flows creative design that influences the world over. (Indeed, the Triennalle also manages a museum located in Tokyo.) As we move into the 2013 Year of Italian Culture in the United States, I’d like to do some research on some of the great Italian designers, artists and creators –  past and present – many of which have their work featured at the Triennale, and share it with you.

Supplement for story about Antonio Meucci, Inventor of the Telephone

  • U.S. House Resolution 269
  • Antonio Meucci Story
  • Sons of Italy Honors
  • Basilio Cataniaas "Vindicator" of Antonio Meucci

H. RES. 269

11 June 2002

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives to honor the life and achievements of 19th Century Italian-American inventor Antonio Meucci, and his work in the invention of the telephone.



Mr. FOSSELLA submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Government Reform. (Twelve members of the U.S. House of Representatives were cosponsors. The Resolution passed on 11 June 2002.)



Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives to honor the life and achievements of 19th Century Italian-American inventor Antonio Meucci, and his work in the invention of the telephone.

Whereas Antonio Meucci, the great Italian inventor, had a career that was both extraordinary and tragic;

Whereas , upon immigrating to New York , Meucci continued to work with ceaseless vigor on a project he had begun in Havana, Cuba, an invention he later called the “teletrofono”, involving electronic communications;

Whereas Meucci set up a rudimentary communication link in his Staten Island home that connected the basement with the first floor, and later, when his wife began to suffer from crippling arthritis, he created a permanent link between his lab and his wife’s second floor bedroom;

Whereas, having exhausted most of his life’s savings in pursuing his work, Meucci was unable to commercialize his invention, though he demonstrated his invention in 1860 and had a description of it published in New York’s Italian language newspaper;

Whereas Meucci never learned English well enough to navigate the complex American business community;

Whereas Meucci was unable to raise sufficient funds to pay his way through the patent application process, and thus had to settle for a caveat, a one year renewable notice of an impending patent, which was first filed on 28 December 1871;

Whereas Meucci later learned that the Western Union affiliate laboratory reportedly lost his working models, and Meucci, who at this point was living on public assistance, was unable to renew the caveat after 1874;

Whereas in March 1876, Alexander Graham Bell , who con-ducted experiments in the same laboratory where Meucci’s materials had been stored, was granted a patent and was thereafter credited with inventing the telephone;

Whereas on 13 January 1887, the Government of the United States moved to annul the patent issued to Bell on the grounds of fraud and misrepresentation, a case that the Supreme Court found viable and remanded for trial;

Whereas Meucci died on 18 October 1896, the Bell patent expired in January 1893, and the case was discontinued as moot without ever reaching the underlying issue of the true inventor of the telephone entitled to the patent; and

Whereas if Meucci had been able to pay the $10 fee to maintain the caveat after 1874, no patent could have been issued to Bell: Now, therefore, be it Resolved That it is the sense of the House of Rep resentatives that the life and achievements of Antonio Meucci should be recognized and his work in the invention of the telephone should be acknowledged.



An invention none of us could live without,  a tool of modern communications so basic that many of today's business and social activities would be inconceivable in its absence, the telephone, is at the center of a series of events so strange as to amount to a "whodunit."

Most of us were brought up on the story of Alexander Graham Bell, the romantic figure of an inventor with dash and charm.  Some of these favorable impressions must have come from the famous, if apocryphal, "Come here Watson, I want you" legend of the invention of the device, a tradition augmented by the movie version of the tale, in which actor Don Amiche became more or less permanently attached to the persona of Bell.

But it seems that history must be rewritten if justice is to be done to an immigrant from Florence, Italy: Antonio Meucci, who invented the telephone in 1849 and filed his first patent caveat (notice of intention to take out a patent) in 1871, setting into motion a series of mysterious events and injustices which would be incredible were they not so well documented.

Meucci was an enigmatic character, a man unable to overcome his own lack of managerial and entrepreneurial talent, a man tormented by his inability to communicate in any language other than Italian.  The tragic events of his personal and professional life, his accomplishments and his association with the great Italian patriot, Garibaldi, should be legendary in themselves but, curiously, the man and his story are practically unknown today.

