Veditz’s Obit for AG Bell: ‘Tis true, ’tis pity; Pity ’tis, ’tis true.

I love primary documents so deepest gratitude to Patricia Raswant for bringing this treasure of George W. Veditz’s obituary to AG Bell to my attention many moons ago. (see below the intro for the Obit).  Don’t know who Veditz is – waaaahhhhh where have u been? see link

diagram from Gray's patent caveat (Feb 14, 1876) sketch from Bell's lab notebook (March 8, 1786) see Seth Shulman's Telephone Gambit

Note: folks might want to skip down to the section under the blue text because the first part is a hats off to AG Bell for inventing the telephone but it has since been proven that Bell did a lot of unethical dealings re: the phone (See more smoking guns in Seth Shulman’s Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell’s Secret [note there are probably more secrets to be chased]  and see Dr. Harry Lang’s A Phone of Our Own: The Deaf Insurrection Against Ma Bell which shows that the telephone was not a friend to the Deaf – it led to the unjustified justification of  large scaled employment discrimination against Deaf folks for nearly a century – still does today “Can you talk on the phone?” ask the job interviewer).  Veditz knew the damage of the phone for Deaf folks and hence wrote to AG Bell in 1915 with an appeal.  (See last paragaph) Did i mention i love primary documents?  big thanks to KC for finding Veditz’s old letters to Bell:

to see the full letter click image or go to

full letter re: a teleVISION for the eye go to:

We can’t change history if we dont know it.  Read below and understand why we STAND.

This is why, this is why we fight – PEACEFULLY!

Veditz’s Obituary for Alexander Graham Bell

The Jewish Deaf October 1922, pp. 13-15

De Moruis Nil Nisi Bonum

[About the Dead Men Say Nothing Unless Good]

By George W. Veditz

Alexander Graham Bell is dead.

He was one of the greatest benefactors of the human race. Through his invention he added to the span of live of every inhabitant of civilized countries where telephone is used, for whatever contrivance saves time adds to one’s hours of life and there is perhaps no greater time-saver than the telephone. The young man or woman of twenty-five years of today has lived more, has seen and experienced more than the ancient champion exemplar of longevity who, tradition says, saw the seasons change and re-change nine hundred and sixty-nine times. The telephone, by saving countless steps, countless mintues has been among the agencies that made this possible.

When one stops to analyze the thousand and one ways in which the telephone enters into our daily life one is amazed. It is one of the modern wonders of the world. The seven wonders of the old time world were the products of thousands of toilers, often driven by the lash, but our modern miracles were the achievement of single brains. Beginning with the invention of gunpowder by the monk Berthold Schwarz and of the art of printing by John gutenberg, of Mayence, through the successive advancements of the race marked by steamship, the automobile and aeroplane: the telegraph, and its children, the telephone, phonograph and radio; Daguerre’s invention and its latest development, the cinema; each had its birth in an idea, an ideal, sprung from some single mind.

The achievement of the telephone is Bell’s alone. It has been improved and perfected by the discoveries and suggestions of others, but the fundamental idea of conveying speech and sound over long distance was Bell’s, and for this conception the world will everlastingly remain his debtor. The world rewarded him with a large fortune, but many, many times short of the service rendered. It was fitting that when his body was lowered into the rock-hewn grave at Beinn Bhreagh, the thirteen million telephonic tongues in the United States should be silent for the space of sixty seconds. That they, like the tongue of their originator, should become everlastingly silent, would be a calamity.

By giving it the telephone Alexander Graham Bell became one of the world’s greatest uplifters. As such those who cannot hear join those who can hear in paying tribute to his name and memory.

It should be added that a more courteous, affable gentleman never existed, nor one possessed of a character more flawless.

 NOTE: this obituary was written in 1922.  Seth Shulman’s The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell’s Secret (2008) offers oodles of evidence that Bell plagiarized and stole the telephone.

