Samuel Finley Breese Morse, Sr.

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Samuel Finley Breese Morse, Sr.

Birthplace: Charlestown, Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
Death: April 02, 1872 (80)
New York City, New York, United States
Place of Burial: Brooklyn, Kings, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Rev. Jedediah Morse, Jr. and Elizabeth Ann Finley Morse
Husband of Lucretia Pickering Morse and Sarah Elizabeth Morse
Father of Susan Walker Morse; Elizabeth Ann Morse; Charles Walker Morse; James Edward Finley Morse; Samuel Arthur Morse, Jr. and 3 others
Brother of Sidney Edwards Morse; Jedediah Edwards Morse; Rev. Richard Cary Morse; Thomas Russell Morse; James Russell Morse and 4 others

Occupation: American Inventor, Morse Code, Painter
Managed by: Charles W Lewis, II
Last Updated:

About Samuel Finley Breese Morse, Sr.

Samuel Finley Breese Morse

  • Son of Rev. Jedediah Morse, Jr. and Elizabeth Ann Finley Breese
  • As a young man, Samuel Finley Breese Morse (1791–1872) became an accomplished portrait painter. It wasn’t until later in his life that he achieved what he would be remembered for, the invention of the telegraph which he patented in 1847, although his patent was contested, and Morse Code.

Wikipedia Biographical Summary:

"...Samuel Finley Breese Morse (April 27, 1791 – April 2, 1872) was an American contributor to the invention of a single-wire telegraph system based on European telegraphs, co-inventor of the Morse code, and an accomplished painter..."

"...Samuel F.B. Morse was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the first child of a geographer and Pastor Jedidiah Morse (1761–1826) and Elizabeth Ann Finley Breese (1766–1828)..."

"...He supported himself financially by painting..."

"...In 1810, he graduated from Yale with Phi Beta Kappa honors..."

" the end of 1811, he gained admittance to the Royal Academy..."

"...The original Morse telegraph, submitted with his patent application, is part of the collections of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution. In time the Morse code would become the primary language of telegraphy in the world, and is still the standard for rhythmic transmission of data..."

"...Morse married Lucretia Pickering Walker on September 29, 1819, in Concord, New Hampshire. She died on February 7, 1825, shortly after the birth of their fourth child (Susan b. 1819, Elizabeth b. 1821, Charles b. 1823, James b. 1825). His second wife was Sarah Elizabeth Griswold. They were married on August 10, 1848 in Utica, New York and had four children (Samuel b. 1849, Cornelia b. 1851, William b. 1853, Edward b. 1857)..."

"...Morse died of pneumonia at his home at 5 West 22nd Street, New York City on April 2, 1872, 25 days short of his 81st birthday. He was buried in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York..."

SOURCE: Wikipedia contributors, 'Samuel Morse', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 April 2011, 16:37 UTC, <> [accessed 28 April 2011]

Biographical Summary #2:

Samuel Finley Breese Morse was born on April 27, 1791, in Charlestown, just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. He was the son of Jedidiah Morse, a pastor who was as well known for his geography as Noah Webster, a friend of the family, was known for his dictionaries.

At Yale College, Morse was an indifferent student, but his interest was aroused by lectures of the then newly-developing subject of electricity, and he delighted in painting miniature portraits.

After college, to the discomfort of his austere parents, Morse directed his enthusiasm especially to painting, which he studied in England. After settling in New York City in 1825, he became one of the most respected painters of his time, rendering character boldly.

Morse was warmly sociable, was at home with the cultivated and was ardent in conservative politics. A natural leader, he was a founder and the first president of the National Academy of Design, but was defeated in his campaigns to become mayor of New York or a Congressman.

In 1832, while returning on the ship Sully from another period of art study in Europe, Morse heard a conversation about the newly discovered electromagnet and conceived of the idea of an electric telegraph. He mistakenly thought that the idea of such a telegraph was new, thus helping to give him the impetus to push the idea forward.

By 1835 he probably had his first telegraph model working in the New York University building where he taught art. Being poor, Morse used in his model such crude materials as an old artist's canvas stretcher to hold it, a home-made battery and an old clock-work to move the paper on which dots and dashes were to be recorded.

In 1837 Morse acquired two partners to help him develop his telegraph. One was Leonard Gale, a quiet professor of science at New York University who advised him, for example, on how to increase voltage by increasing the number of turns around the electromagnet. The other was Alfred Vail, a morose young man who made available both his mechanical skills and his family's New Jersey iron works to help construct better telegraph models.

