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1878 __ Queen Victoria and the telephone
Comment : In 1878, Queen Victoria used a telephone for the first time, after Alexander Graham Bell arranged a demonstration. A phone was placed on a piano and a series of songs played and sung for the curious monarch, who listened intently. In retrospect, this little incident seems charged with symbolism, a marker of the old age touching the new. But who had the honor of performing for the Queen, albeit telephonically ? Not a famous musician, nor even a Briton,, but rather an American journalist named Kate Field who'd been moonlighting for Bell as what we would now call a P.R. flack. With her knack for job-juggling, eye for the main chance and limitless energy, Field, an "unorthodox feminist" was herself a pure product of modernity, a self-invented dynamo chugging across the later 19th century like a locomotive in petticoats. (Ben Downing)Thanks initially to Sir William Thomson's praises, the telephone by itsellf would have made Bell a notable figure in England from the moment of his landing. [...] He had already given a telephone demonstration to leading citizens of Glasgow, where the next morning's newspaper posters blazoned the word "Telephone". [...] He did not accept all the lecture invitations that showered him thereafter, but over the next four months he gave at least ten telephone lectures in England and Scotland, mostly sponsored by scientific and technical societies, but drawing crowds of the general public to each.in two cases as many as two thousand. As in America, he took care to give due credits to his predecessors and now also the Providence experimenters. [...] Bell gave additional private demonstrations also, one from down in a Newcastle coal mine to the surface, one in London between divers and the surface of the Thames. Bell himself went down in a diver's helmet for a test and came up with bloodshot eyes and a headache. But the most notable provate demonstration was the one for Queen Victoria. Alexander Graham Bell not have remembered, but his father must have, that thirteen years earlier the Queen had chosen not to witness a demonstration of Visible Speech. Now it was the Queen's invitation that in January 1878 Bell set up telephone connections between Cowes, Osborne Cottage, and the Council Room at Osborne Hoise. In the Council Room on the evening of January 14, 1878, along with Princess Beatrice and the Duke of Conaught, Queen Victoria appeared in black silk and a widow's cap. [...] The line to Cowes had gone dead, and so the waiting singers and musicians in Cowes and London did not get the royal ear. But conversation go through from Osborne Cottage, and also a song by Kate Field, an American writer and journalist whom Reynolfs had hired to publicize the telephone. As Miss Field was about to sing "Kathleen Mavourneen", the Queen happened to be looking away, and os Bell, already habituated to his wife's deafness, touched the Queen's hand and offered her the instrument. This breach of court etiquette did not seem to faze the Queen, and for the onlookers it gave a fillip to the occasion. Within a couple of days, the story had Victoria smiling sweetly as Bell pulled at her arm. (Robert V. Bruce)
French comment : L'intérêt que la reine Victoria porta à Bell et à son représentant, le colonel W.H. Reynolds, en janvier 1878, contribua [...] à la popularité du téléphone. Le Times relata que "les festivités données en leur honneur à Osborne House se poursuivirent jusqu'à minuit, que Kate Filed y chanta "Comin' Thro' the Rye", et déclama au téléphone l'épilogue de "As You Like It" de Shakespeare [not verified] (In The Times, 16 janvier 1878, p. 9). (Charles R. Perry)