It is still impressive to see Veditz’s skilled use of metaphors and language and beginning at the 5th paragraph we see Veditz sing many truths about Bell and his destructive relationship with the Deaf community, Deaf culture, and American Sign language.

Back to Veditz’s Obit to AG Bell:

The deaf as a class have had little cause to love him because of the nature of his interference in their affairs. Neither his great inventor nor his great wealth rendered him infallible, but the fame of the one and the glamour of the other made him the most powerful and influential figure in America deaf-mute education for thirty years past.

He chose to use this wealth and influence along lines that have been constantly condemned by the great mass of the educated deaf of our country.

He denied these educated deaf the privilege to decide which methods and means of education were best for the younger generation of their kind.

In this respect he was like the pigeon that defends its nest but not its eggs or young. He was concerned more with the manner of their education than with the deaf themselves.

He never attended their conventions or meetings for their own sake and to joy in the evidence they afforded for the advancement of the class.

He interfered with their personal liberties by trying to prevent their intermarriage. The deaf would have accepted the findings contained in his famous brouchure “A Deaf Variety of the Human Race” with equanimity and would have listened to its deductions had it been presented to them with any measure of kindly tact, but when, before submitting it to the deaf themselves, he submitted it as a Memorial to Congress with the undisguised suggestion that federal laws be enacted to prevent such marriage, he failed absolutely of the accomplishment of his purpose. Nevertheless the deaf are today more alive, perhaps, to the dangers of the intermarriage of certain case among them than any others. Their own common sense will lead to the coonsummation of the purpose Bell desired, and this without any of the undesirable publicity and stigma the manner Dr. Bell’s presentation to Congress of his Memorial brought about.

But the bitterest resentment of the deaf was brought about by Dr. Bell’s interference in their educational system.

He did not invent the oral method. It existed nearly one hundred years before Bell was born. Nevertheless the propaganda given this method at Bell’s instance has taught the great American public to believe that this method is a new, a very recent discovery.

He founded the Volta Bureau with the purpose of subsidizing this propaganda. In 1894 he hired the late Dr. Philip Goode Gillett, then ranking with Edward Miner Gallaudet as the greatest of American educators of the deaf to tour the country and use his persuasive arguments and eloquence to induce the heads of our schools to adopt the oral method. It was not so much the education of the deaf, per se that Dr. Bell was interested in as the oral method.

He literally sought to Prussianize our deaf school system.

He failed.

For the rest he manifested but small interest in the actual affairs of the deaf.

He was invited to attend a great national convention and with other leading advocates of his tenets to meet an equal number of leading deaf in a discussion of his method.

He declined.

He was invited to contribute to the Endowment Fund of the National Association of the Deaf.

He declined.

He was invited to contribute to the Moving Picture Fund of this Association.

He declined.

Finally as evidence of his utter ignorance of the processes obtaining in our American schools for the deaf I will quote the following excerpt from a letter written me in answer to one which I asked a delineation of his position on certain resolution adopted by the World Congress of the Deaf at St. Louis in 1904, and re-iterated at the Convention of the National Association at Norfolk in July 1907. I may later on publish this letter in full:

“You hold that the sign-language should also be employed in schools for the deaf; though why deaf children should be obliged to learn two distinct languages which one is sufficient, your resolution fails to state. In my opinion necessity alone could justify this and necessity has not been shown.”

Had Dr. Bell been at all familiar with our American schools for the deaf, he would have known that our pupils are OBLIGED to learn but one language, and that language is English. He would have known that the sign language is never taught in our school-rooms. He would have known that in Combined System schools the only persons really trying to LEARN the sign-language are or were hearing persons, desiring to acquire the best and readiest means of though-conveyance to the deaf.  He would not have been blind to the fact that even in “pure” oral schools is a sign-language always exists, used surreptitiously when the taskmasters are not looking.

Dr. Bell’s influence upon the American deaf has been negative. They would have welcomed him with open arms and gloried in his interest in them had this interest been expressed in a manner they could approve. He did not choose this last.

