Inventor of the telegraph Samuel Morse was first a portraitist active in intellectual circles, who helped found the National Academy of Design (1826) in order to elevate and support the arts. But around 1832 he became fascinated with the idea of sending messages via electric wire. With no scientific or mechanical training, Morse devised an elegant machine that sent coded messages by opening and closing an electrical circuit. While the government neglected the telegraph, private businesses seized on the new invention as a great leap forward in communications technology. At a time when railways and water transportation were binding the country together, Morse did the same with a network of instantaneous communication. Speed has always characterized America, and Morse's breakthrough was the gigantic first step in creating ever-faster means of communicating.


  • Title: Samuel F. B. Morse Self-Portrait
  • Creator: Samuel Finley Breese Morse
  • Date Created: 1812
  • Physical Dimensions: w22.5 x h27.3 x d0.3 cm (Board)
  • Type: Oil on millboard
  • Rights: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; this acquisition was made possible by a generous contribution from the James Smithson Society
  • External Link: https://npg.si.edu/portraits
  • Classification: Painting

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