Speed Reads

history's calling

Canadian tax dispute questions if Alexander Graham Bell really invented the telephone

A tax dispute in Canada has turned into a referendum on history.

Alexander Graham Bell's descendants have accused a tax adjudicator of bias after he suggested Bell isn't solely responsible for inventing the telephone, Canada's National Post reported.

Bell's family claimed the inventor's Nova Scotia estate, which they still own, was overvalued in a recent tax assessment. But when they appealed the evaluation, they received a decision from Bell denier and tax adjudicator Raffi Balmanoukian.

"I confess I am not a fan of [Bell's] claim to fame," Balmanoukian added into his denial, prompting the Bell family to accuse him of bias in the case.

Balmanoukian shared his support for Antonio Meucci, an Italian-American immigrant who designed a "talking telegraph" in 1849 and filed his caveat — the step before a patent — in 1871, per the Library of Congress. But Meucci wasn't financially able to renew the caveat, and Bell filed his telephone patent in 1876.

In his decision against the Bell estate, Balmanoukian wrote that if Meucci "had renewed his patent office caveat for his 'sound telegraph' this appeal may not have been before me today."

The U.S. backed up Balmanoukian's 142-year-old grudge in 2002 with a House resolution honoring his contributions to the telephone's invention and implying Bell couldn't have done it without Meucci's start.

But Canada fired back just weeks later, as a parliamentarian literally called for the speaker to "inform the U.S. Congress that indeed, yes, Virginia, Alexander Graham Bell did invent the telephone."

Hey, Canada? Pettiness is calling, and it's for you.