Bound to a life of tireless work and taxations, the children of immigrants no longer question the barriers to limitless personal achievement. While a very few wonder why their frustrations rarely allow escape into the true individual freedom of which America boasts, most simply satisfy themselves with banal consumer temptations.
Nevertheless, the “American” explosion in music, art, crafts, and technological arts followed the immigrants wherever they were forced to flee. When Antonio and Esther Meucci arrived in New York City, he was now forty-two. They made their home near Clifton, Staten Island.
Clifton was once a picturesque little town, nestled on a rocky ridge and surrounded by babbling brooks and lush forests. The year was 1850. The Meucci’s acquired a large and spacious house, filled with windows. Golden bright sunlight flooded the home in which Antonio devised the technology of the future. The rooms contained numerous pieces of striking art nouveau furniture which Meucci himself handcrafted. A beautiful four octave piano and several of these furniture pieces yet remain, the house itself having been declared a national monument.
His poor wife, now crippled completely, was confined to their second floor bedroom. It was there in Old Clifton that Sr. Meucci developed his “teletrofono”. The device was successively redesigned and improved until several distinct and original models emerged. Mundane needs being the primary necessity, Meucci developed a chemical formula for making special chemically formulated candles and opened a small factory for their production. His smokeless candles earned a moderate income by which the small family could maintain their place in the New World. Throughout the long years to come, he also supported countless others who were in need.
He patented this smokeless candle formula, along with several other chemical processes related to his small industry. Soon, Antonio found that his candles were sought by neighbors, parish churches, and small general stores. He therefore took his devotions, and went into production of the same. Marketing the product locally, he was now again able to supply his experimental facility. This was his encouragement. The inventions began flowing again like rich red wine.
Meucci installed a small teletrofonic system in his Clifton house, as he had done in Havana. Esther Meucci was now completely crippled with arthritis. Connecting his wife’s room to his small candle factory, Antonio could now speak throughout the day with his wife. The system lines were loosely wrapped up and around staircase banisters, through halls, across walls, and finally spanned the long distance to the factory building, naturally running slack in several locations.
Meucci made sure that the lines did not run tight in order to prevent wire stretching and cracking during winter seasons. In every model aspect, Meucci’s system was the prototype. Everyone of his surrounding neighbors had become personally familiar with his system, having been allowed to try “speaking over the wire.”
Meucci and his wife took boarders from time to time in order to afford minimum luxuries…the luxuries of ordinary people. When Garibaldi was exiled from Italy as an insurrectionist, he sought out Meucci. A small factory was established near his home for the manufacture of his chemically treated candles.
With this, his sole and sturdy financial source, Meucci continued his other beloved experiments. He had already established and regularly used several teletrofonic systems throughout his home and factory by 1852. Both he and Garibaldi walked, hunted, and fished in the lush greenery and flowing flowered hills of old Dutch Staten Island.
Each new teletrofonic design eventually was added to a growing collection box in the timber lined cellar. Improved models were made and brought into the general use of his system. With these modified devices it was effortless to communicate with his ailing wife, employees, and friends. Distances posed no problem for Meucci. His system could bring sound to any location. Numerous credible witnesses actually used his remarkably extensive telephonic system across the neighborhood. One such highly credible witness was Giuseppe Garibaldi himself.
Garibaldi was welcomed to live with the Meucci family in their modest Staten Island home for as long as he wished. Garibaldi, Meucci, and his wife vanquished sorrow and poverty with faith, hope, and love expressed in a myriad of ways. Each supported the other in the struggle against indignity, accusation, outrage, and all the particular little alienations imposed upon them. The Meucci household not unaccustomed to the deprivations through which character is developed.
Both Srs. Meucci and Garibaldi continued manufacturing candles and other such products of commercial value, supporting themselves and the needs of others in the new land. Frequent financial crisis never deterred his dream quest. Never did such reversals place a halt on Meucci’s laboratory experimentation or any of his devoted attentions.
As it happens in the course of time, new changes bring fresh opportunities and joys to lift tired hearts. The sun rose in the little windows after a long winter’s dream. An old friend from Havana came to visit Meucci and his wife. Carlos Pader wished to know whether Meucci had continued experimenting with his now famous “teletrofono”.
Pader was shown the results, but Antonio confessed the need for new materials. Both Sr. Pader and another friend, Gaetano Negretti, informed their friend Antonio that there was an excellent manufacturer of telegraphic instruments on Centre Street in Manhatten. And so, Sr. Meucci was introduced to a certain Mr. Chester, a maker of telegraphic instruments.
Mr. Chester was an enthusiastic and friendly tradesmen. He enjoyed speaking with Antonio. The two shared their technical skills in broken dialects. Meucci was always welcomed there on Centre Street. Meucci visited this establishment on several occasions to purchase parts and observe the latest telegraphic arts. It was here that Meucci “gained new knowledge”. He set to work, purchasing materials for new experiments. New and improved teletrofonic models began appearing in the neighborhood.
Meucci was methodical, thorough, and attentive to the unfolding details of his experiments. Meucci kept meticulous notes; a feature which later worked to vindicate his honor. He worked incessantly on a single device before making any new design modifications. Meucci’s creative talent and familiarity with materials allowed him to recognize and anticipate the inventive “next move”. In observational acuity, inventive skill, and development of practical products he was unmatched.
- LUMINOUS WORLD – Baron Karl von Reichenbach
- EARTH ENERGY & VOCAL RADIO: Nathan Stubblefield