This month is the centenary of the death of the Scottish-American inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, whose most famous invention of the telephone is commemorated here in a 1940s poster by Eric Fraser. Bell made his world-changing breakthrough in 1876 aided by Thomas Augustus Watson positioned on the other side of the wall to take the call. The first recorded words on this new-fangled device were short and sweet: ‘Mr Watson – come here – I want you’.
Bell had hundreds of rivals racing to patent similar communication devices but he triumphed in cementing his claim. He was initially drawn to sound and speech research as both his wife and mother were deaf and he wanted to evolve technology and education for people with hearing loss. His invention continued to evolve in many ways that he predicted. He quickly started work on figuring out how we would be able to see each other on a call as well as hear each other, envisioning the live streaming video chat of today.
Eric Fraser (1902 – 1983) designed many beautifully illustrated posters for the General Post Office as well as publicity material for everything from bicycles to beer and soap to soup. He was most closely associated with Radio Times, illustrating programmes for the magazine from 1926 until the 1970s. He was also a fashion illustrator, a prolific designer of book covers, and a muralist at the 1951 Festival of Britain. His archive is now part of the V&A. You can see more of his work on Explore the Collections, or in person by appointment in the Prints and Drawings Study Room.