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Immigrant Entrepreneur Hall of Fame: Alexander Graham Bell

AT&T logoCountry of origin: Scotland

Year came to U.S.: 1871

Businesses: AT&T (1875), Verizon (1983), Avaya(2000)

Headquarters: Dallas, TX (AT&T),
Basking Ridge, NJ (Verizon)

2015 revenue: AT&T, $146.8 billion; Verizon, $131.6 billion and Avaya, $4.1 billion

Worldwide employment: AT&T, 281,450; Verizon, 177,700 and Avaya 11,656

Ranked 10 (AT&T) 13 (Verizon) and 581 (Avaya) in the 2015 Fortune 500

 

  • Alexander Graham Bell is recognized as the inventor of the telephone and the man responsible for spawning a global telecommunications industry.
  • His mother and wife were both deaf, triggering his early interest in speech.

 

Photo of Alexander Graham BellAt age 24, Bell arrived in Massachusetts from Scotland to teach Visible Speech at the Boston School for Deaf Mutes. Bell’s mother and wife were both deaf and his father, grandfather and brother had also done extensive work with speech. This deep interest in the mechanical reproduction of speech lead to his invention of the telephone.

In 1875, while he was a professor at Boston University’s School of Oratory, he founded American Bell. In 1876, he introduced the telephone to the world at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.

The American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) was incorporated in 1885 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Bell, chartered to build and operate the original long-distance telephone network. Four years later, it acquired the assets of American Bell and became the parent company of the Bell System. By 1915, AT&T’s network extended from New York to San Francisco.

In 1984, the Bell system was divided into eight companies. One of them, Bell Atlantic, grew into the company we now know as Verizon, which today boasts revenues of nearly $132 billion (2015). Another, Lucent Technologies, later spun out its enterprise communications group into the company now known as Avaya. AT&T went on to become the largest communications holding company in the world with revenues in 2015 of $147 billion.

Updated August 2016

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