Original excerpt : « [Jan. 9, 1878] Madame,.Her Majesty the Queen expresses so much interest in the telephone that His Noble Lordship, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, suggests that a trial of this invention be made in the private parlors of the home office on Friday morning at eleven o'clock. The Earl of Beaconsfield concurs. You are hereby invited to be present and, if you are disposed, to sing some selections to be transmitted from the Library over the wire. His Lordship would be obliged with the favor. With respect, madame, I am, Yours, etc., [Lord] Beaconsfield. To Miss Kate Field.London, 115 Cannon St., Jan. 18, 1878. Miss Kate Field. Dear Madam,.I am requested by Sir Thomas Biddulph to convey to you Her Majesty's thanks for your assistance at the telephone experiment at Osborne. In his letter to me Sir Thomas says : I hope you are aware how much gratified and surprised the Queen was at the exhibition of the Telephone here on Monday evening. Her Majesty desires me to express her thanks to you and the ladies and gentlemen who were associated with you on that occasion. I am, Yours truly, Alexander Graham Bell.January 7th, Monday. I have already written twenty-one articles on the Telephone and inspired others. My idea is now to invite the Press to a Matinee Telephonique and get one general chorus of gratuitous advertising before the opening of Parliament, when everything will go to the wall.January 8th, Tuesday. Labouchere told Nash, the solicitor, that the Telephone was splendidly managed,.that he watched the way the subject was kept before the public without in any way having the suspicion of advertising. He little thinks that "Puss" of his "Truth " has had the management of it all. In my opinion, women of discernment manage the diplomacy of business infinitely better than men.January, 9th, Wednesday. The Queen has invited Bell to exhibit the Telephone at Osborne House on the 14th. Consequently I '11 delay the press meeting until two days after, which will be the day before Parliament meets. Am writing all the invitations myself, which is no joke. Shall be particular to include all the leading provincial papers. They make opinion.January, 11th, Friday. The Telephone needs managing, and [... ?]and I are going to Osborne with " the show." Miss Herring will accompany me. Went to Professor Bell's to-night and heard a quartette of tonic sol-fa singers. They sang execrably, but the effect through the Telephone was excellent. All the discords were set right by electricity apparently, and all shrillness taken out of the soprano. I sang through it to my own accompaniment, and they say both voice and piano came out splendidly.January, 14th, Monday. Drove early to Osborne Cottage, where Sir Thomas Biddulph invited me to come in the evening. Arrived there all fine in my new gown at 8.30 p. m. Met Lady Biddulph, Sir Thomas General Ponsonby, Mrs. Ponsonby, and others. Very polite, and very courteous about Telephone. I sang " Kathleen Mavourneen" to the Queen, who was delighted and thanked me telephonically. Sang " Cuckoo Song," " Comin' thro' the Rye," and recited Rosalind's epilogue. All delighted. Then I went to Osborne House and met the Duke of Connaught. Experiments a great success.January, 16th, Wednesday. To-day town all alive with the Telephone news furnished by me. Our Matinee Telephonique a great success. Quite two hundred persons were present, including the American Minister, Sir Julius Benedict, Hermann Vezin, Genevieve Ward, Colonel Forney, Du Maurier, and William Black. All delighted with Telephone. The lunch was good, and nobody wanted to leave. I was on my feet from 11 until 5.30, and when I got home I was deathly ill.January, 17th, Thursday. Tired fearfully. Took an electric bath to revive me. Colonel came in during the evening and said both he and Bell were delighted with my matinee. Bell says my "Times " article on Telephone is the best that ever was written. Now I want to give some Telephone concerts, and Colonel has promised to cable for Gower's Telephone harp. » (In Lilian Whiting, pp. 350-353)
Source : Downing, Ben (2008), "Locomotive in Petticoats", The New York Times, Sunday Book Review, May 18, 2008.
Source : Bruce, Robert V. (1990), “Bell: Alexander Graham Bell and the conquest of solitude”, Cornell University Press, pp. 240-241.
Source : Perry, Charles R. (1992), "L'Expérience Britannique 1876-1912 - Les années d'expectative", In "Réseaux", Année 1992, Vol. 10, No. 56, pp. 11-31.
Source : Whiting, Lilian (1900), "Kate Field, a record", Boston : Little, Brown and Co.
Urls : http://theater2.nytimes.com/2008/05/18/books/review/Downing-t.html?fta=y (last visited ) http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/reso_0751-7971_1992_num_10_56_2070 (last visited ) http://www.archive.org/stream/katefieldrecord00whit/katefieldrecord00whit_djvu.txt (last visited )

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