Incredible find at a flea market in Brazil

Martin Butera, our editor in Brazil, South America, finds the phone of Alexander Graham Bell, more than 140 years old, in perfect condition

Martin Butera, author of this article, next to the “Holy Grail”, the first device manufactured in the workshops of the Chicago Company, especially for D. Pedro II, which was installed in the Imperial Palace of São Cristovão, in Quinta gives Boa Vista.

By: Martin Butera (PT2ZDX – LU9EFO)


Without a doubt, the telephone is among the most important inventions that revolutionized the world of telecommunications, which is why I decided to tell this exclusive story.

In the world of collecting there is what we could call the “Holy Grail”, those pieces that are tremendously difficult to find.

Today in this article I would like to share with you an incredible experience that I had when visiting a “flea market” in the capital of Brazil.

These markets emerged in the suburbs of Paris, France, in the 1880s, as a large open-air bazaar, which included the sale of clothing that, at that time, was often infested with insects, more precisely “fleas.” Little by little this practice spread throughout the world, especially in the United States, where it became known as a “flea market”, allowing for the most diverse exchanges possible and the sale of old, used and other goods. .

Returning to Brazil, today I will tell you about my journey in an antiques market, called in Portuguese “Bom e Velho”.

Located at its address: SMAS Special Area G Cj A Lots 13 and 14 – Guará, Brasília – DF

There I found objects from another era that allowed me to revisit special memories. That display case inherited from great-grandfather; Grandma’s sewing machine or the smell of leather on the couch at your parents’ farm are invitations to immerse yourself in the past.

Renewing emotional ties and transmitting historical knowledge through the purchase, sale and rental of antique pieces is the objective of the owner of this flea or antiques market.

With a look to the past and maintaining respect for the old, the store, “Bom e Velho” offers customers the experience of discovering precious things and finding their own memories stamped on products that have stood the test of time, preserving their brands. .

The Bom e Velho collection is made up of collectible pieces of the most diverse categories, original and restored antique furniture, antiques and authentic vintage objects. The space is a true paradise for collectors, as it has an extensive collection of vinyl records, model cars and drinks, old glasses and cans, among other gems.

Another differentiator of the store is the presence of industrial items, such as antique machines and machinery components that can be purchased in their original format or customized in the antique market’s own workshop.

Bom e Velho has a catalog of more than five thousand items, including rarities and curious pieces, such as bricks from the time of the Brazilian Empire, but without a doubt the most spectacular thing in this market is the “Holy Grail”, which I found, a telephone the time of Alexander Graham Bell and Dom Pedro II (emperor of Brazil).

The phone is located in a special room, to date there is only a record of 3 phones of this type in all of Brazil, here is one of them.

I invite you through this article to travel in time and discover this incredible story, dynamically reviewing in a simple and easy way the history of the telephone in Brazil.

Below I will leave you some photographs so that you can capture a little of the atmosphere of the place.

“Bom e Velho” flea market, in Brasília DF, capital of Brazil
Here you will find elements as diverse as: a hairdressing chair from the 50s,
an elevator, an old wall clock
Various interesting objects for our hobby
From pins, old refrigerators and Brazilian-made transmitters,
nothing is impossible to find at this flea market
Plates, posters, station clocks and much more…
Vinyl, lamps, posters and much more…
Burger ads, license plates, tables and much more…

Representation of the Emperor of Brazil Don Pedro II, testing the invention of Alexander Graham Bell

History of the telephone in Brazil.

Developed in 1876 by Scotsman Alexander Graham Bell from a prototype by Italian inventor Antonio Meucci, the telephone revolutionized the way people communicate around the world. Several countries immediately became interested in bringing the new technology to their territories.

Bell Telephone Company

The Bell Telephone Company was created in 1877 and by 1886, more than 150,000 people in the United States owned telephones. Bell company engineers made numerous improvements to the telephone, which became one of the most successful products. In 1879, Bell’s company acquired Edison’s patents for the carbon microphone from Western Union. This made the telephone practical for long distances, unlike Bell’s voice-operated transmitter which required users to shout into it for it to be heard on the receiving telephone, even over short distances.

On January 25, 1915, Alexander Graham Bell sent the first transcontinental telephone call, from 15 Day Street in New York City, which was received by Thomas Watson at 333 Grant Avenue in San Francisco, California.

The first telephone in Brazil

The telephone was first shown to the public on July 4, 1876, at the United States Centennial Exposition. D. Pedro II, then Emperor of Brazil, was one of those present at the event and was soon delighted with the novelty. His great interest helped attract the attention of many people who were there, and the invention was a public success. D. Pedro II decided to bring the novelty to Brazilian soil and, in 1877, the first telephone lines in the country were installed, connecting the Quinta da Boa Vista Palace with the residence of the emperor’s ministers. That’s how telephony began in Brazil.

The appearance of telephone exchanges in Brazil

Rio de Janeiro was the second city in the world to have a telephone line, after Chicago, in the United States. The device quickly became popular in Brazil, and the increase in the number of lines generated the need for the implementation of telephone exchanges. Operated by telephone operators, the exchanges manually connected users’ phones and calls were made.

