Described as a bearded rustic tinkerer from Yellow Breeches Creek, Pennsylvania, he claimed to have invented a telephone using a teacup as a transmitter as early as 1867, but had been too poor to patent it then. In a lower court his case was well-financed by the People’s Telephone Co. and brilliantly argued in court by Lysander Hill. But he “blew it” by drawling in court "I don’t remember how I came to it. I had been experimenting in that direction. I don’t remember of getting at it by accident either. I don’t remember of anyone talking to me of it." The lower court findings were confirmed by the Supreme Court in 1888, as noted in The Telephone Cases.
Drawbaugh was born on July 14, 1827, in Cumberland County's Eberley's Mills which is just outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. According to his obituary printed in the New York Times on November 4, 1911, he invented many appliances, for example: pneumatic tools, hydraulic rams, folding lunch boxes, coin separators and even is said to have invented a wireless phone that could be used 4 miles away. He died November 2, 1911 in his laboratory while working on a wireless burglar alarm. Many of his surviving York County relatives attended a ceremony to dedicate a historical marker located at the site of the inventor's workshop and home in 1965.