Antonio Meucci was born in San Frediano, near Florence on 13 April 1808.  He studied design and mechanical engineering at Florence's Academy of Fine Arts and then worked in the Teatro della Pergola and various other theaters as a stage technician until 1835, when he accepted a job as scenic designer and stage technician at the Teatro Tacon in Havana, Cuba.
Absolutely fascinated by scientific research of any kind, Meucci read every scientific tract he could get his hands on, and spent all his spare time in Havana on research, inventing a new method of galvanizing metals which he applied to military equipment for the Cuban government; at the same time, he continued his work in the theater and pursued his endless experiments.
One of these touched off a series of fateful events.  Meucci had developed a method of using electric shocks to treat illness which had become quite popular in Havana.  One day, while preparing to administer a treatment to a friend, Meucci heard an exclamation of the friend, who was in the next room, over the piece of copper wire running between them.  The inventor realized immediately that he held in his hand something much more important than any other discovery he had ever made, and he spent the next ten years bringing the principle to a practical stage.  The following ten years were to be spent perfecting the original device and trying to promote its commercialization.
With this goal, he left Cuba for New York in 1850, settling in the Clifton section of Staten Island, a few miles from New York City.  Here, in addition to his problems of a strictly financial nature, Meucci realized that he could not communicate adequately in English, having relied on the similarities of Italian and Spanish during his Cuban residence.  Furthermore, in Staten Island, he found himself surrounded by Italian political refugees; Giuseppe Garibaldi, when exiled from Italy, spent his period of United States residency in Meucci's house.  The scientist tried to help his Italian friends by devising any number of industrial projects using new or improved manufacturing methods for such diverse products as beer, candles, pianos and paper.  But he knew nothing of management, and even those initiatives which succeeded were to have their profits eaten up by unscrupulous or inept managers or by the refugees themselves, who spent more time in political discussion than they did in active work.

Meanwhile, Meucci continued to dedicate his time to perfecting the telephone.  In 1855, when his wife became partially paralyzed, Meucci set up a telephone system which joined several rooms of his house with his workshop in another building nearby, the first such installation anywhere in the world.  In 1860, when the instrument had become practical, Meucci organized a demonstration to attract financial backing in which a singer's voice was clearly heard by spectators a considerable distance away.  A description of the apparatus was soon published in one of New York's Italian newspapers and the report together with a model of the invention were taken to Italy by a certain Signor Bendelari with the goal of arranging production there; nothing came of this trip, nor of the many promises of financial support which had been forthcoming after the demonstration.

The years which followed brought increasing poverty to an embittered and discouraged Meucci, who nonetheless continued to produce a series of new inventions.  His precarious financial situation, however, often constrained him to sell the rights to his inventions, and still left him without the wherewithal to take out final patents on the telephone.
A dramatic event, in which Meucci was severely burned in the explosion of the steamship Westfield returning from New York, brought things to an even more tragic state.  While Meucci lay in hospital, miraculously alive after the disaster, his wife sold many of his working models (including the telephone prototype) and other materials to a second hand dealer for six dollars.  When Meucci sought to buy these precious objects back, he was told that they had been resold to an "unknown young man" whose identity remains a mystery to this day.
Crushed, but not beaten, Meucci worked night and day to reconstruct his invention and to produce new designs and specifications, clearly apprehensive that someone could steal the device before he could have it patented.  Unable to raise the sum for a definitive patent ($250, considerable in those days), he took recourse in the caveat or notice of intent, which was registered on 28 December 1871 and renewed in 1872 and 1873 but, fatefully, not thereafter.
Immediately after he received certification of the caveat, Meucci tried again to demonstrate the enormous potential of the device, delivering a model and technical details to the vice president of one of the affiliates of the newly established Western Union Telegraph Company, asking permission to demonstrate his "Talking Telegraph" on the wires of the Western Union system.  However, each time that Meucci contacted this vice president, a certain Edward B. Grant, he was told that there had been no time to arrange the test.  Two years passed, after which Meucci demanded the return of his materials, only to be told that they had been "lost." It was then 1874.
In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell filed a patent which does not really describe the telephone but refers to it as such.  When Meucci learned of this, he instructed his lawyer to protest to the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, something that was never done.  However, a friend did contact Washington, only to learn that all the documents relevant to the "Talking Telegraph" filed in Meucci's caveat had been "lost." Later investigation produced evidence of illegal relationships linking certain employees of the Patent Office and officials of Bell's company.  And later, in the course of litigation between Bell and Western Union, it was revealed that Bell had agreed to pay Western Union 20 percent of profits from commercialization of his "invention" for a period of 17 years.  Millions of dollars were involved, but the price may been cheaper than revealing facts better left hidden, from Bell's point of view.
In the court case of 1886, although Bell's lawyers tried to turn aside Meucci's suit against their client, he was able to explain every detail of his invention so clearly as to leave little doubt of his veracity, although he did not win the case against the superior - and vastly richer - forces fielded by Bell.  Despite a public statement by the then Secretary of State that "there exists sufficient proof to give priority to Meucci in the invention of the telephone," and despite the fact that the United States initiated prosecution for fraud against Bell's patent, the trial was postponed from year to year until, at the death of Meucci in 1896, the case was dropped.
The story of Antonio Meucci is still little known, yet it is one of the most extraordinary episodes in American history, albeit an episode in which justice was perverted.  Still, the genius and perseverance of an Italian immigrant - genius, poor businessman, tenacious defender of his rights against incredible odds and grinding poverty - is a story which must be told.  Antonio Meucci is waiting to be recognized as the inventor of a key element in our modern culture.      

