Four American Inventors - Frances Perry

Samuel F. B. Morse
The Inventor of the Telegraph

The Parsonage

Long ago in the days when George Washington was president of the United States, a comfortable dwelling stood at the foot of Breed's Hill on the main street of Charlestown, Massachusetts. There was a big knocker on the front door of this house. That was not strange, for many front doors in Charlestown had large brass knockers, and this was no larger and no handsomer than others. But probably no other knocker in the quiet little village was used so often in the course of a day as this particular one.

Men in broadcloth and men in homespun used that knocker. Liveried coachmen with powdered wigs gave dignified raps therewith, to announce the arrival of dainty ladies clad in rustling silks. Women in tidy calico gowns tapped gentle, neighborly taps with it. Important-looking men, on horseback, muffled in long black traveling cloaks, sometimes hammered away with respectful moderation. Poor people with sad faces and shabby garments came too, with modest, timid taps.



The door opened wide to all. Some staid within only a few moments; many made longer visits. But nearly all left looking well pleased with the world, for this was the home of Mr. and Mrs. Morse, and no one could look cross or unhappy after a visit with them.

Mr. Morse was a Congregational clergyman. He was a good preacher, and often his sermons were printed. He once sent to George Washington, with whom he was acquainted, a sermon on the duties of citizens of the United States, and the president wrote him a pleasant letter to thank him for it.

The First Congregational Church was filled every Sunday with men and women who were eager to hear what Mr. Morse had to say on religious matters. The church members were fond of their able preacher, and when he got married they showed their affections by the presents they gave to help furnish his house. He sent a list of these gifts to his father and here it is: "An iron bake-pan and teakettle; a japanned box for sugar; three iron pots, two iron skillets, a spider, loaf of sugar, mahogany tea table, five handsome glass decanters, twelve wine-glasses, two pint-tumblers, a soup-tureen, an elegant tea set of china, two coffee pots, four bowls, a beautiful lantern, a japanned waiter. "Some of these seem to us rather odd wedding presents, but Mr. Morse was well pleased with all of them. The simple, inexpensive articles prove that the poor as well as the rich wished to show their good will to their preacher.

Mr. Morse's influence extended beyond his church. He was widely known and respected. 'He was a graduate of Yale College; and had read and studied more than most men of his time. Distinguished foreigners traveling in America often brought letters of introduction to Mr. Morse and were entertained at his home.

Because he was a wide-awake man, interested in all questions of public importance, his own countrymen and fellow townsmen liked to discuss questions of the day with him. Business men were glad to talk over their affairs with a man who had such sound judgment and gave such sensible advice.

But not all of the guests at the parsonage came to see the tall, dignified young preacher who looked so grave and stern and talked so pleasantly. Mrs. Morse had many friends of her own. She belonged to a distinguished family. Her father was a judge and her grandfather had been president of Princeton College. She was well educated and very clever. Besides, she was gracious and kind-hearted, and knew how to make everyone feel at ease.

At first, the Charlestown ladies were afraid the young wife from New York would be a little stiff and formal. They were delighted to find her simple and friendly instead. She quite won the hearts of the plainer women by remarking that she liked Charlestown because the ladies were so informal and went calling in calico dresses. This remark was repeated on all sides, and the ladies soon felt free to "drop in" for neighborly visits. Sometimes she spent the afternoon reading to her friends from her favorite books. At other times she sewed, while she chatted with genuine interest about bed quilts, preserves, and other household matters; for she was a fine housekeeper.

When Mr. Morse had distinguished guests Mrs. Morse always helped him entertain them. The "elegant tea set of china" was then brought into use, and the guests were served by their hostess with fragrant tea and golden sponge cake of her own making. All were delighted by her ready wit and lively conversation. Colonel Baldwin, who came often to talk with Mr. Morse about a great canal which was being built under his directions, said afterwards: "Madam's conversation and cup of tea removed mountains in the way of making the canal." Most people found the parsonage an attractive place to spend an evening and soon became deeply attached to Mr. and Mrs. Morse. As time passed they gained a wide circle of friends.

On the twenty-seventh of April, 1791, their first son, the hero of our story, was born, and everyone had high hopes for the child of two such worthy parents. Dr. Witherspoon, the great scholar who had followed Mrs. Morse's grandfather as president of Princeton College, took the little one in his arms and bending his white head over the child, blessed him and prayed that he would live to be as good and great a man as his great-grandfather.

Others were as much interested but not so serious. Dr. Belknap of Boston wrote to Postmaster-General Hazard, in New York: "Congratulate the Monmouth Judge [that was the baby's grandfather] on the birth of a grandson. Next Sunday he is to be loaded with names, not quite so many as the Spanish ambassador who signed the treaty of peace of 1783, but only four! As to the child, I saw him asleep, so can say nothing of his eye, or his genius peeping through it. He may have the sagacity of a Jewish rabbi, or the profundity of a Calvin, or the sublimity of a Homer, for aught I know. But time will bring forth all things."

The four names that the wee, little baby was to be loaded with, were the names of his father, his grandfather; and his great-grandfather—Samuel Finley Breese Morse. They were well known and honored names when they were given to the baby; but they are better known to-day and more highly honored because he bore them.

Early Influences

The baby was christened Samuel Finley Breese Morse; and that name was written in the family Bible. But it was too long for everyday use and the child was called simply "Finley" by his parents and playmates.

Little Finley spent the first seven years of his happy childhood in the pleasant parsonage in Charlestown. He was trustful, and quick to make friends, and grew up to be a gentle, affectionate boy, obedient to his parents, kind to his little brothers, and polite to strangers. But he was by no means perfect, and his love of fun sometimes got him into trouble.

His education was begun very early. He was not sent to kindergarten, for there was no kindergarten then. But when he was four years old his father put him in charge of a poor old lady who kept a little primary school. This school was so near the parsonage that Mrs. Morse could stand at the front gate and watch the little fellow until he was safe inside the schoolhouse door. The teacher was known among the village people as "Old Ma'am Rand." That title does not sound very dignified, but the people who used it meant no disrespect to the aged lady. She, poor woman, was so lame that she could not leave her chair.

Now Dame Rand always remembered that the children were sent to her to learn to say their abc's, to count, to spell, to read, and to write. The wee tots did not always remember this, but sometimes seemed to think they were sent to school to whisper and play. At such times the teacher found that she could bring her wayward pupils to order most quickly by using a long rattan rod that, reached clear across the room.

One day Finley Morse was so quiet that she forgot he was in the room until she heard the boy who sat next to him laugh. Then she saw that Finley was drawing something on an old chest of drawers which stood at the back of the room. She reached out her long rattan and touched his shoulder. "What are you doing, Finley Morse?" she demanded, so sharply that Finley jumped and looked frightened.

"Just making a picture," he said, hanging his head while his comrade giggled.

"What are you making it with?" she asked.

"This pin," he answered, holding up a strong brass pin.

Then the teacher noticed that the other boy was looking at the drawing as if it were interesting, and she inquired grimly, "What is the picture?",

"A picture of a lady," replied the small culprit, looking exceedingly uncomfortable.

