Samuel F.B Morse

Samuel F.B Morse by The New Student’s Reference Work-Wikimedia Commons

Top 10 Facts about Samuel F.B. Morse


In this day and age, we are fortunate enough to have social media and technology that connects the whole world. With just a click of a button, we can video call and send real-time information as fast as possible.

You must be wondering how Samuel F.B Morse is related to all of this. In the nineteenth century, Samuel Morse assisted in the creation of the United States’ first modern communication network, blurring the limitless miles between cities and large urban regions in a way that brought trade, politics, and social issues closer to the American people. Apart from the invention, he was also a painter and was also the co-developer of the Morse Code which helped to develop the commercial use of telegraphy.

So who was this man that we have to thank for blurring the limitless miles between us all?

1. Samuel Morse was an accomplished painter


Samuel Morse by Wikimedia Commons

Samuel Morse had initially studied Philosophy and Mathematics at Yale University before turning his attention to the arts and travelling to England in 1811 to study painting. As a painter, he was commissioned to paint portraits of former Presidents John Adams and James Monroe, as well as a series of allegorical works showing the inner workings of the United States government to hang in the halls of Congress.

Although his paintings were incredible, the height of Morse’s career was undoubtedly when he was given the opportunity in 1825 to paint the Marquis de Lafayette, the French aristocrat who was so impressed by the Declaration of Independence’s vision of liberty that he fought alongside the colonial army.

2. His wife’s death motivated him to work on the telegraph

While working on the picture of Lafayette, Morse’s life was drastically transformed when he received word from his father that his wife was dangerously ill.

Unfortunately, the message was sent by slow-moving horse messengers at the time. By the time Morse arrived home in Connecticut, he found that his wife was not only deceased but had already been buried by the time he arrived.

It was at this time that it is believed Morse moved away from his art profession and instead dedicated himself to improving the quality of long-distance communication after learning of his wife’s illness took days to reach him.

3. Morse wasn’t the only inventor of the telegraph

Following the loss of his wife, Morse returned to Europe, where he met Charles Thomas Jackson, an American scientist who showed Morse his newest study on electromagnetic, which inspired Morse’s notion of utilizing electricity to transport messages across large distances.

And Morse wasn’t the only one working on such a device. Unbeknownst to him, Charles Wheatstone and William Cooke, two English scientists, were undertaking their own electrical telegraphy experiments.

They had started their work later than Morse, but they achieved some success sooner, building a mechanism that used numerous telegraph wires to convey a single message and gaining a British patent for it. On January 6, 1838, Morse, whose research concentrated on a single wire system, conducted the first public demonstration of his telegraph machine in Morristown, New Jersey.

4. The first official telegram sent was a Bible verse

Morse chose to let his close friend’s 17-year-old daughter Anna choose the text of the first formal telegraph message as a way of showing his gratitude for his friend’s support. Annie, a part-time patent clerk who supposedly had a crush on the inventor chose a verse from Deuteronomy in the Old Testament.

Morse, who was stationed at the United States Capitol at the time, dictated Annie’s words to his lifelong aide Alfred Vail on May 23, 1844. Vail, who was waiting in a Baltimore, Maryland, railroad station less than 50 miles away, received the brief message that would herald in a new era of communication seconds later —What hath God wrought?

5. The government had for some time ignored him as the sole inventor of the telegraph

First telegram by Samuel Morse

Samuel Morse telegram-by Wikimedia Commons

Within a decade, the United States had more than 20,000 miles of telegraph wire, and by 1866, a transatlantic line had been built from the United States to Europe. Morse was undoubtedly looking forward to kicking back, relaxing, and becoming a millionaire.

Despite the fact that Morse gained patents and built telegraph exchanges in countries all over the world, several governments (including the United States for a period) refused to pay the right royalties due to his claim to be the sole inventor of the telegraph.

Morse eventually took his case to the Supreme Court, which determined that while others had made telegraphs that were identical to Morse’s, he was the first to use a single-circuit, battery-powered system. Eventually, various countries came around, paying Morse a cash payment of more than $2 million in today’s money and requiring that future royalties be paid on schedule, making Morse a very wealthy man.

6. There’s a day named after his code known as “Morse Code Day”

The invention of the Morse code and the electric telegraph machine are commemorated on Morse Code Day. On this date, a unique ceremony was created to celebrate Samuel Morse, who was born on April 27, 1791.

7. There was a semi-official “Samuel Morse Day”

Morse Code day

Morse Code by Simon Harriyott- Wikimedia Commons

In 1871, a group of Western Union employees got together to plan a suitable homage to the man who gave them their jobs, naming June 10 “Samuel Morse Day.” A parade, a cruise around New York Harbor, and the installation and dedication of a statue of Morse in New York’s Central Park, which drew 10,000 spectators, were all part of the daylong event. Messages of congratulations flooded in from all across the world—by telegraph, of course.

Morse, who was 80 years old at the time was unable to attend several of the daytime programs, but he did attend the grand finale, a banquet at the New York Academy of Music that evening.

While speeches praising his achievements lasted more than an hour, it was stated that Mr Morse would now bid the American people farewell. Morse’s final message, somewhat longer than his first, was carefully typed down by a Western Union operator:

“Greeting and thanks to the Telegraph fraternity throughout the world. Glory to God in the Highest, on Earth Peace, Goodwill to men.” 

Morse then took his own turn at the desk, finishing off the message by signing his name, S.F.B. Morse. Morse died 10 months later.

8. Samuel Morse’s second wife was deaf

As the deaf community knew, Samuel F.B. Morse invented the telegraph in the 1840s while working with Amos Kendall, who eventually cofounded Gallaudet University.

Yes, this well-known narrative also included his deaf wife, who assisted him in developing Morse code. Alice L.Hagemeyer learnt a few years back from a Library of Congress presentation that Morse’s second wife, not his first wife, who died in 1825, was deaf.

Morse married for the second time on August 10, 1848, when he was 57 years old and his bride was 26. Sarah Elizabeth Griswold was one of the first pupils at the New York School for the Deaf in 1833.

9. In his later years, he was very charitable

In his later years, he assisted in the founding of Vassar College and made large financial contributions to his alma school, Yale College, as well as religious groups and temperance associations. He also supported a number of up-and-coming artists whose work he valued.

10. Samuel Morse was very religious

As he was a child of a pastor, his father instilled in him the belief in his Calvinist faith and the preservation of Puritan traditions when he was a child. Morse formed a strong anti-Catholicism sentiment during his early 1830s European journey the same visit that provided him with some of the telegraph’s core ideas.

Samuel Morse led a life that was led by emotion but due to his grief, he managed to use that emotion to invent a life-changing invention that has revolutionized over the years and has led to him being unforgettable.