Opening the Information Highway
Samuel F. B. Morse 1791-1872


One of the early pioneers of the information superhighway was portrait painter and sometime political candidate Samuel F. B. Morse. Born and educated in Charlestown, Massachusetts, he attended Yale University and studied painting in England.

Back in New York by 1825, Morse became interested in the new ideas revolving around electricity. Like another communications pioneer, Alexander Bell, he attended lectures and enjoyed conversations about the developing field. By 1835 Morse had a working model of his first telegraph at New York University where he taught art. His materials included an old artist's canvas-stretcher, a home-made battery, and an old clock-work. One assistant, a professor of science, showed Morse how to add voltage by increasing the number of turns around the electromagnet. Another partner, who possessed mechanical skills and a family ironworks, improved Morse's model with better materials. At an exhibition of his telegraph in New York in 1839, Morse transmitted ten words per minute using a dot-dash code for letters. Morse Code was born.

On May 24, 1844, he sent his famous message, "What hath God wrought," from the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., to an assistant in Baltimore. Two years later, private companies had built telegraph lines from Washington to Boston and Buffalo. By 1853 only one state east of the Mississippi (Florida), was not connected by telegraph, and by 1866, the transatlantic cable connected America and Europe. The information highway bloomed.


  The American Leonardo: A Life of Samuel F. Morse
by Carleton Mabee, 2000





  Samuel F. B. Morse: Artist with a Message by John Hudson Tiner, 1987