That was enough; the old lady knew quite well whose picture these little artists liked to draw, and she was not at all flattered by their choice. "Bring the pin to me," she commanded sternly.

The youngster, all unconscious of what was in store for him meekly obeyed. When he came within reach of the schoolmistress she grasped him firmly and taking the pin, pinned him to her own dress. She looked so severe that Finley was frightened. He screamed and struggled until he tore the teacher's dress and got away.

When Finley Morse was seven years old he had learned all that was taught at Dame Rand's school. His father wished him to have a good education. As there were no good public schools, Mr. Morse decided to send Finley to Andover, first to a grammar school, and then to Phillips Academy, where he should stay until he knew enough to enter Yale College.

Accordingly, as soon as Finley had finished the primary school his little trunk was neatly packed with new clothes, and the seven-year-old boy said good-by to his parents and younger brothers and the dear old home, and went off to live among strangers. He was a manly little fellow and had been brought up to look forward with pleasure to the time when he should be old enough to go away to school. He studied hard and was happy enough at school, but you may be sure he counted the days as vacation approached when he was to go home for a visit.

He was required to write often to his father to give an account of his life at school. His father was such a busy man that the great Daniel Webster said of him, he was always thinking, always writing, always talking, always acting. Yet he found time to write to his son long letters full of good advice. Finley read these letters over and over again and then put them carefully away. He saved some of them to the end of his life. Here is part of a letter which Mr. Morse wrote to his nine-year-old son:

Charlestown, February, 21, 1801.

My Dear Son: You do not write to me as often as you ought. In your next, you must assign some reason for this neglect. Possibly I have not received all of your letters. Nothing will improve you so much in epistolary writing as practice. Take great pains with your letters. Avoid vulgar phrases. Study to have your ideas pertinent and correct, and clothe them in easy and grammatical dress. Pay attention to your spelling, pointing, the use of capitals, to your hand-writing. After a little practice these things will become natural, and you will thus acquire a habit of writing correctly and well. General Washington was a remarkable instance of what I have now recommended to you. His letters are a perfect ,model for epistolary writers. They are written with great uniformity in respect to the handwriting and disposition of the several parts of the letter. I will show you some of his letters when I have the pleasure of seeing you next vacation, and when I shall expect to find you much improved.

"Your natural disposition, my dear son, renders it proper for me earnestly to recommend to you to attend to one thing at a time; it is impossible that you can do two things well at the same time, and I would therefore never have you attempt it. This steady and undissipated attention to one object is a sure mark of a superior genius; as hurry, bustle, and agitation, are the never-failing symptoms of a weak and frivolous mind. I expect you will read this letter over several times, that you may retain its contents in your memory. Give me your opinion on the advice I have given you. If you improve this well, I shall be encouraged to give you more, as you may need it. "

This letter shows us how much the father expected of his son and how anxious he was to have him improve in every way.

Finley did his best to fulfill his father's hopes. He read and wrote more than most of his classmates. He was especially fond of reading the lives of great men. When he was thirteen years old he wrote an essay on Demosthenes, which was so good that a copy of it was sent to his father who kept it as long as he lived.

When Finley Morse was fourteen years old he finished the course at the academy and was admitted to the freshman class at Yale college. Dr. Morse thought it wise, however, not to send him to college until he was a year older, and so the boy studied at home until the year 1807.

College Life

Dr. Timothy Dwight, the president of Yale College, and Dr. Morse were close friends. When Finley entered college his father wrote to President Dwight asking him to give some attention to the youth, who in spite of his long limbs seemed still a little boy to the affectionate father.

Yale was not so large then as it is now, and the president had an opportunity to get acquainted with many of the students. He took particular pains to be kind to his friend's son. But there never was a boy who stood less in need of a letter of recommendation.

Finley Morse was a fine looking lad, with his father's dignity and his mother's graciousness. Strangers were pretty sure to notice and like him. His teachers were fond of him because he was courteous and studious. He was very popular also with his classmates and took an active part in college life.

The long letters which he sent home regularly were full of news and enthusiasm. Whenever he learned anything that seemed new or wonderful to him, when he got acquainted with an interesting stranger, when he had taken part in any college affair, he thought his father and mother would like to hear about it.

In one letter which is still preserved he told about a meteoric stone which had fallen in Connecticut, not far from New Haven. In another, he told about the trials of the cooks who prepared the food at the college-boys' dining hall:

"We had a new affair here a few days ago. The college cooks were arraigned before the tribunal of the students, consisting of a committee of four from each class in college; I was chosen as one of the committee from the sophomore class. We sent for two of the worst cooks and were all Saturday afternoon in trying them: found them guilty of several charges, such as being insolent to the students, not exerting themselves to cook clean for us, in concealing pies which belonged to the students, having suppers at midnight, and inviting all their neighbors and friends to sup with them at the expense of the students, and this not once in a while, but almost every night. . . . I know not how this affair will end, but I expect in the expulsion of some, if not all, of the cooks."

Although Finley Morse was a leader in students' enterprises he never neglected his work. He did well in all classes, but he was especially interested and successful in chemistry and natural philosophy which were taught by Professor Silliman and Professor Day. It was in Professor Day's natural philosophy class that Finley Morse first became acquainted with the properties of electricity.

One day after a lecture on the mysteries of electricity Professor Day announced that he would try a few simple experiments. He told all the members of the class to join hands; then one student touched the pole of an electric battery and at the same instant every boy in the line felt a slight shock, which young Morse described as like a slight blow across the shoulders. This experiment was made to give the students some little notion of the marvelous speed with which electricity travels. Next the old laboratory was darkened and a current of electricity was passed through a chain and through a row of metal blocks placed at short distances from one another. The wondering boys saw the flash of white light between the links of the chain and between the blocks.

These simple experiments impressed at least one member of the class so deeply that he never forgot them. Finley Morse said to himself, "Here is a force which travels any distance almost instantaneously, and its presence may be shown at any point in its course by a break in the circuit. This could surely be put to some use in this great world." He wrote to his father giving him an account of the experiments; and, as he could not afford to go home the following vacation, he spent a large part of it making experiments in the laboratory. He had an inquiring mind, and liked to put in practice the theories which he learned in the class room.

During Finley's senior year his two brothers were also at college. One was in the first year, the other in the second. The three young men had great times together. One day they attracted & crowd by sending up a big balloon from the college campus. This balloon was eighteen feet long. The boys had made it themselves by pasting together sheets of letter paper.

Finley was skillful with his fingers and spent much of his time drawing faces and heads. The walls of his room were covered with crude portraits of his friends.

As years went by he enjoyed this pastime more and more, and though he had had no instruction in drawing and painting, he gradually gained through practice the power of making almost life-like resemblances.

Morse Family


The first group that he painted is poorly drawn but it is interesting because of the subject. It represents what was probably a typical scene in the Morse Household on vacation evenings when the boys were at home. Dr. Morse is standing back of a table with a globe before him. He is evidently explaining something to the members of his family who are grouped around the table in attitudes of close attention. The mother, who sits at one end of the table, has stopped sewing. The, largest boy, who must be the young artist himself, has one hand on her chair, and is leaning eagerly forward. The two younger boys, Richard and Sidney, stand at their father's left. The boys look very quaint and grown-up in their cutaway coats and high stocks. Dr. Morse was the author of a school geography which many of our grandfathers and grandmothers used in their school-days, and he took pains to interest and instruct his boys about far away countries and peoples. This picture was considered by the family a very fine piece of work.

