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 Antonio Santi Meucci

Photo added by Max Pepe

Antonio Santi Meucci

  • Birth 13 Apr 1808 Toscana, Italy
  • Death 18 Oct 1889 New York, USA
  • Burial Unknown
  • Memorial ID 10711947

Antonio Santi Giuseppe Meucci was born in Florence on 13 April 1808.

He was admitted to the "Accademia di Belle Arti" on 27 November 1821, and remained in the Academy six years, following the schools of Chemistry and Mechanics, the latter encompassing all of the known physics of the time.

From 1823 to 1830 he was employed as customs officer at the gates of Florence.

In October 1833, he was hired at the renowned Teatro della Pergola, as assistant chief mechanician. In 1834, he set up an acoustic-pipe telephone (still existing today) to allow communicating from the stage to the maneuver trellis-work.

In 1833-1834, he was involved in the conspiracies for the liberation of Italy, and served many months in jail with the famous patriot F. D. Guerrazzi.

On 7 August 1834, he married Esther Mochi, a costumer in the Pergola's tailor shop.

On 7 October 1835, having accepted the job of chief engineer, and his wife Esther the job of chief costumer, in the magnificent "Gran Teatro de Tacón" of Havana, they embarked in Leghorn on the brig "Coccodrillo" with 81 members of the Italian Opera Company. They arrived in Havana on 17 December 1835.

The Tacón Theater in 1868. Notice, at the left of the theater, the two-story apartment building and the protruding low building, accommodating the theater workshop.

On 12 January 1836, the Italian Opera Company debuts at the Teatro Principal. Shortly after, Meucci solves the problem of purifying, by chemical processing, the water supplied to the city of Havana.

On 15 April 1838, the Gran Teatro de Tacón is inaugurated. The Meuccis move to an apartment adjacent to the theater (see figure above).

In 1844, having obtained a four-year contract from the Governor to galvanize supplies for the army, Meucci sets up the first electroplating factory of the Americas. In the same year, his family is blessed by the birth of a girl.

On 16 December 1844, an evening in honor of Antonio Meucci is held at the Gran Teatro de Tacón.

On 18 April 1847, Meucci is entrusted with the reconstruction of the theater, which was severely damaged by an unusually strong hurricane. He designs a new ventilation system to avoid the roof being taken off again.

In 1848, Meucci sends money to Garibaldi, to help Italy's independence war.

In 1849, Meucci performs experiments on electrotherapy. While administering electrotherapy to a patient, he discovers the transmission of speech by electricity.

In 1850, having expired their contract with the Cuban impresario, Don Francisco Marty y Torrens, the Italian Opera Company leaves Havana for the USA. The Meuccis, following the death of their child, embarked on the brig Norma on 23 April 1850 and arrived in New York on 1 May 1850. They brought with them about 26,000 pesos fuertes, equivalent to some $ 500,000 of today.
In early October, 1850, the Meuccis went to live in a cottage on Forest Street (now Ditson Street), in Clifton (Staten Island), NY. The cottage and the adjacent land were later purchased by Meucci. Gen. Garibaldi and other Italian exiles were hosted and helped by him.

In 1854, Meucci's wife, Esther, aggravated her rheumatoid arthritis, to the point that she could seldom leave her bedroom. Meucci set up a telephone link between her room and his work places, where he tried many different instruments.

In 1861, victim of dishonest speculators, he lost his house and all his money. From then on, he would always live in destitute conditions.

In 1866, in the imminence of the third independence war of Italy, he was appointed president of a committee in New York, to form a military corps of volunteers to fight in Italy.

On 30 July 1871, he was heavily scalded during the explosion of the boiler of the Staten Island ferry Westfield and remained three months in despair of his life. He lost his job and, thereupon, was bound to live on the charity of his friends.

From 1878 to 1880 the overseers of the poor of the county helped him with small sums of money and goods for his necessities of life.

On 21 December 1884, his wife, Esther, passed away.

On 18 October, 1889, Antonio Meucci died in his cottage, at the age of 81. [Bio by Max Pepe]

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