‘Tis true, ’tis pity; Pity ’tis, ’tis true.

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Deafhood Discussions » Veditz’s Obit for AG Bell: ‘Tis true, ’tis pity; Pity ’tis, ’tis true.
  2. ridor
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 17:20:31

    Every time I see this, I get chills all over!

  3. handeyes
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 17:52:09

    ya just made me eyes’ water with that sentiment ridor

    its a masterpiece ain’t it?

    thanks for tweeting it



  4. deafa
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 18:49:11

    I told my hearing sister a long time ago that “Isn’t it funny how a man invented telephone to help the deaf turns out the worst barrier for the deaf” we were talking about job opportunities and I explained how it difficult for me to understand the phone.

  5. Sheri A Farinha
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 20:35:57

    What an amazing post with so much history! Thank you Patti for your endless research to put this all together.

  6. ridor
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 22:33:34

    Patti, Patricia Raswant is a close friend of mine from college days. I need to get in touch with her ASAP. She’s not crazy about the internet but since I moved to Frederick, I’m so close to where she lives so there is no excuse for me not to see her sooner or later. She’s very good at hunting down the original documents, FYI.

  7. handeyes
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 22:49:18

    Sheri – it is amazing and thanks goes to the folks who keep feeding me the good stuff.

    we learning and sharing folks

    Ridor – glad u know Patricia – pls tell her howdy and thank u from me. I recently had the good fortune to meet her in Texas at a conference. I feel indebted to her cuz way back in the beginning she would allow me to run my long winded rants re: the Unity for Gallaudet protest on her ASL Community Journal – i reposted them all as one of the first blog entries at this People of the Eye place before her blog went poof.

    Really i wish i had had the chance to let her know at Texas how grateful i am for her support way back when. the kindness of strangers does exist on the net – i know there is alot of the other unkindness but by and large i see more of the communal support and sharing than the bad stuff

    i appreciate patricia for giving that space and in turn the courage to blog and also for her sharing that document with us also – and im think full that some times i save stuff and can actually find it later when i need it rather than it going poof from our views or MIA in my computer smile.

    pls give her my regards and gratitude. The work she does is real important



  8. handeyes
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 00:15:59


    wow some how i didnt see ur comment earlier

    thank u for sharing about that. yep folks still are EXCLUDED from jobs because of that dang ole phone – a ring a ling ling. Even when the job has nothing to do with phone use, Deaf folks were excluded because of it – “How will you let us know if you have to miss work because you are sick….” “How can we contact if….”

    for mill jobs, for factory jobs, for ……

    today still do get that kinda thing

    less now with the internet and vp but still does happen.

    audism is not cool eh?

    and thanks for nuttin’ AG Bell



  9. deafa
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 00:35:06

    phone is very important to get an interview appointment. If they know you are deaf, they are more likely turn you down on the spot.

  10. Patrick McCarthy
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 01:04:34

    Again, it is really amazing to see his yet another verbatim of Veditz to show his viewpoints, and thinking are very much alike with ours nowadays; it is like he had written this obit just this morning in year of 2011 🙂 Therefore our basic positions
    remain the same !!

  11. handeyes
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 01:25:44

    deafa – u r totally right. lots of Deaf folks debate if should list phone number and relay or should tell them they are Deaf before the job interview etc

    folks from the majority culture do not have all those pre-worries when applying for a job

    Patrick – i love how u wrote it. YES im so so moved to see us re-discovering our roots and cherishing them and honoring Veditz

    he signed in his famous “preservation of sign language” film – I hope you will cherish and DEFEND our beautiful sign language as the noblest gift God gave to the Deaf

    he was a very important champion for Deaf rights, Deaf culture, Deaf equality and ASL

    as were many other leaders and unsung heros

    we have great shoulders to stand on – we just gotta uncover them and see that history has been REPEATING itself for a mighty long time cuz they keep trying to make us forget we are Deaf and forget our history

    but we ain’t dumb soooo….. see u in DC folks



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