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Alexander Graham Bell (1847 - 1922) was awarded the first US patent for the invention of the telephone in 1876, and after he demonstrated an early prototype at the 1876 Centennial in Philadelphia the telephone attracted worldwide interest. He founded the Bell Telephone Company in 1877, and by 1886 over 150,000 people in the U.S. owned telephones.

Some examples of trade cards showing telephones, the earliest of which was copyrighted in 1877, are shown here at 25 percent of actual size. Click on a card for a larger view and a description that includes the price it brought at auction (without buyer's premium).