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Samuel B. Morse.jpg

Samuel Morse was an American paintor and inventor. Until middle age, he was a highly successful artist, but then invented the single-wire telegraph system based on European communications. He was the co-developer of the Morse Code and also developed telegraphy for more widespread, commercial use.

Full Name Samuel Finley Breese Morse
Who inventor
Birth Date April 27, 1791
Death Date April 2, 1872
Country United States
Born Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Died New York, New York, USA
Cause of Death old age

Yale University

The Royal Academy of Arts

Father Jedidiah Morse
Mother Elizabeth Ann Finley Breese Morse

Sidney Edwards Morse

Richard Cary Morse


Lucretia Pickering Walker Morse

Sarah Elizabeth Griswold Morse


Susan Walker Morse

Charles Morse

James Morse

Samuel Morse Jr.

Cornelia Morse

William Morse

Edward Morse


Morse was the son of Jedidiah Morse.

While studying at Yale, Morse took classes in electricity from Benjamin Silliman, also a family friend of his father's, and Jeremiah Day.

Morse, who supported himself while at university through painting, was noticed by painter Washington Allston, who admired his work. The two became friends, and Allston invited Morse to accompany him to England to meet artist Benjamin West and study at an arts school for three years. In England, Morse was accepted in the Royal Academy of Arts and continued to rely upon Allston as a mentor.

Benjamin West, whom Morse had first traveled to England to meet, became an acquaintance of Morse and a loyal admirer of his work.

Morse painted the portraits of John Adams, Marquis de Lafayette, Jonas Platt, Francis Brown, and James Monroe.

After painting the portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette, whom Morse deeply admired, the two men became close friends. While painting him in 1825, during Lafeyette's visit to Washington D.C., Morse recieved word that his wife had passed away, and immediately rushed home, leaving Lafeyette's portrait unfinished. Upon returning home, he learned that his wife had been gravely ill for days, and that letters had been sent, but had not reached him yet. His grief propelled him to develop a means of faster communication and invent the telegraph.

Morse was a close friend of James Fenimore Cooper, whom he first met in Washington D.C. in 1825. While both staying in Paris in 1832, the two became even closer. 

While returning on a transatlantic voyage to the United States in 1832, Morse met Charles Thomas Jackson, and the two had long discussions about electromagnetism. Jackson is often credited with inspiring Morse's telegraph.

Alfred Vail was a major investor, and at times collaborater, of the telegraph. Though he had much enthusiasm for the invention and insightful additions, it was his wealth and ownership of the large and profitable Speedwell Ironworks Company that lended the most use to the project. It was at times alluded to that Vail felt that he was unappreciated by Morse for his ideas and talent, and seen only as a financer. In later years, he would challenge Morse's patent in long legal battles.

Susan Fenimore Cooper briefly studied painting under Morse's instruction in 1832 in Paris.

On another visit to Paris in 1839, Morse met and became friends with Louis Daguerre, and was fascinated by his invention of the dageurrotype. He published an widely read essay on the invention, which helped Daguerre popularize the technology.

When Morse visited Rome in 1836, he refused to take off his hat in the prescence of Pope Gregory XVI, being a longstanding opposer of Catholicism.

Francis Ormand Jonathan Smith was the financial investor in the telegraph, as well as his publicist and publicity manager.

Ezra Cornell was an associate of Morse's from about 1839, helping him perfect the telegraph.

Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, the U.S. Patent Commissioner, was a major supporter of the telegraph and of Morse from about 1842 onward. His young daughter chose the words for Morse's first long-distance telegraph, "What hath God wrought." 

In the 1850's, Morse visited Copenhagen and was recieved in an audience with King Frederick VII, who decorated him as a member of the Order of Dannebrog. Morse donated a self portrait of himself to the king, which is still owned today by the Danish royal family.

Abdulmecid I, Sultan of Turkey, was a friend and admirer of Morse. The inventor traveled to the Sultan's palace upon invitation in 1847, where Abdulmecid tested the telegraph and granted Morse a patent. After hearing of Morse's death in 1872, he sent many extravagent gifts to the United States in his honor.


Boston, Massachusetts, USA - Born here, 1791.

Andover, Massachusetts, USA - Attended school here, approximately 1801 - 1806.

New Haven, Connecticut, USA - Attended university here, 1806 - 1810. Lived here, 1821 - 1825.

London, England, UK - Attended arts university here, 1811 - 1815.

Concord, New Hampshire, USA - Got married here, 1818.

Charleston, South Carolina, USA - Painted portraits here, 1818.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA - Painted portraits here, 1820.

Washington D.C., USA - Painted portraits here, 1820 and 1825.

Rome, Italy - Traveled here, 1830.

Paris, France - Stayed here, painted here, 1831 - 1832. Visited again, 1839.

Morristown, New Jersey, USA - First demonstrated the telegraph here, 1838.

Poughkeepsie, New York, USA - Bought an estate here, 1847.

Istanbul, Turkey - Traveled here, 1847.

Utica, New York, USA - Got married a second time here, 1848.

Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA - Accepted an elected fellowship here, 1849.

Copenhagen, Denmark - Traveled here, 1850's.

Guayama, Puerto Rico - Traveled here, 1858.

Arroyo, Puerto Rico - Often visited here, spent winters here, beginning 1859.

New York, New York, USA - Was often here, beginning in 1820's. Died here, 1872.