Most of Finley Morse's early attempts at painting were limited to single portraits. As there were no photographers in those days and people liked to have their own and their friends' pictures taken, just as well as we do now, there was a great demand for small portraits or miniatures. Young Morse became so skillful in this work that in his senior year he was able to pay part of his college expenses with the money he earned by painting miniatures. He charged only five dollars for painting a miniature on ivory, and his friends kept him busy with orders.

In 1810, when nineteen years of age, Finley Morse completed his college course, and the grave question of what he should choose for his life work had to be settled.

Life in London

Finley Morse wished to be an artist. He spent the first year after finishing college at his father's home in Charlestown, studying and painting. Dr. Morse was disappointed over his son's decision, but when he found how determined the young man was to be a painter he did all he could to encourage and help him. He wished him to have every opportunity to make a success of the art he loved. He, therefore, agreed to furnish the money needed for three years of study in London, since there were no good art schools in America.

One of the most eminent American painters, Mr. Washington Allston, was then spending a year in Boston. Finley Morse made his acquaintance and arranged to go to London with him the next year, as his student. Accordingly, on the thirteenth of July, 1811, they set sail from New York harbor for England.

It was more than a month after his departure, from America before young Mr. Morse sat down in his lodgings in London to write the news of his safe arrival to his father and mother. In this letter he said:

"I only wish you had this letter now to relieve your minds from anxiety, for while I am writing I can imagine mother wishing that she could hear of my arrival and thinking, of thousands of accidents which may have befallen me. I wish that in an instant I could communicate the information; but three thousand miles are not passed over in an instant, and we must wait four long weeks before we can hear from each other."

He little thought then that the time was coming when news could be flashed across the ocean in a few seconds by means of his own invention.

Although so far from home Mr. Morse was very happy in London. He was so glad to be where he could learn to paint that he cared for little else. He breakfasted every morning at seven, and began drawing at half-past seven. He kept at his work from half-past seven in the morning until five in the afternoon. Then he dressed for dinner; and after dinner he took a little walk or went to visit Mr. and Mrs. Allston who lived near by and were always glad to see him. He was so fearful of wasting a minute that he did not even go around to see the famous sights of the great city. His father had given him some letters of introduction to his English friends. These men would have done what they could to make Dr. Morse's son have a pleasant time while in London if they had known he was there, but the young artist felt that he had no leisure for society, and did not deliver the letters.

There was, however, one man in London whom he was impatient to meet, and a few days after their arrival Mr. Allston took him to visit that man. This person was no other than Benjamin West, the great American artist who had been most highly honored in England. The king himself praised his pictures and had his portrait painted by him. West was president of the Royal Academy. Although he had lived many years abroad he loved his native country and was always kind to American artists.

When Mr. Allston introduced Finley Morse to him he received him kindly for the sake of his country and for the sake of Mr. Allston. But when the old artist who had listened to the praise of kings and princes saw this twenty-year-old American youth stand before his great pictures with his sensitive face aglow with appreciation and admiration, he said to himself, "The boy loves it." And from that moment he felt an affection for Mr. Morse for his own sake. He showed him his pictures and invited him to come to him at any time for help.

Mr. Morse wished to be admitted to the Royal Academy. But before this was possible he must prove himself qualified by making a fine drawing. The first weeks of his stay in London were devoted to that drawing. When it was finished he felt quite proud of it and showed it to Mr. West. The great master was highly pleased.

"It is a remarkable production, and you undoubtedly have talent, sir," he said. "It will do you credit when it is finished."

"Finished," echoed Morse in dismay. "It is finished."

"By no means. See this, and this, and this," said the older man pointing quickly here and there to imperfections which Mr. Morse recognized as soon as his attention was called to them.

He took the drawing home, and as he examined it with more critical eyes, discovered many places which needed touching up. After another week's work he again visited the artist. "I have finished it," he announced triumphantly.

"Not quite, my friend. Look at this muscle and these finger joints."

The crestfallen artist went to work once more. When he next took it to Mr. West he was greeted with the monotonous, "Very! good go finish it." His patience was exhausted and he said in discouragement, "I have done my best, I can do no more."

"Very well," said Mr. West. "That is all I want. It is a splendid drawing. I might have accepted it as you presented it at first, but that was not your best work. You have learned more by finishing this one picture than you would have learned by drawing a dozen incomplete ones. Success lies not in the number of drawings but in the character of one. Finish one picture, and you are a painter."

This lesson made Finley Morse think of the advice his father had given him when he was a little schoolboy.

After Mr. Morse had got well started in his work he gave a little more attention to the life around him. His father, finding that Finley would not hunt up his friends, wrote to them himself giving them his son's address. They sought him out, and thus the young man met many influential people whose friendship he prized through life. He visited the picture galleries, attended the theater occasionally, and went about the city a good deal. He became acquainted with Charles Leslie, a young American, who, like him, had come to London to learn to paint. These two young men formed a strong friendship.

Mr. Allston and Mr. West thought better and better of the young man the more they saw of him. But they did not neglect to do their duty as his teachers and tell him when he made mistakes. This was difficult for Mr. Allston, as he had a gentle, affectionate disposition, and it hurt him to see his young friend unhappy or disappointed. But he was too true an artist to tolerate poor work.

One afternoon he entered Morse's studio just as the latter was finishing what he believed to be a good day's work. The student looked up from his work with a bright face. He expected to see a look of approval on his teacher's face and to hear an enthusiastic "Excellent." Instead, Mr. Allston stood looking at the picture for some minutes in silence. Then he shook his head and said, "Very bad, sir, very bad." Mr. Morse turned red with mortification. He felt vexed with his friend, but controlled his temper and said nothing. The other went on, pointing to the figure on the canvas, "That is not flesh; it is mud, sir; it is painted with brick dust and clay." As Morse stood off and looked at the work he felt the truth of this criticism so bitterly that he was ready to dash his palette-knife through the canvas. But Mr. Allston quietly took his palette, helped himself to some fresh colors, and with a few touches, gave warmth and brilliancy to the painted flesh. He then stood by and gave directions while the young man tried his hand at it. When he went away, Finley Morse felt the deepest gratitude towards the friend who had made him realize how poor his work was, and had shown him that it was possible for him to improve it.

While in London Mr. Morse did two pieces of work which were so excellent that they astonished many of the older artists. One was a great painting of the dying Hercules. This picture was admitted to the exhibition of the Royal Academy at Somerset House. The critics spoke highly of it, and it was named among the twelve best pictures in an exhibition of two thousand. The other piece of work that attracted the attention of lovers of art was a cast of Hercules, which took the gold medal at the Adelphi Society of Arts.

