[Picture: Drawing of the Telephone, Bell's Original]
In 1874, telegraph message traffic was rapidly expanding and had become "the nervous system of commerce" in the words of Western Union President William Orton. Orton had contracted with inventors Thomas Edison and Elisha Gray to find a way to send multiple telegraph messages on each telegraph line to avoid the great cost of constructing new lines.
When Bell mentioned to Gardiner Hubbard and Thomas Sanders (parents of two of Bell's students) that he was working on a method of sending multiple tones on a telegraph wire using a multi-reed device, Hubbard and Sanders began to financially support Bell's experiments. Patent matters would be handled by Hubbard's patent attorney Anthony Pollok.