The Legend of Samuel Morse

The LegendSamuel Morse was born on April 27, 1791 in Charleston, Massachusetts to Elizabeth Breeze Morse and Jeddidiah Morse. Born the first son of a young colonist minister, Samuel would soon have two brothers, Sidney and Richard Cary.

Both Samuel Morse’s parents had deep family histories in education. Elizabeth’s grandfather had been president of Princeton College and Jeddidiah had a degree from Yale. He also wrote the first geography textbook in America.

Samuel, although not outstanding in academics, soon showed a great talent for drawing. His artistic talents helped him work his way through Yale College. While studying there, he found himself doing miniature portraits on Ivory. During this time at Yale, Morse would meet two great artists, Washington Allston and Benjamin West. These two men were great mentors for Morse and encouraged him to set goals for his future. Morse then persuaded his parents to send him to England, where he studied at the Royal Academy in London. Morse’s talents were soon recognized in England, where he won a gold medal from the Adelphi Society of Arts for his sculpture of the dying Hercules.

Morse returned to the United States via a two month voyage. While working in Concord, Mass. Morse would meet his bride to be, Lucretia Pickering Walker. They were married soon after Morse had won a commission to paint a portrait of President James Monroe. Following the marriage would be hard financial times for the young couple. Luciietia was forced to move back to New Haven, Connecticut, while Samuel searched for more commissions.

It was during the painting of a portrait of Marquis De Lafayette that news of his wife’s death would arrive. Morse’s portrait of Lafayette still hangs in the New York City Hall and is acclaimed as one of the finest works of art from America.

Although not widely known today Morse, was a key figure in the nationalism movement of early America. This group with a nationalist belief, also opposed the increase of the Catholic presence in America. Not much is written about this “know nothing” political group except that they worked against the Irish Catholics who they had thought could not fathom the America heritage.

On a return trip from Europe, Morse formulated his first hypothesis regarding the possibility of transmitting information by electric impulses. Although he had no formal education in matters of electricity, Morse had always been interested in and had done small experiments with electricity. He had a vision of long distance communication and was working on this theory. In 1837, Morse applied for and received his first patent. This patent included his code of dots and dashes, “The Morse Code”, a mechanism for sending and receiving information across wires and a code dictionary. In that same year Morse began to implement his telegraph on a national level.

Initially, Congress was not exited about this new method of information transmission. Morse was not deterred by this and set sail for Europe to attain foreign patent rights. Europe would not grant patents although they appeared to be enthused about this process. In 1843, Congress awarded Morse $30,000 to construct a telegraph line between Baltimore and Washington DC When the line was finished, a good friend of Morse’s was dispatched to send the first message, “what had god wrought”. Finally, Morse began to receive the acclaim and financial success he so rightly deserved. Even after this success, Congress was not sure what impact the telegraph would have on America or the World. Soon the telegraph was being implemented across the country and later under sea cables were laid to connect the US and Europe.

During this time of working with the telegraph Morse was also studying a new photo process developed in France by Lonis Daquerre. Soon Morse would improve and teaching this process to his American students. Morse was later given the nickname “father of photography”.

When Samuel Morse died in New York City on April 2, 1872 the world lost an inventor and a great communicator. As a tribute to Morse telegraphs were received from around the world by the thousands.

More Legends