During the last year of his stay abroad Mr. Morse tried to make a little money with his brush, but he could not sell any pictures. Frames, canvas, and colors were expensive, and the money his father had given him was nearly spent. He wrote home:

"I am obliged to screw and pinch myself in a thousand things in which I used to indulge myself at home. I am treated with no dainties, no fruit, no nice dinners (except once in an age, when invited to a party at an American table), no fine tea-parties, as at home. All is changed; I breakfast on simple bread-and-butter and two cups of coffee; I dine on either beef, mutton, or pork, baked with potatoes, warm perhaps twice a week, all the rest of the week cold. My drink is water, porter being too expensive. At tea, bread-and-butter with two cups of tea. This is my daily round. I have had no new clothes for nearly a year; my best are threadbare, and my shoes are out at the toes; my stockings all want to see my mother, and my hat is growing hoary with age. This is my picture in London. Do you think you would know it?"

In August, 1815, Finley Morse started for America. He was rich in knowledge, and experience, and friends, but he was poor in purse.


Samuel F. B. Morse, as he now signed his name, opened a studio in Boston. There he found many to praise his pictures but none to buy them. For a while he spent his idle hours inventing a powerful pump. But he was impatient to begin painting, and as no work came to him, he determined to go in search of some.

He knew that in the small villages an artist with a good reputation might succeed in getting some orders for portraits if he were willing to accept very low pay for his services. His father was well known throughout New England as a preacher and writer, and with the help of his friends the artist easily found employment for his pencil among the country people.

He painted portraits in one town until he had no more orders, then he went on to another. He asked only ten or fifteen dollars apiece for his portraits. But living was cheap, and he worked so rapidly that he was able to save money, notwithstanding these low rates. He had supposed that %this would be very distasteful work. But he took great satisfaction in earning his own money, and had many pleasant experiences. Indeed, it was on one of these portrait-painting tours that Mr. Morse met the beautiful Lucretia Walker, whom he afterwards married.

Some rich southern friends urged Mr. Morse to try his fortunes in Charleston, South Carolina. His uncle, Dr. Finley, who lived there, invited him to stay at his home. His first experience there was as discouraging as his winter in Boston had been. People were kind and friendly. They admired his pictures, but no one ordered any. He felt humiliated and made up his mind to go north again. Before going, he asked his uncle to let him paint his portrait as a return for all his kindness. This portrait was such a splendid likeness that nearly every one who saw it thought he would like to have Mr. Morse paint his picture also. Before long he had a list of one hundred and fifty people who had ordered portraits at sixty dollars apiece.

Mr. Morse's reputation as a portrait painter was soon made in Charleston. The citizens honored him with a commission to paint a portrait of President Monroe. Mr. Morse had a pleasant stay in Washington and painted a strong portrait. The president and his family liked it so much that they requested Mr. Morse to make a copy of it for them.

By dint of hard work Samuel F. B. Morse had succeeded as a portrait painter, but he was not content to spend his life painting portraits. He wished to stop painting merely for money. He was ambitious to paint beautiful landscapes and great historic pictures. But there was no opportunity to do such work in Charleston, and so he resolved to return to the North.

Before leaving the South, Mr. Morse, with the help of some of the leading men of Charleston, established an Academy of Fine Arts.

In 1820, Dr. Morse gave up his church in Charlestown, Massachusetts, and moved to New Haven. His son visited him there, and renewed his acquaintance with some of the college professors. Professor Silliman lived near to Dr. Morse, and Mr. S. F. B. Morse became deeply interested in the professor's electrical experiments.

In the fall he left his wife at his father's home and went to Washington to paint one of the great pictures he had planned. The subject of this picture was the House of Representatives. He worked on it fourteen hours a day and had high hopes for it. But although it was considered a splendid picture, he did not make any money from it. He was therefore obliged to resort to portrait painting again.

He tried at Albany, the capital of New York, but got, no orders there. Then he determined to seek his fortune in the great, rich city of New York. He knew he would have a hard struggle; but it proved even harder than he had expected. He had no money; he could get no work; his rent and board had to be paid. The only thing to do was to fall back once more on the portrait-painting tours.

After a profitable trip through several New England states, and a pleasant visit with his family, he went back to New York with new courage. This time he succeeded better. He had a few pupils and sold some pictures. In the middle of the year an unlooked-for piece of prosperity befell him. General Lafayette was visiting America. New York city wanted a life-sized portrait of the hero. Mr. Morse was chosen to paint it.

Mr. Morse wrote to his wife at once to tell her about his good fortune. He said: "The terms are not definitely settled. I shall have at least seven hundred dollars, probably one thousand." This seemed quite a fortune to the poor artist. He regretted that instead of going to New Haven for a visit with his wife, he would be obliged by his work to go to Washington. But he wrote home cheerfully: "Recollect the old lady's saying, often quoted by mother, 'There is never a convenience but there ain't one . . . I look forward to the spring of the year with delightful prospects of seeing my dear family permanently settled with me in our own hired house in New York."

A month later, on the eighth of February, he wrote Mrs. Morse a glowing account of his arrival at Washington and his meeting with General Lafayette. On that same day his father wrote to him from New Haven a letter full of sorrow telling him that, after a slight illness of two or three days, his fair young wife had died suddenly of heart trouble, and he would never see his beloved Lucretia again.

News traveled slowly by stage coach in those days, and this letter did not reach Mr. Morse until after his wife's funeral. He was almost crushed with grief. His return to New Haven could do no good; but he could not paint, and he wished to be among those who had known and loved his wife. He arranged to meet General Lafayette later in New York, and started immediately for New Haven. After a sorrowful visit there he returned to New York where he finished the portrait of Lafayette, which he afterwards described as follows: "It is a full-length, standing figure, the size of life. He is represented as standing at the top of a flight of steps, which he has just ascended upon a terrace, the figure coming against a glowing sunset sky, indicative of the glory of his own evening of life. Upon his right, if I remember, are three pedestals, one of which is vacant, as if waiting for his bust, while the two others are surmounted by the busts of Washington and Franklin —the two associated eminent historical characters of his own time. In a vase on the other side, is a flower the heliotrope with its face toward the sun, in allusion to the characteristic, stern, uncompromising consistency of Lafayette —a trait of character which I then considered and still consider the great prominent trait of that distinguished man. "

The artist's struggle seemed over. Now that he cared less to succeed he received more orders than he could fill. Mr. Morse, took an active part in the art life of New York. He organized the National Academy of the Arts of Design, and was made its president.

Abroad Again

When Dr. Morse died in 1826 he had the satisfaction of knowing that the son, for whom he had made many sacrifices, was regarded as one of the leading artists of America.

Mr. Morse had done much to arouse an interest in painting in America. He had lectured and writ ten on the subject; he had organized the Academy of Fine Arts in South Carolina, and the National Academy in New York; and above all he had used his brush constantly.

He stood at the head of his profession in New York. Rich men who had picture galleries began to think that their collections were incomplete unless they included one or two of S. F. B. Morse's paintings.

The artist realized that his countrymen had the greatest confidence in his knowledge and ability. He wished to deserve their good opinion and thought that it was his duty to go to Italy, the land of artists, to learn what he could from the pictures of the old masters.

