Morse Demonstrates The Use of The Telegraph – 1/6/1838

US History |

The Speedwell Iron Works located in Morristown, New Jersey is the historical site where Samuel Morse demonstrated his telegraph system on January 6th, 1838. The device was able to use electric impulses to send over a wire messages that were encoded, the telegraph would soon revolutionize how communication over long distance would happen; the height of its popularity would happen during the 1920s and 1930s.

Samuel Finley Breese was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts on April 27th, 1791. While attending Yale University, his interests included both art and electricity though it was still just starting to evolve. Morse became a painter after college and while sailing home from Europe in 1832, he learned about the electromagnet had just been created; this inspired him to come up with a plan for the development of the electric telegraph. However, he was unaware that the concept was already being developed by other inventors.

Morse hired two partners named Alfred Vail and Leonard to assist him in creating a prototype over the next several years. He showed off his creation by using Morse code; letters and numbers would be represented through dots and dashes. Morse finally persuaded a Congress that was skeptical or the idea to fund the building of the original telegraph line within the United States in 1843; the line extended from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore. Morse would finally send the original official telegram over the line in May of 1844; the message said, “What has God wrought!”

Using Morse’s patent, the next few years saw private companies construct telegraph lines around the northeast. The New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company was established in 1851; the company would eventually alter their name to Western Union. The original transcontinental line throughout the United States was established by Western Union in 1861. The first permanent successful line across the Atlantic Ocean was built five years later; the end of the century would see telegraph systems were ready in Australia, Africa and Asia.

Telegraph companies usually would charge a price by the word, so telegrams started to become known for their prose that was succinct no matter if it held sad or happy information. The word “stop” received no charge and was used to take the place of a period; there would be a charge for using this. Western Union created singing telegrams in 1933 while during World War II; Americans were filled with impending doom when seeing Western Union couriers as the military used the telegram to let families know about the death of a soldier.

Telegraph messages would eventually be replaced throughout the 20th century with inexpensive long-distance email, phone service and faxes. January of 2006 was the last time a telegram was sent by Western Union. Samuel Morse passed away in New York City on April 2nd, 1872 at the age of 80; he was both famous and wealthy.

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Charlie Rodriguez


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