Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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January 6th
Samuel Morse Starts a Communications Revolution
As a young man, Samuel Morse set out to become a famous painter. His ambition was “to rival the genius of a Raphael, a Michelangelo, or a Titian.” He studied at the Royal Academy in London and won acclaim by painting portraits of men such as President James Monroe and the Marquis de Lafayette.

In 1832, onboard a ship crossing the ocean, Morse heard another passenger describe how electricity could pass instantly over any length of wire. He began to wonder: Could messages be sent over wires with electricity? He rushed back to his cabin, took out his drawing book, and began to sketch out his idea for a telegraph.

He knew little about electricity, but he learned as he went. He used a homemade battery and parts from an old clock to build his first models. He developed a code of long and short electrical impulses  – “dots” and “dashes” – to represent letters. His invention raised the interest of Alfred Vail, a machinist who became his partner.

On January 6, 1838, the inventors were ready to test their device over two miles of wire at the Vail family ironworks in New Jersey. Vail’s father scribbled “A patient waiter is no loser” on a piece of paper and handed it to his son. “If you can send this and Mr. Morse can read it at the other end, I shall be convinced,” he said. A short time later, his words came out on the receiving end.

On May 24, 1844, an amazed crowd in the Supreme Court chambers in Washington, D.C., watched Samuel Morse demonstrate his telegraph by sending a message over a wire to Baltimore, 35 miles away. In Morse code, he tapped out a quote from the Bible: What hath God wrought!

Soon telegraph lines linked countries and continents, and the world entered the age of modern communication.

American History Parade
1759
George Washington and Martha Dandridge Custis are married.

1838
Samuel Morse conducts a successful demonstration of his telegraph near Morristown, New Jersey.

1912
New Mexico becomes the forty-seventh state.

1942
The Pan American Airways Pacific Clipper arrives in New York City to complete the first round-the-world trip by a commercial airplane.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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