When it was known that Mr. Morse was going to Italy to study and paint, his friends and admirers came to him asking him to paint something for them while he was away. One wanted him to copy some heads from Titian for not more than one hundred dollars; another was willing to give five hundred dollars for a little copy of "Miracolo del Servo;" others gave him money, leaving him free to paint what he chose for them. When he was ready to sail he had almost three thousand dollars' worth of orders.

Mr. Morse staid abroad three years. These were years full of pleasant experiences and successful work. He revisited London and saw his old friend, Leslie, now an eminent artist. Together they talked about their days of study under Allston and West, and laughed over their early struggles and ambitions.

Leslie introduced his American friend to the most prominent English artists. They were all very cordial to the distinguished representative of American artists.

While in Paris Mr. Morse ventured to call on General Lafayette. The general remembered instantly the man who had painted his portrait, and made him most welcome. I saw in the American papers that you had sailed for Europe, and I expected you to make me a visit," he said. Although then an old man he had not lost his interest in America and was glad to talk about our country's present, past, and future with one of her most patriotic citizens. The two men became good friends. They walked and rode together often, and General Lafayette invited Mr. Morse to visit him at his country home.

Mr. Morse came to know other distinguished men during his stay in Europe. He and the Danish sculptor, Thorwaldsen, became such good friends that he asked Thorwaldsen to sit for his portrait. He sent this portrait to one of the men who had given him one hundred dollars for painting any picture he might think suitable. This same picture was afterward sold for four hundred dollars. The buyer, hearing that Mr. Morse had expressed a wish to have this portrait that he might present it to the King of Denmark, generously returned it to him.

The American novelist, Cooper, and the American sculptor, Greenough, became friends and associates of Mr. Morse during his travels on the continent.

Mr. Morse spent a large part of his time in art galleries, studying the pictures of the great artists who had lived before him. Sometimes he brought his easel and canvas to the gallery and copied their work as closely as he could. In this way he learned a great deal.

He loved to be in the Louvre, the great art gallery of Paris. He wished every American artist might visit it. Then the idea of painting a picture of it occurred to him. It was a great undertaking and he did not wish to stay away from his own country much longer. But he was so eager to paint this picture that he worked on it from morning till night. A great plague, the cholera, broke out in Paris in the spring of 1832. Hundreds died daily, and almost everyone who could get away fled from the city in terror. Morse, however, staid quietly there, painting every day as usual, and when the date for his return to America came he had his picture so nearly finished that he could complete it in New York.

An Important Voyage

When Mr. Morse started for America on the first of October, 1832, he said to himself: "Few American artists have had such splendid opportunities as I have. I must go home and give my countrymen the benefit of what I have learned. I am forty-one years old now. About half of my life, twenty years, I have devoted to art. I have painted many good pictures and gained the respect of artists in my own country and in Europe. I am able to make a comfortable living for my children with my brush. But that is not enough. I must do some grand work that will be remembered when I am dead—something which will show older countries that though America is young she is a great country and can produce great men."

The good ship, which was bearing him nearer and nearer to that country which he loved even better than fair Italy, was called the "Sully." There was a pleasant company of passengers on board. When they met at the dinner table, hungry from the keen sea air, there were lively talks on all sorts of subjects. Mr. Morse often took part in these conversations.

One day some one told about some experiments with electricity which he had read of. Every one was interested. One man remarked, "I have heard it stated that a current of electricity will pass along a very long wire almost instantaneously."

"That is true," said Dr. Jackson of Boston.

"It passes over the longest wires that are used in experiments in less than a second of time. Dr. Franklin used wires several miles long and he could detect no difference in time between the touch at one end of the wire and the resulting spark at the other."

If that is true and the power can be used in any part of an electric circuit," Mr. Morse suggested; "I should think we might send news instantaneously by electricity."

"It has already been used for giving signals, I believe," one of the company remarked.

"But I mean more than that," explained Mr. Morse; "why could we not write instantaneous letters from New York to Charleston with it?"

All laughed at this odd idea. The ladies joined in the conversation and said that Mr. Morse should let them know when his magic letter-writing machine was ready for use. The Southern people began to complain of the inconvenience of corresponding with friends in the North. Letters from the South were a month reaching New York by coach, so that one's dearest friend might die and be buried before one knew anything about it.

Mr. Morse knew the truth of this too well. He stopped talking with the others, and after dinner went to a lonely part of the deck where he sat quite still, with his notebook in hand, all the afternoon. Other passengers smiled and said, "Do not disturb the artist. He is trying to decide just what shades he can mix together to get the peculiar blue of the sea for some painting."

But he was not thinking of the color of the sea. His mind was busy with the idea that had flashed into it at the dinner table. He remembered the old experiments in the laboratory at Yale; he remembered the conversations he had had with Professor Day and Professor Silliman in later years; he recalled the lectures on electricity which he had heard Professor Dana give at Columbia College. All that he had ever seen, or heard, or thought about electricity came into his mind and made him think that his notion of writing letters at a distance by means of electricity was no wild dream, but a sensible idea. "It only needs the right man to carry it out. Perhaps I am that man," he told himself. He could not sleep that night, his head was so full of his new idea. He rose early in the morning and was again busy with his notebook and pencil. It was not long before he took some of his fellow passengers into his confidence and told them his plan.

"First," he began "it has been proved that electricity travel's with almost incalculable speed with the speed of lightning, in short. We can have as much electricity as we desire with the help of a good battery; and the direction in which it goes can be controlled by us. We can send it where we wish by providing a copper wire to conduct it. Second, electricity has great force."

"I don't doubt that," interposed one of the listeners. "I saw lightning strike a tree once. But how are you going to control that force and make it do what you wish it to?"

"There is a very simple and well-known way of getting a powerful up-and-down motion by means of electricity," Mr. Morse answered. "Bend a bar of soft iron into the shape of a horseshoe and wind a coil of wire around it. When that wire is charged with electricity the iron becomes magnetic. Magnets strong enough to lift great blocks of iron are made in this way. As soon as the electrical current is broken the horseshoe loses its power and the block of iron falls. By simply supplying and breaking the current repeatedly with the help of such a magnet an up-and-down motion can be obtained."

"I have heard all about the horseshoe electromagnet," interrupted one man impatiently. "But I should think it would make a rather clumsy pen. How are you going to use your force to write?"

"I have thought it all out and made drawings of it," replied Mr. Morse. "At one end of the wire will be the battery and the man who sends the message. At the other end will be the pencil for him to write with and the paper for him to write upon. A long ribbon of paper will be attached to two cylinders turned regularly towards each other by clock work, so that the paper will be wound off of one cylinder upon the other. Above this strip of paper will be a bar swinging freely on a central pivot like a balance. This bar will be made to go up or down like a teeter-board, at the will of the man sending the message. There will be a sharp pencil under the end of the bar over the paper. When that end of the bar goes down and right up again the pencil will leave a dot on the paper. If it stays down while the turning cylinders carry the paper along under it, it will make a line. If it stays up while the paper is turned under it, a space will be left. By combining these dots, dashes, and spaces in various ways a telegraphic alphabet can be made."