With the aid of his new partners, Morse applied for a patent for his new telegraph in 1837, which he described as including a dot and dash code to represent numbers, a dictionary to turn the numbers into words and a set of sawtooth type for sending signals. Morse, discouraged with his art career, was giving nearly all his time to the telegraph.

By 1838, at an exhibition of his telegraph in New York, Morse transmitted ten words per minute. He had dispensed with his number-word dictionary, using instead the dot-dash code directly for letters. Though changes in detail were to be made later, the Morse code that was to become standard throughout the world had essentially come into being.

During the next few years Morse exhibited his telegraph before savants, businessmen and committees of Congress, hoping to find the funds to give his telegraph a large-scale test. He met considerable skepticism that any message could really be sent from city to city over wire.

On his own, in 1843, without significant help from his discouraged partners, Morse finally secured funds from Congress to construct the first telegraph line in the U. S. from Baltimore to Washington D.C.

After Morse directed the wires to be set on poles instead, the work advanced well, and by May 1844, the first inter-city electromagnetic telegraph line in the world was ready. Then, from the Capitol building in Washington, Morse sent a Biblical quotation as the first formal message on the line to Baltimore, a message that revealed his own sense of wonder that God had chosen him to reveal the use of electricity to man: "What Hath God Wrought!"

After twelve years in which most Americans had ignored his efforts to develop a telegraph, Morse had quickly become an American hero.

By 1846 private companies, using Morse's patent, had built telegraph lines from Washington reaching to Boston and Buffalo, and were pushing further.

By 1847, with enough money from the telegraph, Morse was at last able to bring his scattered family together in an ample country home of his own. He bought a house with one hundred acres of land just outside of Poughkeepsie and named it Locust Grove.

In 1848, Morse was married a second time to a poor cousin of only 26 years who was considerably deaf and dumb. Morse explained that he chose her in part because she would be dependent on him. Morse's family grew with several more children.

In the early 1850's, Morse rebuilt the Locust Grove house in the then popular Italian villa style.

In his later years, Morse, a patriarchal figure, attained recognition at home and abroad which is seldom accorded a living hero of the arts of peace. As a wealthy man, he was generous in giving funds to colleges, including Yale and Vassar, benevolent societies and to poor artists.

He died of pneumonia in New York City on April 2, 1872, at the age of 80.

He is buried in Brooklyn's Greenwood Cemetery.

SOURCE: Biography of Samuel F. B. Morse, adapted by Carleton Mabee from his book The American Leonardo, a Life of Samuel F. B. Morse


Samuel Finley Breese Morse, Painter, inventor; 1791 -- 1872 Morse was born April 29, 1791, in Charlestown, Mass. He began as a painter, studying in England under Washington Allston and Benjamin West (1811). He returned to New England (1815), and settled in New York City (1823), where he founded the American Academy of Design (1826). His historical painting, The Old House of Representatives (1822), and his well-received portrait of Lafayette (1825--26), did not lead to the government art commissions he sought. His last major work, The Exhibition Gallery of the Louvre (1832), was based on another trip abroad (1829--32). In New York again (1832), he began his many electrical experiments. From 1835 to 1838 he invented the telegraph, a method of transmitting a series of dots and dashes, representing the alphabet, over telegraph lines by means of electromagnets. Special telegraph lines were constructed to carry messages using the Morse code from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, Maryland (1844), to prove the practical worth of the invention. He also introduced the daguerreotype, a photographic process, to America (1839). Today he is honored for his work as both a painter and an inventor.He died after a short illness on April 2, 1872.

Samuel Finley Breese Morse (April 27, 1791 – April 2, 1872) was an American painter and inventor. After having established his reputation as a portrait painter, in his middle age Morse contributed to the invention of a single-wire telegraph system based on European telegraphs. He was a co-developer of the Morse code and helped to develop the commercial use of telegraphy.

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Samuel Finley Breese Morse, Sr.'s Timeline

April 27, 1791
Charlestown, Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
September 9, 1819
South Carolina, USA, Charleston, Charleston County, SC, United States
March 1821
Charleston, South Carolina, USA
March 17, 1823
New Haven, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
January 17, 1825
New Haven, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
July 24, 1849
Poughkeepsie, Dutchess, New York, USA
April 8, 1851
Poughkeepsie, Dutchess, New York, USA
January 31, 1853
Poughkeepsie, Dutchess, New York, USA