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    Samuel Morse Unsigned Autograph Draft. One page, two sided, on pale-blue lined paper 8" x 10", n.p., n.d. [circa 1843]. Samuel Finley Breese Morse was an American portrait painter, the creator of a single-wire telegraph system, and co-inventor, with Alfred Vail, of the Morse Code. In 1832, Morse began working on a prototype electric telegraph. His intention was to use the proceeds from his invention to fund his artistic career. Morse worked with both Joseph Henry and Alfred Vail, a skilled mechanic, to construct a working telegraph system that they first demonstrated in 1838. Morse worked with Maine Congressman F.O.J. Smith to lobby Congress for to appropriate $30,000 for an experimental thirty-eight-mile long-distance telegraph line to run between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

    Offered here is a draft of a letter to an unidentified government official, detailing unexpected delays in the unveiling of his invention which would transform and revolutionize communications in the 19th century. It reads in full: "Note. By a contract made with the consent of the Department, with F.O.J. Smith in consequence of the failure of Terril [?] to supply pipe as contracted for by him, there was a saving made to the U.S. (as will be seen herewith transmitted the memorandum of F.O.J. Smith) of $588.06, being one half of the Amo. of profit to him from the manufacture of the pipe by a method devised by me, and he relinquished one half to me, which will be credited to the U.S. whenever the contract is completed. But in consequence of the pipe being in [part] defective, which although being all delivered by F.O.J. Smith, the final payments have not yet been made, and until the final settlement is made, the One half of the profits to him under said Supplemental Contract cannot be ascertained, and is not therefore credited in this account."

    Initially, the cable was placed in underground lead pipes using a machine designed by Ezra Cornell, the founder of Cornell University. When Cornell's pipes failed, as evidenced by this memorandum, above-ground poles are used to carry the telegraph wires. On May 24, 1844, Morse would successfully send the first telegraph message, "What hath God wrought?" from the Supreme Court chamber in the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to the B & O Railroad Depot in Baltimore, Maryland, effectively changing communications on a global basis.

    Originally drafted in pencil, Morse then re-wrote the note in fountain pen ink, making occasional corrections as he went. Although unsigned, this unique item is a singular historical artifact marking the development of modern communications technology. Document is very fine condition and suitable for framing and prominent display.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2008
    17th-18th Friday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 793

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