"Can you show me how the 'teeter-board' could be made to go up and down?" inquired the man who had asked the first question.

"Why yes. There we shall use the magnet," said the inventor. "There will be a small iron plate at each end of the bar. Over the end which carries the pencil there will be a weak permanent magnet, strong enough to draw up that end of the bar when there is nothing pulling against it. At the other end there will be a strong electro-magnet. When the man writing the letter wishes to make a dot he will send a spark of electricity over the wire and it will magnetize the iron so that the power of the weak permanent magnet will be overcome and the end of the bar under the electro-magnet will go up, forcing the pencil end of the bar down upon the paper. If he wishes to make a dash he can keep on the current and the pencil will stay down on the moving paper, but the moment he breaks the current, up the pencil end will go towards the weak permanent magnet and leave a vacant space on the paper."

Morse Code


All agreed that this was a very fine theory, but they thought it could never be put into practice.

Before the ship entered New York harbor Mr. Morse had filled his notebook with drawings off, apparatus for the telegraph. He had also made an, alphabet. He had great faith in his plan. One day he said to the captain of the vessel, "Well, Captain, should you hear of the telegraph, one of these days, as the wonder of the world, remember the discovery was made on board the good ship Sully." The captain was amused. He regarded the whole matter as merely a visionary dream which even Mr. Morse would soon forget.

Years of Struggle

When Mr. Morse landed at New York, his two brothers, Richard and. Sidney, were at the wharf to meet him. On the way to Richard's house, Mr. Morse told his brothers about his great idea. They were surprised. His last letter had been full of his wishes to paint a great picture. Now he was thinking more about his invention than about pictures. They agreed that it would be a wonderful discovery; and listened to his plan with keen interest. His brother Richard invited him to live at his new home, saying a room had been built and furnished especially for him.

During his first days in New York the artist had many visitors. Friends wished to hear about his trip and to see his pictures. It would have been natural under the circumstances for him to cease thinking about electricity and devote his time to his profession. He was out of money, and many people were ready to buy pictures if he would only paint them. Years of ease, enjoyment, and success lay before him if he chose to give his life to art. Privations, hardships, doubt, must be his portion if he undertook to work out his great invention.

Yet he could not dismiss the telegraph from his mind. The more he thought of it the more firmly he believed that God had made electricity for man's use. And he thought he could, do no work in the world more valuable than to make this marvelous force serve man in the telegraph.

He wished to set up the machinery necessary to test his theory. The proper apparatus could not be bought. He had no money to employ craftsmen to make it for him. He therefore undertook to make it himself.

His first workshop was his brother's parlor where he tried to make an instrument for opening and closing the electric current to regulate the dots, dashes, and spaces. Frequent small accidents and the many interruptions which occurred there, made the inventor think it would be wise to move elsewhere. His brothers, who owned and edited a paper, were putting up a business building down town. When this was done Samuel F. B. Morse took a room in the top story of it. There he lived and worked. There his cot-bed stood. There his neglected easel, and paints, and canvas, and models were stored. There his workbench and lathe occupied the place of honor by the window.



He did not go to see his friends. Few of them felt free to seek him out in his attic chamber. His children were with distant relatives. He lived alone in the evening when it was so dark that he could not be seen he left his room and went to some grocery, where he bought bread, potatoes, eggs, and such food as he could cook for himself. His clothing was poor and shabby. Could he have gone to work at once with his experiments it would not have been so trying. But he had to spend days and weeks and months contriving tools and implements.

When the committee appointed to choose artists to paint the pictures for the rotunda of the capitol at Washington overlooked Morse and assigned the work to foreign artists, the New York artists were indignant that their leader should be so slighted. They remembered how ready he was to use his influence for their advancement, and how free to share his knowledge with those who needed instruction.

They wished to show their appreciation of all that he had done. They went to work quietly and secured subscriptions to the amount of three thousand dollars from artists and from others interested in art. This they sent to Mr. Morse with the request that he should paint a great historical picture. They said that when it was finished he might do with it as he pleased. Their only wish was to make it worth while for him to paint such a picture, which they were sure would do credit to America and to all American artists.

When Mr. Morse learned what his fellow artists had done he was deeply moved by their kindness. He exclaimed, "I have never heard or read or known of such an act of professional generosity." He resolved to paint a picture that would prove to them that their confidence in him was not misplaced. But he found that he could not put his heart into the work. He was worried about his invention. It seemed much more important than painting pictures. He finally returned the money with the request that his friends would free him from the engagement.

In 1835 Mr. Morse was made Professor of the Literature of the Arts of Design in the New York University. He moved from his attic quarters to his rooms in the new university. There he fitted up a very rude electric telegraph. It was made in such a rough fashion that he was almost ashamed to show it to his friends. But, in spite of its crudeness, it actually worked. In that room at the university he sent the first telegraphic messages ever carried by electricity.

Every day he had to leave his absorbing experiments to spend hours teaching young art students to paint. He was glad to have this means of supporting himself, but it interfered greatly with his work.


In 1837 Mr. Morse asked some friends to come into his room to look at his telegraph and see it at work. One of his guests was a student, Mr. Alfred Vail. This young man was deeply impressed with what he saw. He soon afterwards called on Mr. Morse alone to ask some questions.

"Your wire here is not long. What reason have you to believe that your telegraph will act successfully at great distances?" he inquired.

"If I can succeed in working a magnet ten miles away, I can go round the globe," answered the confident inventor. "I have contrived a way of renewing the current with a relay. It would not be worth while to have these relays closer than ten miles from each other. But if I can get a force strong enough to lift a hair at a distance of ten miles I can send a current around the, earth. Experiments have been made with wires several miles long, and I have faith that the current can be sent ten miles or further without a relay."

Mr. Vail then asked Mr. Morse why he did not push his experiment more rapidly, and when he learned that the delay was caused by lack of money, he offered to supply the funds needed if Mr. Morse would take him into partnership. Mr. Morse was willing to do so; and the terms of the partnership were soon agreed upon. Mr. Vail's father and brother owned large iron and brass works at Speedwell, New Jersey. His knowledge of iron and brass work was of great service to Mr. Morse in perfecting the mechanical part of his invention.

The partnership was formed in September, 1837. Later in the month Mr. Morse applied to the United States government for a patent on The American Electro- Magnetic Telegraph.

Mr. Vail promptly furnished the length of wire needed to make the experiments on the result of which depended the success of the invention. With the help of Professor Gale, of the university, Mr. Morse made those experiments and found that he could manage the magnet through more than twenty miles of wire without a relay.

This was as far as he could hope to carry his investigation without help from the government. To construct and operate a telegraph line on a large scale would be too costly a venture for an individual.

Just at this time the government was making inquiries concerning the various telegraphs which were being invented. Mr. Morse sent the United States Treasurer an account of his recording telegraph and was asked to exhibit his instrument at Washington.

Before taking his telegraph to Washington, Professor Morse invited his New York friends to see his invention in operation. Among his guests on this occasion were many who had regretted that New York's greatest artist had "lost his head over a wild scheme." They were amazed to see the results of what they had considered his "wasted years."

