When Woolloongabba was Wattle Scented

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Alexander Graham Bell Visits Brisbane, 1910...Thinks It's a Sh*thole.

Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, visited Brisbane in June 1910. Since inventing the telephone some 35 years earlier, he was travelling the world examining various social experiments of the time and one of his interests in Australia was the suffrage movement and the right for women to vote, he was keen to know how this particular "franchise" was working. Bell took some pride in inventing an industry that employed women on a large scale but he admitted at a dinner that this came about by more accident than purpose. The original telephone operators were men whom quickly proved too abrasive dealing with customers and the confusingly, frustrating new technology of the  telephone. Whilst Bell was in Brisbane, he went on a guided tour of the Brisbane telephone exchange and sent a typed note of thanks the Post Master General.

Before his departure from Brisbane for the Atherton Highlands, Bell spent some time with journalists from the The Courier newspaper and shared his thoughts on Brisbane.

"...and ended with a series of questions relating to Australian sewerage systems. On the last named subject he expressed disappointment at what he had so far seen in Brisbane, and astonishment at the comparative dearth of disease. In no civilised country, he said, except, perhaps, Japan, was there to be seen so primitive, sanitary arrangement as ours, and he was the more surprised because in other respects the country had shown itself to he so progressive."


The National Archives of Australia

'THE INVENTOR OF THE TELEPHONE.', The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), 13 June, 1910