Samuel F. B. Morse

The Samuel Finley Breese Morse Family Papers

The papers of Samuel Finley Breese Morse (1791-1872), artist and inventor, were given to the Library of Congress by his son, Edward Lind Morse, and his granddaughter, Leila Livingston Morse, between 1916 and 1944. Other items were added to the papers through gift and purchase between 1922 and 1995. Included in the collection are letterbooks, diaries, scrapbooks, clippings, and drawings, as well as the paper tape of the stirring first telegraphic message, "What hath God wrought," sent on May 24, 1844 from the Supreme Court room in the Capitol to the railroad depot in Baltimore.

Early correspondence focuses on Morse's career as an artist studying in Europe, and is replete with observations on American, British, and European art and artists. Among his correspondents were artists Gilbert Stuart and Benjamin West, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Louis J. M. Daguerre, pioneer of photography. Much of his correspondence naturally concerns his development of the telegraph and includes significant scientific and political exchanges with Joseph Henry, Cyrus W. Field, and Francis O. J. Smith. These letters illuminate Morse's resolute belief in his idea and his unrelenting drive and determination to make it successful. Besides material documenting the technical aspects of his invention, there is much that offers insight into the politics of the time. Some of the most interesting of his reflections on these matters are found in Morse's letters to his brother, Sidney. This fascinating collection of manuscripts offers insight into the life and career of an American giant.

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am Sept-29-97