After Rio de Janeiro, the states of São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul also received telephone exchanges and interstate calls became increasingly common. This time also marks the beginning of the commercial exploitation of telephone activities, through government concessions.

The evolution of devices

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, numerous studies were carried out on the telephone. Inventors around the world were looking for ways to improve the device, aiming to improve both its appearance and operation. In this sense, the appearance of telephones with numerical dials deserves to be highlighted. These dials emitted pulses that made direct dialing between two people possible, eliminating the need for operator-operated telephone exchanges.

Around 1963, with the advent of DTMF (dual-tone multi-frequency signaling) technology, rotary telephones were gradually replaced by those equipped with a numeric keypad. Numeric keypads made dialing easier and, since then, they have become the telephony standard, being used to this day in the most varied devices.

The cell phone

Telephony has always looked for a way to overcome its limits and evolve. In this context, in 1947 the first prototypes of what would become the cell phone emerged. This portable device, which propagates sounds emitted through electromagnetic waves instead of physical cables, gained popularity around the world, mainly starting in the 1990s.

Mobile phones are widely used in Brazil. According to data from the National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel), at the end of 2023, the country had more than 235 million mobile telephone lines in active use, an approximate average of 1.1 per inhabitant.

Telecommunications have been gaining more and more relevance over time, becoming part of the daily lives of companies and people, facilitating business and bringing those interested in communicating closer together. The telephone brought a change in the functioning of relationships around the world, and in the coming years even greater developments in devices and technologies related to this device of vital importance for modern civilization are expected.

Final conclusion by Martin Butera
Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone controversy

Retrato de Alexander Graham Bell (Dominio Público)

The invention of the telephone has always been a controversial issue in history. In fact, at the beginning of the 21st century a chapter was written that did justice to the true inventor of this device. Considered the inventor of the telephone for 150 years, Alexander Graham Bell, born on March 3, 1847 in Edinburgh, was deprived of such an honorable honor on June 11, 2002.

In 2002, the United States Congress approved resolution 269, which recognized that it was the Italian Antonio Meucci, who invented the telephone in 1854 (a device that the inventor called the telephone) simply to be able to connect his office with the bedroom. where his sick wife lay. Meucci, who gave a public demonstration of his device in 1860, was unable to renew the patent warning because of his financial hardship. If he had been able to pay the ten dollars necessary to maintain the caveat after 1874 he would not have been granted the patent to Bell.

Nor can the first phrase uttered through this device be attributed to Scottish inventor Graham Bell. The term “telephone” is due to the German scientist and inventor Johann Philipp Reis, who around 1860 uttered a phrase about a similar device, but never perfected it. This was much more extravagant than the one Bell would pronounce years later: “Das pferd frisst keinen gurkensalat” (The horse does not eat cucumber salad).

Graham Bell had to face more than six hundred lawsuits from his competitors, including inventor Elisha Gray and Meucci himself. Despite this, Bell always knew how to defend his rights in court, which earned him to be considered for years as the legal inventor of the telephone. The competition to know who was the first to file the patent application at the registry office was very close.

On February 14, 1876, a legal, technical, and historical battle began that has kept scholars busy for almost a century and a half. During this time, attempts have been made to answer several crucial questions: Which patent came to the office first? Which of the two inventions was the first? And, above all, did Bell plagiarize Gray’s transmitter after having access to his rival’s patent notice? Was that the key to Bell being able to transmit his first words by telephone on March 10, 1876?

Some authors such as A. Edward Evenson have defended the plagiarism hypothesis. Evenson, in his book The Telephone Patent Conspiracy of 1876, concluded that it was Graham Bell’s own lawyers, and not the inventor, who copied Gray’s design in the version of the patent that was eventually filed under the number US178399A. Likewise, in the work The Telephone Gambit, its author, Seth Shulman, extensively documented plagiarism. According to Shulman, this was made possible by the bribery of a patent examiner named Zenas Wilber. But on the opposite side, Bell’s supporters argued that his work was based on his own research and that Gray’s transmitter was not functional. Be that as it may, on March 7, 1876, Bell received the grant of the patent.

Original telephone found by Martin Butera of Alexander Graham Bell,
at a flea market in Brazil
It dates from the construction of the telephone in 1884, on the left its value in Brazilian currency, at the exchange rate something like 30 thousand dollars, not bad for an original telephone by Alexander Graham Bell
In the special room there are also other original telephones, radios and even a hairdressing chair from the 1930s
More radios and a beautiful television from the 60s

This article is accompanied by video images, please bring your cell phone closer to view the content

References: The author of this article relied on biographical data and material published in the book History of the Telephone and Telegraph in Brazil, 1851-1921 (by Victor Maximilian Berthold), consulted at the National Library of Brasília (Biblioteca Nacional de Brasília Leonel de Moura Brizola).

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
(Visited 24 times, 1 visits today)
Share this to your favourite social media
Comments: 0

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *