Henry Livingston, Jr.


Samuel F.B. Morse

Dictionary of Notable Americans
New York Times Obituary
The Evening Star Obituary

Samuel Finley Breese Morse
(27 Apr 1791, Charlestown MA)
(2 Apr 1872, NYC)
(son of Robert Livingston, Jr. and Margaret Howarden)

+ Lucretia Pickering Walker
(1799, of Concord NH)
(7 Feb 1825, New Haven CT)

Susan Walker Morse (married Edward Lind)
Charles Walker Morse (married Manette Antill Lansing)
James Edward Finley Morse

+ Sarah Elizabeth Griswold
(25 Dec 1822, Sault Ste Marie MI)
(Nov. 14, 1901, Berlin GER)

Samuel Arthur Breese Morse
William Goodrich Morse (married Catherine Augusta (Kate) Crabbe)
Cornelia "Leila" Livingston Morse (married Franz Rummel, Jr.)
Edward Lind Morse (married Charlotte Dunning Wood)

The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans: Volume VII
MORSE, Samuel Finley Breeze, inventor, was born in Charlestown, Mass., April 27, 1791; son of the Rev. Jedediah and Elizabeth Ann (Breese) Morse; grandson of Dea. Jedediah and Sarah (Child) Morse of Woodstock, Conn., and of Samuel and Rebecca (Finley) Breese; great-grandson of John and Sarah Morse, of Benjamin and Patience (Thayer) Child, and of the Rev. Samuel and Sarah (Hill) Finley; great2grandson of Benjamin and Grace (Morris) Child, and a descendant of John Morse, who came from Marlborough, England, in 1635, and, settled in Newbury, Mass.

He attended the public schools of Charlestown and was graduated from Yale, A.B., 1810, A.M., 1816. While in college he attended Professor Silliman's lectures on electricity and became especially interested in natural philosophy, chemistry and galvanism. He decided to become an artist, and in 1811 accompanied Washington Allston to London, where he studied[p.482] painting under Allston, West and Copley. In 1813 he exhibited a colossal painting of the "Dying Hercules" at the Royal academy, where it received honorable mention, and the same year presented a model in clay of the same subject to the Society of Arts in competition, and received the prize medal for the best original cast of a single figure. In July, 1814, he completed a painting of "The Judgment of Jupiter in the Case of Apollo, Marpesa and Idas," and sent it to the Royal Academy for exhibition. He returned to America in 1815, and his picture was rejected on account of his absence. He engaged in portrait painting in Boston, Mass., and in Charleston, S.C.

He was married, Oct. 6, 1818, to Lucretia, daughter of Charles Walker of Concord, N.H., by whom he had children, Charles Walker, Susan and James Edward Finley.

In 1819 he painted a portrait of James Monroe at Washington, D.C., which was placed in the City Hall at Charleston. He removed to New York city and established a studio on Broadway, opposite Trinity church, where he painted portraits of Chancellor Kent, Fitz Greene Halleck and a full length portrait of General Lafayette for the city of New York. He founded the New York Drawing association and was elected its first president; was the first president of the newly established National Academy of Design, 1826-42; was president of the Sketch club, and delivered a course of lectures on "The Fine Arts" before the New York Athenæum. In 1829 he traveled and studied in London, Paris and Italy. While in Paris he produced a canvas on which he depicted in miniature fifty of the finest pictures in the Louvre.

He returned to the United States in 1832, on the packet-ship Sully, and on the voyage the subject of electromagnetism and the affinity of magnetism to electricity became a frequent topic of discussion, several of the passengers being well versed in science. Mr. Morse became impressed with the idea that signs, representing figures and letters, might he transmitted to any distance by means of an electric spark over an insulated wire, and on his arrival in New York city, making use of the electromagnet invented by Prof. Joseph Henry (q.v.) of Princeton, N.J., he began to develop the use of his proposed alphabet. He devised a system of dots and spaces to represent letters and words, to he interpreted by a telegraphic dictionary.

He was professor of the literature of the arts of design in the University of the City of New York, 1832-72, and it was in the University building on Washington square that he completed his experiments, with the help and advice of Professor Henry, with whom he was in correspondence. The models were made of a picture frame, fastened to a table; the wheels of a wooden clock moved by a weight carried the paper forward; three wooden drums guided and held the paper in place; a wooden pendulum containing a pencil at its power end was suspended from the top of the frame and vibrated across the paper as it passed over the center wooden drum. An electro-magnet was fastened to a shelf across the frame opposite an armature made fast to the pendulum; a type rule and type for breaking the circuit rested on an endless bank which passed over two wooden rollers moved by a crank, this rule being carried forward by teeth projecting from its lower edge into the band; a lever with a small weight attached, and a tooth projecting downward at one end was operated on by the type, and a metallic form projected downward over two mercury cups. A short circuit of wire embraced the helices of the electro-magnet and connected with the poles of the battery, and terminated in the mercury cups. By turning the wooden crank the type in the rule raised one end of the lever and by bringing the fork into the mercury it closed the circuit causing the pendulum to move and the pencil to mark upon the paper. The circuit was broken when the tooth in the lever fell into the first two cogs of the types, and the pendulum swinging back made another mark. As the spaces between the types caused the pencil to make horizontal lines long or short, Mr. Morse was able, with the aid of his telegraphic dictionary, to spell out words and to produce sounds that could he read.

The perfected idea was heartily endorsed by those to whom he exhibited it, and after many improvements in the details he published the results of his experiments in the New York Observer, April 15, 1837. In the summer of 1837 Alfred Vail (q.v.) became interested in the instrument and advanced the means to enable Morse to manufacture a more perfectly constructed apparatus. In September, 1837, Horse filed an application for a patent and endeavored to obtain from congress the right to experiment between Washington and Baltimore. He went to Europe to obtain aid, but did not meet with success. He returned to the United States in May, 1839, and it was not until March 3, 1843, just before the close of the session that he obtained from the 47th congress an appropriation of $30,000 for experimental purposes, the first vote standing 90 ayes to 82 nays. He at once began work on his line from Washington to Baltimore, which was partially completed May 1, 1844, and the first message transmitted a part of the way by wire was the[p.483] announcement of the nomination of Henry Clay for President by the Whig convention at Baltimore, Md. By May 24 the line was practically completed, and the first public exhibition was given in the chamber of the U.S. supreme court in the capitol at Washington, his associate, Mr. Vail, being at Mount Claire depot, Baltimore, Md. Anna G. Ellsworth, daughter of the U.S. commissioner of patents, selected the words, "What God hath wrought," and the message was transmitted to Mr. Vail and returned over the same wire. The news of the nomination of James K. Polk for President was sent to Washington wholly by wire, and the news was discredited in Washington until the nomination of Silas Wright for Vice-President was received and communicated by Mr. Morse to Senator Wright, who directed Mr. Morse to wire his positive declination of the nomination, the receipt of which so surprised the convention that it adjourned to await a messenger from Washington.

A company was formed soon after, and the telegraph grew with great rapidity. In 1846 the patent was extended and was adopted in France, Germany, Denmark, Russia, Sweden and Australia. The defense of his patent-rights involved Professor Morse in a series of costly suits, and his profits were consumed by prosecuting rival companies, but his rights were finally affirmed by the U.S. supreme court.

Morse now turned his attention to submarine telegraphy, and in 1842 laid a cable between Castle Garden and Governor's Island, N.Y. harbor. He gave valuable assistance to Peter Cooper and Cyrus W. Field in their efforts to lay a cable across the Atlantic ocean, being electrician to the New York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph company.

He was an intimate friend of Jacques Haudé Daguerre, the inventor of the daguerreotype, whom he had met in Paris in 1839, and on his return to the United States constructed an apparatus and succeeded, in connection with Dr. John W. Draper, in producing the first sun pictures ever made in the United States. Morse also patented a marble-cutting machine in 1823, which he claimed would produce perfect copies of any model.

He was married, secondly, Aug. 10, 1848, to Sarah Elizabeth, daughter of Capt. Arthur Griswold, U.S.A., and by her had children: Samuel Arthur Breese, Cornelia Livingston, William Goodrich and Edward Lind. Mrs. Morse died at the home of her daughter in Berlin, Germany, Nov. 14, 1901. After this marriage Professor Morse made his home at "Locust Grove," on the Hudson river, below Poughkeepsie, N.Y., retaining his winter residence on Twenty-second street, New York city, and on the street front of this house a marble tablet has been inserted, inscribed: "In this house S.F.B. Morse lived for many years and died."

The honorary degree of LL.D. was conferred on him by Yale college in 1846, and he received a great silver medal from the Academic Industrie, Paris, in 1839, and decorations from Turkey, France, Denmark, Prussia, Würtemberg, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Sweden, Italy and Switzerland. He was elected a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Belgium in 1837; corresponding member of the National Institute for the Promotion of Science in 1841; a member of the Archaeological Association of Belgium in 1845, the American Philosophical society in 1848, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1849. In 1856 a banquet was given him by the telegraph companies of Great Britain and in 1858 representatives of France, Austria, Sweden, Russia, Sardinia, Turkey, Holland, Italy, Tuscany and the Netherlands met at Paris and voted an appropriation of 400,000 francs to he used for a collective testimonial to Mr. Morse. A banquet was held in his honor in New York city on Dec. 30, 1868, Chief-Justice Salmon P. Chase presiding. A bronze statue of heroic size, representing him holding the first message sent over the wires, was modelled by Byron M. Pickett, and was erected in Central Park, New York city, by voluntary subscriptions June 10, 1871. The evening of the same day a reception was held at the Academy of Music, a telegraph instrument was connected with all the wires in the United States and the following message was sent: "Greeting and thanks of the telegraph fraternity throughout the land. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men." to this message Morse transmitted his name with his own hand on the instrument. On Jan. 17, 1872, Professor Morse unveiled the statue of Benjamin Franklin in Printing House square, New York city. In the selection of names for places in the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, New York university in October, 1900, his was one of the sixteen names submitted in "Class D, Inventors," and was one of three in the class to secure a place, receiving 80 votes, while 85 votes were given to Robert Fulton, and 67 to Eli Whitney.

Mr. Morse published several poems and various scientific and economic articles in the North American Review, edited the "Remains of Lucretia Maria Davidson" (1829), and is the author of: Foreign Conspiracy against the Liberties of the United States (1835); Imminent Dangers to the Free Institutions of the United States through Foreign Immigration and the Present State of the Naturalization Laws, By an American (1835); Confessions of a French Catholic Priest (1857), and Our Liberties Defended, the Question Discussed: Is the Protestant or Papal System most Favorable to Civil and Religious Liberty? (1841).

His death was observed by Congress, and in several state legislatures memorial sessions were held in his honor. He died in New York city, April 2, 1872.

April 3, 1872, The New York Times, Obituary
Prof. Morse died last evening at 8 o'clock, his condition having become very low soon after sunrise. Though expected, the death of this distinguished man will be received with regret by thousands to whom he was only known by fame.

Few persons have ever lived to whom all departments of industry owe a greater debt than the man whose death we are now called on to record. There has been no national or sectional prejudice in the honor that has been accorded to him, from the fact that the benefit he was the means of bestowing upon mankind has been universal, and on this account the sorrow occasioned by his death will be equally world-wide. Prof. Morse was born in Charlestown, Mass., April 27, 1791. His father, Dr. Jedidiah I. Morse, was a prominent Congregational minister, who had accrued considerable celebrity for works both on theology and geography.

At an early age Samuel was sent to Yale College, and was graduated from that institution in 1810. Passionately fond of art, he determined to become a painter, and for this purpose in the following year he sailed for England, in company with Washington Alston, in order to study under the direction of Benjamin West, at that time considered the leading artist in Europe. Within two years he had made such progress that he received the gold medal of the Adelphi Society, for a cast of the "Dying Hercules." He returned to this country in 1815, and devoted himself entirely to his profession.

While on a visit to Concord, N. H., in order to paint the portraits of several persons there, he formed the acquaintance of Lucretia Walker, who soon after became his wife. In 1825, in connection with a number of other artists of this City, he organized an Art Association, which, a year later, was reorganized as the National Academy of Arts, a name it has ever since borne. In 1829 he made a second trip to Europe, for the purpose of still further pursuing his professional studies. During this trip, which lasted three years, he visited nearly all the famous galleries of paintings in Europe, and greatly improved himself in the technical branches of the art. While abroad he was visited nearly all the famous galleries of paintings in Europe, and greatly improved himself in the technical branches of the art. While abroad he was elected Professor of the Literature of the Arts of Design in the University of the City of New York, and it was on his return to accept the position that the invention that has since made his name illustrious suggested itself to him.

While at college he had devoted much of his time to the study of chemistry, under the supervision of Prof. Silliman, and even in after years the phenomena of electricity, and of electro-magnetism had been to him a source of considerable speculation, and during the present voyage which was made from Havre to New York on the old packet-ship SULLY, the conversation turned accidentally on this subject, in connection with a discovery that had shortly before been made in France, of the correlation of electricity and magnetism. While one day conversing on this matter with a fellow-passenger, the thought flashed upon Morse's mind that this chemical relationship might be made practically useful. It would probably have been impossible even for the inventor to have said how the proper means for effecting this purpose suggested themselves to him; it was something almost superhuman, as will readily be seen, when it is said that he then conceived in his mind, not only the idea of the electric telegraph, but of the electro-magnetic and chemical recording telegraph, substantially as they now exist.

On reaching home he devoted the greater part of his time to making experiments on this subject. At first there was great difficulty in obtaining the proper instruments, though in 1835 he had succeeded in constructing an apparatus which enabled him to communicate from one extremity of two distant points, of a circuit of half a mile. Unfortunately, this did not allow him to communicate back from the other extremity, but two years more of persistent research was sufficient to overcome this difficulty, and the invention was now ready for exhibition. This was done in the Autumn of 1837, the wires being laid on the roof of the University building, opposite Washington-square. A great many hundreds visited the place, and all expressed, as well they might, their unbounded astonishment.

In the Winter of the same year Prof. Morse went to Washington to urge upon Congress the necessity of making some provision to assist him in carrying out his invention. Although the practical working of it had been demonstrated on a small scale, yet to the minds of Congressmen, the invention seemed altogether too chimerical to be likely ever to prove of any worth; and so, after a futile attempt to induce the Congressional Committee to make a favorable report, Prof. Morse returned to New York, having wasted an entire Winter and accomplished nothing.

In the Spring of 1838, he determined to make an effort in Europe, hoping for better appreciation there than in his own country. It was a mistaken thought, however, for after a sojourn of four years he returned to New York, having succeeded in procuring merely a brevet d'invention in France, and no aid or security of any kind from the other countries. A less energetic man would have given up after so many rebuffs, but a firm belief in the inestimable value of his invention prompted Prof. Morse to make still another effort at Washington. The results, at first, were hardly more encouraging than on the previous attempt. Again and again he was pronounced a visionary, and his scheme stigmatized as ridiculous. So faint were the chances of Congress appropriating anything that on the last night of the session, having become thoroughly wearied and disgusted with the whole matter, Prof. Morse went home and retired to bed; but in the morning he was roused with the information that a few minutes before midnight his bill had come up, had been considered, and that he had been awarded $30,000 with which to make an experimental essay between Baltimore and Washington. The year following the work was completed, and proved a complete success.

From that time until the present the demands for the telegraph have been constantly increasing; they have been spread over every civilized country in the world, and have become, by usage, absolutely necessary for the well-being of society. Convinced of their folly in so long ignoring the invention of Prof. Morse, the nations of Europe at once vied with each other in the honors they bestowed upon the inventor. Within the next few years he received respectively the decoration of the Nishan Iflichai, set in diamonds, from the Sultan of Turkey, gold medals of scientific merit from the King of Prussia, the King of Wurtemburg, and the Emperor of Austria; a cross of Chevalier in the Legion of Honor from the Emperor of France; the cross of Knight of Dannebrog from the King of Denmark; the Cross of Knight Commander of the Order of Isabelia the Catholic, from the Queen of Spain, besides being elected member of innumerable scientific and art societies in this and other countries. Perhaps the most distinguished reward of all that have been accorded to him, was the one inspired by the late Emperor of France. At his suggestion delegates from France, Russia, Sweden, Belgium, Holland, Austria, Sardinia, Tuscany, the Holy See and Turkey; met at Paris, and after some little deliberation voted a personal award of 400,000 francs to Prof. Morse, as a testimonial of their appreciation of his services. He has also been the recipient of honorary banquets in London, Paris and in this City.

One of the latest honors paid to him was the erection of his statue in Central Park, last Summer. At that time delegates from the telegraphic fraternity of the entire country assembled in this City, to do honor to the man who had done so much for his race. Dispatches were received from Calcutta, from San Francisco, and from hundreds of other intermediate places, all uniting in the general strain of thanks and gratulation. On the 22d of last February he was selected as the fittest one to unveil the statue of Franklin, in Printing House-square, after which time he was very rarely seen in public.

Prof. Morse was twice married; and his private life was one of almost unalloyed happiness. He resided during the Summer at Poughkeepsie, in a delightful country-house on the banks of the Hudson, surrounded by everything that could minister to his comfort, or gratify his tastes. In the Winter he generally lived in New York. By those who have examined into the question, it is reported that the first idea of a sub-marine cable to Europe emanated in the brain of Prof. Morse, in which case there is little connected with telegraphy of which he may not be said to be the author.

Morse Book
Morse remembered his cousin Sarah. He had met her before at Cousin Sands' in New York. He had then been, as he now recalled, "struck with her beauty, her artlessness, her amiable deportment, and her misfortune of not hearing, and defective speech." He had found himself in love with her, and her misfortune had only stirred him the more. Reflecting on it, he had felt that he had no right to think of marrying. Both were penniless, and the more he had thought of it, the more certain he had become that he must not even tell her of his love. he had been rejected too many times because of his poverty. He had not wished to be hurt or to hurt her. Then then, six or seven years ago, Sarah had been only a girl; now she was a woman of twenty-six. She had been born on Christmas Day in 1822, at about the same time as his son Charles, the present groom.

The Evening Star Obituary, Washington, DC, April 2, 1872
Prof. Samuel Finley Breese Morse died in New York last evening at 17 minutes before eight o'clock. Prof. Morse was born on the 27th of April, 1791, in Charlestown, Mass. He graduated at Yale College in 1810, and became a pupil of the celebrated painter, Benjamin West. Some of the young artist's paintings were highly meritorious. His "Dying Hercules," exhibited at the Royal Academy, London, received great praise, and later he painted a full length portrait of Lafayette for the city of New York. In 1826 he was elected president of the National Academy of Design in New York. In 1835 he completed a rude apparatus to transmit messages through wire by electricity. In 1837 he came to Washington, filed his caveat, and asked for a Congressional appropriation for a line hence to Baltimore. The session passed without action, and he went abroad. England refused him a patent, Wheatstone having in the meantime got to work (sic). In France Prof. Morse obtained a brevet d'ivention.

At last came the close of the Congressional session of 1843. On the evening of March 3 the professor gave up in despair, returned to his hotel "broken in spirit and bankrupt in purse," to start for New York, the next day. "At the midnight hour of the expiring session," by a vote of 89 to 83, the bill was passed, and in the morning the inventor knew the dawn which follows the darkest hours. On the 27th (sic) of May, 1844, the wires had been erected between this city and Baltimore, and the first message, "What hath God wrought?", passed over them. The first information given by the telegraph was that of the nomination of James K. Polk for the Presidency by the Baltimore convention.

In 1851 a convention to select a uniform system for all Germany adopted his; in 1857 the representatives of the chief European powers, assembled at Paris, presented him with 400,000 francs on account of his invention. Yale made him a doctor of laws. France enrolled him in her Legion of Honor. Austria, the German States, Denmark, Turkey, gave him of their highest honors. His fame followed the wires till the globe was girded. Last year the Central Park statue to him was raised in New York, and the grand celebration was held at the Academy of Music.

On March 1, 1848, the Sultan of Turkey awarded Morse a decoration of diamonds, the first recognition of his achievements by a foreign government. In 1855 The Emporer of Austria awarded Morse the Great Gold Medal of Science and Art. In 1856 the Emporer of France awarded Morse the Order of the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. On Sept. 1, 1858 Morse received a testimonial of 400,000 Francs from France, Austria, Belgium, The Netherlands, Piedmont, Russia, The Holy See, Sweden, Tuscany and Turkey.


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