Black History Now 2021

Granville T. Woods Activity: Can You Hear Me Now? (String Telephone)

Ages 5+years, adult assistance and preparation required

Granville T. Woods was born on April 23, 1856 and was sometimes referred to as “The Black Edison.” He dedicated his life’s work to developing a variety of inventions, many relating to the railroad industry. Woods’s most important invention was an apparatus that combined a telephone and a telegraph. The device, which Woods called “telegraphony,” allowed a telegraph station to send voice and telegraph messages over a single wire. The multiplex telegraph, also known as the “induction telegraph,” or block system was patented in 1887. The device allowed workers to communicate by voice over telegraph wires, ultimately helping to speed up important communications and, subsequently, preventing crucial errors such as train accidents.

string phone
Traffic LIsghts

What You Need:

  • Cups: paper or plastic
  • String or yarn.
  • Scissors
  • Screwdriver

What to Do:

For the adult to do:

  1. Tie off knots to the ends of 3 foot lengths of yarn.
  2. Mark and carefully create holes in the bottom of two cups with the scissors or screwdriver.
  3. Place the knots into the bottoms of two paper cups.
  4. One child places the open part of the cup to their ear. Another child places the cup over their mouth.
  5. If the cups are pulled so the yarn is tight, one child will hear the other child when he/she talks or sings into the cup!

Additional Information:

Granville T. Woods developed an improved steam boiler in 1884. He also invented the first electric railway that was powered with electric lines from above the train. Previously the lines had run along the tracks and been quite dangerous to pedestrians. In addition to these inventions, Woods also created the first telegraph service that allowed messages to be sent from moving trains. This invention dramatically improved railroad safety. Woods also invented several improvements to the airbrakes used on locomotives and other large machines.

About Mr. Woods