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Samuel F.B. Morse Works to Build the First Telegraph Line

Samuel F.B. Morse

Librería: The Raab Collection (Ardmore, PA, Estados Unidos de America)

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Amidst its construction, he refers to the telegraph as “the Government enterprise in which I am engaged.”He feels burdened with “responsibility“, and relates that “disasters by the late flood have created incidentally an exigency which demands from me more than usual attention.”Samuel F.B. Morse established his reputation as a portrait painter, and his travels took him to Europe. The idea of using electricity to communicate over distance is said to have occurred to him during a conversation aboard ship when he was returning from Europe in 1832. Michael Faraday's recently invented electromagnet was much discussed by the ship's passengers, and when Morse came to understand how it worked, he speculated that it might be possible to send a coded message over a wire. In 1837 he applied for a patent, and by December of that year Morse had enough confidence in his new system to apply for a federal government appropriation to build it. During the next year he conducted demonstrations of his telegraph both in New York and Washington, where he sent telegraph messages between the Senate and House wings of the Capitol. However, when the economic disaster known as the Panic of 1837 took hold of the nation and caused a long depression, Morse was forced to wait for better times.By 1843, the country was recovering economically, and Morse asked Congress for the $30,000 that would allow him to build a telegraph line from Washington to Baltimore, forty miles away. The House of Representatives passed the bill containing the Morse appropriation, and the Senate approved it in the final hours of that Congress's last session. With President Tyler's signature, Morse received the cash he needed and began to carry out plans for a telegraph line. Morse also was aided by some private backers, including Congressman F.O.J. Smith.Morse now considered whether to run the telegraph cable overhead on poles or underground. The underground method required trenching, insulated telegraph wire, and piping through which to run the wires. By the time the project was authorized, he elected the underground method for reasons of cost. But construction encountered numerous obstacles and delays. It was Morse's idea to protect his fragile copper wire by running it through protective lead pipe, half an inch in diameter. After bids were taken, Smith contracted with James E. Serrell to deliver 40 miles worth. But by Fall of 1843, Serrell encountered problems with its manufacture and could not produce pipe quickly enough. In fact, he could not produce more than a quarter of what Morse required. The exasperated Morse revoked the contract and hired Benjamin Tatham & Co. when that firm agreed to deliver the necessary amount of pipe by November. This was acceptable to Morse, who planned to demonstrate the Baltimore-Washington telegraph line when Congress convened in December. However, the delivery date was far too optimistic.Meanwhile, to get things moving, Morse started to put down the existing ten miles of pipe. To excavate the trench in which to lay the pipe, Smith hired his brother-in-law Levi S. Bartlett. Morse objected that Bartlett’s price was too high and would seem extravagant to Congress, but trenching got underway. When it did, it was hindered by rains; then it was found that the insulation on the wires (which Smith had secured) was failing, and the pipe being laid proved defective. With problems on all fronts, the entire telegraph project was jeopardized. At this moment Morse received a letter from author Richard Dana requesting recollections of the artist Washington Allston, who had assisted Morse in his early career as a painter. Dana was editing the recently deceased Allston's Lectures on Art and Poems. Short of time to respond as he would like, Morse explained to Dana that the telegraph had run into some problems.Autograph letter signed, New York, September 8, 1843, to Dana. "I am really distressed that I am wholly unable 'to make time' to prepare what y. N° de ref. de la librería 11002

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Título: Samuel F.B. Morse Works to Build the First ...

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The Raab Collection buys and sells rare important historical documents, bring to its endeavors a passion not only for the manuscript but the history behind it. We've built important historical collections for institutions and historical enthusiasts. Our pieces have found homes in many major institutions devoted to preserving history.

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