The guests whispered messages to him. The instrument went "click! click!" and dots and dashes began to appear on the strip of paper at the other end of the wire. Then some man who understood the telegraph alphabet read the messages to their surprised senders. The New York newspapers gave full accounts of the affair, and people began to think that after all there might be something in the telegraph.

The most distinguished body of scientific men in America, known as the "Franklin Institute," invited Mr. Morse to visit Philadelphia and exhibit his telegraph before the Committee of Science and Arts. They were so favorably impressed with the invention that they recommended that the government give the inventor means to test it on an extensive scale.

Mr. Morse then went to Washington, where the president, the cabinet officers, and many prominent men saw the telegraph at work, and were filled with astonishment and satisfaction.

Mr. F. O. J. Smith, an influential man, desired to have a share in the invention. Mr. Morse thought favorably of his proposal. A company of four partners was formed. In this company Mr. Morse had nine shares; Mr. Smith, four; Mr. Vail, two; Professor Gale, one. Affairs looked encouraging; it seemed probable that Congress would make an appropriation of thirty thousand dollars to give the telegraph a test on a large scale.

Mr. Morse and Mr. Smith went abroad to see about getting patents in foreign countries. In England the attorney general refused to consider Mr. Morse's application for a patent, because a description of his telegraph had already been published and that, he said, rendered the idea public property.

In France, Mr. Morse was shown the greatest kindness. Such eminent scientists as M. Arago and Baron Humboldt were eager to know the American inventor and to see his telegraph.

The fact that space had been so conquered by man that, with a little machinery, messages might be sent to all parts of the world in an instant, seemed too wonderful to be believed. But although everybody wondered and admired, France was the only European country to grant the inventor a patent.

Waiting at Last Rewarded

In the year 1840 the United States government issued to Mr. Morse the patent which he had applied for in 1837, before going to Europe.

Mr. Morse returned to America full of enthusiasm. Success seemed close at hand. He found, how ever, that Congress was interested in other matters. The general opinion seemed to be that it would be extravagant to put so much money into an experiment whose outcome was exceedingly doubtful. Soon even Mr. Morse's partners lost heart and gave their attention to affairs which would bring them some immediate return.

Poverty made it impossible for the inventor to push the project further without help. He was so poor that he sometimes had to go hungry. He took up his work at the university once more and taught young men to paint.

There was another way in which he was able to earn a little money. While in France he had met Monsieur Daguerre, who had discovered a way to "paint with sunbeams," or take pictures, which were called in his honor daguerreotypes. Morse learned his methods and was the first to introduce the new art of picture making into America. He gave instruction to many young men who wanted to learn Daguerre's process so that they might go around the country making daguerreotypes.

While obliged to spend some time on tasks by which he could earn a living, Professor Morse never ceased to hope and to work in the interest of the telegraph. He employed an agent at Washington, but finding that he accomplished nothing, determined to go there himself and make one more effort to secure the aid of Congress. His partner, Mr. Vail, who had always been so hopeful and ready to help, now said that he could do nothing more, and Mr. Morse was left to do what he could alone.

At length a bill recommending the appropriation of thirty thousand dollars for testing the Morse telegraph was brought before the House of Representatives. Mr. Morse was very much afraid the bill would not pass the House. He sat in the gallery while it was being discussed. Some of the members ridiculed the bill and made jokes about the telegraph. But when the votes were counted there was a majority of six in favor of the appropriation.

After passing the House of Representatives the bill had to go to the Senate. Mr. Morse knew that many of the senators were in favor of his telegraph and he felt confident of victory there. But as the days went by a new doubt troubled him. It was almost time for the Senate to close, and there was so much business to be considered that there was little prospect of his bill being acted upon. The last day came. There were one hundred and forty bills to be disposed of. All day Mr. Morse sat anxiously in the gallery. His friends warned him to give up hope. Late at night he went to his hotel with a sad heart.

He had given ten years of his life to perfect the most wonderful invention of the age. He had succeeded, but his work had been treated with indifference. He felt almost hopeless. But he was too great a man *to yield wholly to disappointment. He made all preparations to leave Washington early the next day. Then he went to bed and slept soundly.

The next morning Mr. Morse was a little late for breakfast. As he entered the dining room a servant told him that a young lady was waiting in the parlor to see him.

He was surprised to find that his morning visitor was Miss Annie G. Ellsworth, the daughter of his particular friend, H. L. Ellsworth, Commissioner of Patents.

Going forward to take the young lady's out-stretched hand, he exclaimed, "What brings you to see me so early in the day, my young friend?"

"I have come to congratulate you," she answered, her face bright with smiles.

"Indeed! For what?" he asked perplexed.

"On the passage of your bill."

"No, you are mistaken. The bill was not passed. I was in the senate chamber till after the lamps were lighted and my, friends assured me there was no chance for me," he returned, shaking his head soberly.

"No, no!" she insisted earnestly. "It is you who are mistaken. Father was there at the adjournment at midnight and even saw the president sign his name to your bill. This morning he told me I might come to congratulate you."

At first Mr. Morse was so surprised and overcome by this piece of good news that he could scarcely believe it. When he realized that it was true, he said: "You were the first to bring me this welcome news, Annie, and I promise you that you shall send the first message over my telegraph when it is done."

"I shall hold you to your promise," the young girl answered happily.

Disappointment was turned to joy. He hastened to write the good news to his partners and friends. He wished that his telegraph was ready for use so that he might instantly scatter the glad tidings to the world. He did not leave Washington that day.

The Telegraph

The appropriation made by Congress was large enough to build a telegraph line forty miles long. It was decided that the first line should extend from Baltimore to Washington. The work was begun without delay. Mr. Morse took charge of it himself.

At first the wires were put in tubes and buried in the ground. But that did not work well. Mr. Morse then tried putting them on poles in the open air. This proved a much cheaper, quicker, and more satisfactory method.

On the first of May the National Whig Convention was held in Baltimore, to nominate candidates for the presidency and the vice-presidency. Twenty-two miles of wire were up. Mr. Morse thought it would be interesting to announce convention news in Washington by means of telegraph.

There was a railroad between Baltimore and Washington which ran near the telegraph line. Mr. Morse accordingly arranged to have Mr. Vail get the latest news from the train and telegraph it to him in Washington. This was done and the passengers on the first train to Washington after the nomination of Henry Clay found that the news had reached the capital long before them.

On the twenty-fourth of May, 1844, the telegraph line was finished. Mr. Morse was at Washington; Mr. Vail, at Baltimore. Everything was in good working order. It was announced that the first message was to be sent. Crowds gathered around the office.

Mr. Morse remembered his promise to Miss Ellsworth. He sent to ask her what the first message should be. She wrote the noble line from the Bible, "What hath God wrought!" Mr. Morse was greatly pleased with the selection. He said afterward, "It baptised the American telegraph with the name of its Author." And all agreed that the work seemed greater than man's work.