Source:   The Italian Historical Society of America

Sons of Italy Honors Basilio Catania as "Vindicator" of Antonio Meucci
Press Contact: Diane Crespy, 202/547-8115

For Immediate Release:

WASHINGTON , November 21, 2002. The Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA) has officially recognized telecommunications scholar Dr. Basilio Catania of Turin, Italy, for his research documenting Italian inventor Antonio Meucci's contributions to the development of the telephone, an invention generally attributed to Alexander Graham Bell.

The award was presented to Catania at an Oct. 12 banquet ceremony in Rome, during an official visit to Italy by the OSIA leadership. OSIA National President Robert Messa presented the certificate of recognition to Catania for his 12 years of telecommunications research that has provided significant evidence of Meucci's rightful claim to the invention of the telephone, as well as his development of five fundamental techniques of telecommunications.

Based on this, Catania has proved that Meucci's laboratory notebook was not a forgery, as had been charged by the Bell Company. Previous research also revealed that Meucci demonstrated his invention, which he called the telettrofono, in 1860, 16 years before Bell was granted a patent. In dire financial straits, Meucci was unable to afford the fees to patent his invention.

Catania's extensive search in about 50 archives and libraries in various countries and his study of their relevant documents also uncovered a mass of unpublished information on the suit brought by the U.S. government against Alexander Graham Bell and the Bell Company, which would have annulled the Bell patent. Meucci died in 1896 before the government could complete its case, and history all but forgot him until Catania began his research.

Catania 's discoveries have been published in a number of scientific magazines and have been also filed with the U.S. Congress in support of a resolution acknowledging Meucci's merits. (See below). Catania also lectures on Meucci and has created an Internet site on the inventor ( ).

As the oldest and largest national organization for men and women of Italian descent in the United States, OSIA was a major force behind the passing of a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives last June, which recognized Meucci's contributions to the development of the telephone.

Last year, OSIA launched a grassroots campaign, urging its members and supporters to write to their congressional representatives in support of the resolution introduced by Rep. Vito Fossella (N.Y.). Now that the House resolution has passed, OSIA is helping to have a similar resolution introduced in the U.S. Senate.

OSIA also owns and operates the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum in Staten Island, N.Y., which is one of only two ethnic museums in the U.S. that are designated national historic landmarks. The museum is the home Meucci once lived in. Meucci's friend, Italian unification leader Giuseppe Garibaldi, also lived here as Meucci's guest for four years. [See or call 718.442.1608 for more information on the museum.]

Established in 1905, OSIA has more than 575,000 members and supporters and a network of 700 chapters coast to coast. OSIA works at the community, national and international levels to promote the heritage and culture of an estimated 26 million Italian Americans, the nation's fifth largest ethnic group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. To learn more, visit OSIA on the Web at

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