Samuel Morse & the Telegraph

           Samuel Morse was born on April, 27, 1791, in MA. A student at Yale, he was interested in art and electricity (a new concept of its time). After Yale, he became a painter. After hearing about a newly discovered electromagnet while sailing home from Europe in 1832, he came up with an idea of developing an electric telegraph. The next several years were spent developing a prototype for the invention. Two people assisted him in the development, Leonard Gale and Alfred Vail.

          The Telegraph is a machine that was used to transfer messages in the form of electrical impulses. Messages sent from it were called Telegrams; and the sender was called a Telegrapher. It was a major way of communicating in the mid 19th and late 20th centuries. Come the 21st century though it was made obsolete by things like phone calls, faxes and the birth of the Internet, Pictured below is the telegraph used to receive to the first telegram.


             The machine was demonstrated in 1838 with the use of Morse Code (dots and dashes representing letters & numbers). It would take the next 5 years in 1843 for Morse to finally convince a skeptical Congress to fund the building of the first telegraph line from D.C. to Baltimore. Below is a video of the first telegram “What hath God wrought?”

The First Telegram

             Over the next few years private companies began to emerge using Morse’s patent. In 1851, the New York and Mississippi  Valley Printing Telegraph Company was founded; later to be known as a very familiar company name that still exists today, Western Union. A decade after its birth, the company built the first transcontinental line across the United States. In 1866 the first successful permanent line across the Atlantic was finished, by this time the world had seen telegraph systems in 5 continents: North America, Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe.

Why was it important?

          Though the telegraph fell out of widespread use by early 21st century, it paved the way for future innovations that are still widely used every second of every day. The Telegraph laid the groundwork and was replaced by: the Telephone, Fax Machine and the Internet. With all these things in existence, media & communications have become big employers and healthy supporters of the economy.