Mr. Morse sent the message to Mr. Vail. It looked like this: • – –   • • • •   • –   –   • • • •   • –   –   • • • •   – – •   • •   – • •   • – –   • • •   • • –   – –   • • • •   –

When Mr. Vail received the message he sent it back to Mr. Morse to let him know that it had reached him all right. It had flown from Washington to Baltimore and back, eighty miles, in a moment.

After the first message, Mr. Morse and Mr. Vail carried on a lively conversation for the entertainment of those looking on: "Stop a few minutes," said Mr. Morse. "Yes," Mr. Vail answered.

"Have you any news?" "No." "Mr. Seaton's respects to you." "My respects to him." "What is your time?" "Nine o'clock, twenty-eight minutes." "What weather have you?" "Cloudy." "Separate your words more." "Oil your clock-work." "Buchanan stock said to be rising." "I have a great crowd at my window." "Van Buren cannon in front, with a fox-tail on it."

A few days later the Democratic National Convention was held in Baltimore. As soon as the candidates were nominated the announcement was sent to Washington by wire. The man named for the vice-presidency was at Washington and received immediate notice of his nomination. He replied by telegraph that he declined. When his message was read in the convention a few minutes after the nomination was made, it caused a sensation. To some this rapid communication seemed almost like witchcraft. Many refused to believe that the message really came from the nominee. A committee was sent to Washington to see about it. Of course the committee found that the telegraph had told the truth.

During the first year the telegraph was put in the hands of the post office department of the government. A tax of one cent was charged for every four characters. The income at the Washington office for the first nine days was as follows: during the first four days only one cent; on the fifth day, twelve and a half cents; the sixth day was Sunday and the office was closed; on the seventh day, sixty tents; on the eighth day, one dollar and thirty-two cents; on the ninth day, one dollar and four cents.

Mr. Morse was amused to see the astonishment his telegraph aroused. His own faith in its success had been so strong that he was surprised to find that others had doubted. The newspapers were full of praises for the inventor and his invention; the mail brought him letters of congratulation from all over the world; he was invited to dine with the highest officers of his own country and with ambassadors from foreign lands.

Mr. Morse offered to sell his telegraph to the government for one hundred thousand dollars. The government declined his offer. The reason given was that the expense of operating it would be greater than the revenue that could be derived from it.

A private company was formed and other telegraph lines were soon built. In 1846 the line between New York and Washington was finished and "the Hudson and Potomac were connected by links of lightning."

Mr. Morse went to Europe again in 1845 the hope of securing patents. He was received everywhere with honor, but he failed in the purpose of his voyage.

In 1846 Mr. Morse's patent was reissued in the United States. He was troubled, however, as most inventors are, by men who claimed his idea as their own, and pretended to be the original inventors of the telegraph. He was compelled to protect his rights repeatedly by going to court. The question was finally carried before the Supreme Court of the United States. After a thorough investigation the judges all agreed that Mr. Morse was the original and only inventor of the Electro-Magnetic Recording Telegraph.

For some time short telegraph lines were built and operated by separate companies. In 1851 the Western Union Telegraph Company was formed to build a line from Buffalo to St. Louis. This company gradually bought and built other lines until it controlled all the important telegraph, lines from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Cable

Mr. Morse was often heard to say, "If I can make the telegraph work ten miles, I can make it go around the globe." He had shown that it could be made to work across continents. But there was some question as to whether it could be made to cross seas.

In 1844, on one moonlight night in October, Mr. Morse made an attempt in a small way to prove that it could be done. As water is a good conductor of electricity it could conduct the electricity away from the wire. The wire, therefore, had to be carefully covered so that the water could not reach it. Mr. Morse insulated the wire for his first experiment by wrapping it in hempen strands which were afterwards covered with pitch, tar, and rubber. This cable, two miles in length, was wound on a reel and placed in a rowboat. When night had fallen and all was quiet in New York harbor, a small boat put out from the shore. There were two men in the boat. One rowed while the other sat in the stern and unwound yard after yard of the slender cable. The man at the stern was Mr. Morse. At dawn the next day he was up, trying to send messages over the first submarine telegraph in the world. To his surprise, after transmitting a few words the wire ceased to do its work, and no wonder! a ship in the harbor had caught the cable with her anchor, the sailors had dragged it on deck, and not knowing what it was, cut out a piece of it and sailed away.

Ten years later when an attempt was being made to establish electrical communication between the island of Newfoundland and the American continent, the idea of laying a cable across the Atlantic occurred to Mr. Cyrus W. Field. He consulted Mr. Morse, who encouraged him to undertake the work. Soundings had proved that there was in the ocean bed an almost level plateau between Newfoundland and Ireland. This would form a safe bed for the cable to rest on. A company was formed to construct a trans-Atlantic cable. Mr. Morse was made the electrician of the company.

The first difficulty lay in finding a perfectly waterproof cover for the wire, which would help to form a light and flexible but strong cable. Then came the question of laying the cable without breaking it.

The first attempt was made in 1857. The cable then used was twenty-five, hundred miles long. The wire was insulated by gutta percha, and that was protected by a twisted wire rope. "The flexibility of this cable was so great that it could be made as manageable as a small rope, and was capable of being tied round the arm without injury. Its weight was but one thousand and eight hundred pounds to the mile, and its strength such that it would bear in water over six miles of its own length if suspended vertically."

[Illustration] from Four American Inventors by Frances Perry


The greatest care was observed in running the cable off of the reel to see that there should be no strain upon it. But, in spite of the strength of the cable and the care and skill of those who laid it; the slender rope snapped and the cable so carefully made lay useless, at the bottom of the sea.

[Illustration] from Four American Inventors by Frances Perry


Another company was organized, another cable was made, another expedition was fitted out. Another strand snapped, and another valuable cable was lost.

The third attempt was partly successful. The cable was laid and for a few days gave good service. Then for some unaccountable reason it failed to work. The fourth attempt was a failure, but the fifth, made in 1866, proved, to the satisfaction of all, that Samuel F. B. Morse did not exaggerate when he said it was possible to send an electrical current round the globe.

The Inventor at Home

Mr. Morse was an artist and loved beauty. Through most of his life he had been obliged to, deny himself beautiful things. He was a quiet, home-loving man. He had been so poor that he had not even a cottage home of his own.

The first money he made from his telegraph was given to charity. As his fortune increased he decided to satisfy his desire for a beautiful home. He selected a picturesque grove on the Hudson River where he built a fine house which looked like an Italian villa. Because of the great locust trees growing there, he named his home Locust Grove.

At this home Mr. Morse assembled the children (now grown up) from whom he had been so long separated; thither he brought his second wife; there he entertained the friends who had been faithful in the old, toilsome days; there he received distinguished visitors from many lands.



The inventor lived quietly and happily at Locust Grove. Sometimes, when he was an old man with snowy beard, he might be seen enjoying the summer air under his fragrant trees while his grand-children played about him in the grass. But he liked best the great library where he had collected the books, the pictures, the statues which he had wanted so long.

The latter part of his life was not, however, spent in seclusion. As his fortune grew, his social and business obligations increased. In the winter time he left Locust Grove and lived in a stately mansion in New York city. He was a man of importance and influence, well known throughout America and Europe.

He died in 1872.