The National Digital Library Program of the Library of Congress and the Manuscript Division announce the release of the online collection of the Samuel F.B. Morse Papers <http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/sfbmhtml/> available on the American Memory Web site.
Through the generous support of the AT&T Foundation, a selection of 6,500 library items, or approximately 50,000 digital images from the collection is now available. The Morse Papers consist of correspondence, letterbooks, diaries, drawings, clippings, printed matter, maps, and other miscellaneous materials documenting Morse’s invention of the electromagnetic telegraph and his participation in the development of telegraph systems in the United States and abroad, as well as his career as a painter, family life, travels, and interest in early photography and religion. The online collection, dating from 1793-1919, offers a well-rounded portrayal of the life of Samuel F.B. Morse.
Morse was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, on April 27, 1791. He was a graduate of Yale and trained as an artist at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, England. Morse showed great promise and was well-respected as a painter; he tried to earn a living painting portraits but found little financial success. It was on his sea voyage home from studying art in Europe in 1832 that Morse first conceived the idea of the electromagnetic telegraph. For twelve years, he worked on and off to gather enough knowledge and experience to build his telegraph. In 1843, Congress appropriated $30,000 for Morse to build an experimental telegraph line from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, Maryland. On May 24, 1844, he sent his famous message, "What hath God wrought?" from the Supreme Court chamber in the Capitol to the B&O Railroad Depot in Baltimore. That original tape is a major highlight of the collection and one of the treasures of the Library of Congress.
Morse also made a foray into early photography. After meeting the French artist and inventor of the daguerreotype, Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre, while in Paris in 1838, Morse returned home to be among the first to practice photography in America. He even taught the daguerreotype process to a number of students, including Mathew Brady.
The collection also includes sketches relating to the telegraph, art, and places Morse visited in Europe, as well as correspondence from many nineteenth-century American artists and historical figures such as James Fenimore Cooper, Thomas Cole, the Marquis de Lafayette, William Henry Seward, Roger Brooke Taney, Mathew Brady, and Eli Whitney.
American Memory <http://memory.loc.gov/> is a gateway to rich primary source materials relating to the history and culture of the United States. The site offers more than 7 million digital items from more than 100 historical collections.
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