Bell told to put darning machine purchase on hold

Alexander Graham Bell

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In our world of electronic and digital communications, one wonders what evidence of our day-to-day lives will exist for our descendants in the next century. Modern technology has given us the ability to be in almost constant touch with one another. But, will our emails and texts still exist a hundred years from now? For decades, letter writing was often an everyday occurrence for most people. Keeping in touch meant sitting down with pen and paper. Receiving a letter was often an exciting event, especially from someone miles away. And, for many, including Alexander Graham Bell and his family, these letters were something to be kept, not simply discarded once read. The Bells were profuse writers and as a result, their story can be told today through thousands of letters.

Born in Scotland in 1847, Alexander Graham Bell lived a unique life. Influenced by his father, Melville, a professor of elocution, and his deaf mother, Eliza; the loss of his brothers, Melville and Edward, to Consumption; and marriage to his deaf pupil, Mabel Hubbard, Bell left a legacy to the world that few could imagine living without. How this came to pass is best revealed through the letters between these individuals. Here, we present those letters to you.

Written on the same day that Eliza penned her congratulatory letter to Alec with the news of his engagement, Eliza wrote this letter, informing him of the birth of Carrie’s son, George Melville Ballachey. With very strong attachment to her Bell relations, Carrie named her little boy both after his father, George, and in memory of Melly.

Box 518 P.O Brantford Ontario
Canada. Nov. 29th/75

My dear Aleck

On Wednesday last Carrie presented her gude mon with a fine little boy, who was in such a hurry to get into the world, that he made his appearance there before the Doctor arrived! She and George were here dining with us only two days before. Owing to the state of the weather and the roads, Papa had not been into Town for a day or two, and consequently we knew nothing about what had taken place, till last evening. This morning Mary and I dragged poor Polly over the muddy roads and deep ruts to see Carrie. She looked and felt remarkably well, and the little fat fellow under process of washing, seemed to be quite a Ballachey. We did not stay long, but in the meantime, the temperature became colder and we drove home over hardened roads, and through a blinding snow-storm. When our handkerchiefs were wet, we could neither of us get at our pockets where we had dry ones, so had to drive on with our faces and eyes plastered with snow.

I told you in my last, that Cathcart had lost his situation with Sullivan, through intemperance, but another letter has been received stating that Sullivan had tried him once more, but would give him only half the former salary. What a horrid vice intemperance is, and how it blunts every human feeling in the victim’s breast. The more Cathcart has, the more he spends to satisfy that demon within him, leaving his wife and family to scramble on as best they can. Poor Pollie is working herself to death to try to be independent of her husband. She had however great comfort in her children. By all accounts Percy is a noble fellow.

We hope my dear boy, that you continue as well and as happy as when you last wrote. I suppose you are at Cambridge today. Do not purchase the darning machine Papa kindly wrote about, till you hear more, because Lizzie takes charge of the darning and has done it so thoroughly that now there is very little to do. She could never manage a machine and has given up attempting to work even the ordinary sewing machine.

I do not know if you recollect Mr. Kennedy of Scotch song celebrity? He was a pupil of Papa’s 18 years ago, and during the week has been here with his family, giving two concerts, with which all who heard them were delighted. He, accompanied by four sons and two daughters, appeared on the orchestra, and five children we understand, were left in Edinburgh. He brought his daughters up to our house to see us, and was enchanted with the place.

All well in Town, Lizzie is spending a few days there. Christmas is drawing very near. How fast the weeks do go by, to be sure — it seems almost as if the last Christmas had only just gone. In three weeks more, we may hope to have you beside us again. We are all to spend Christmas day with your Uncle and Aunt.

Hoping that all is well with you, and with fond love in which your Father and Cousins unite
I am my dear Aleck
Your affectionate Mother
E. G. Bell

The Bell Letters are annotated by Brian Wood, curator, Bell Homestead National Historic Site.

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