Samuel Morse
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Samuel Finley Breese Morse (1791 - 1872)

Samuel Finley Breese Morse
Born in Charlestown, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United Statesmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married 29 Sep 1818 (to 7 Feb 1825) in Concord, New Hampshiremap
Husband of — married 10 Aug 1848 in Utica, New Yorkmap
Descendants descendants
Died at age 80 in New York County, New York, United Statesmap
Problems/Questions Profile manager: Brett Barbaro private message [send private message]
Profile last modified | Created 15 Oct 2009
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Notables Project
Samuel Morse is Notable.

Samuel Morse, born in 1791[1], was not what one might expect from the inventor of Morse Code and the single-wire telegraph.

He was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts. At the age of only 14 years old (1805), Samuel attended Yale College. He graduated and returned to Massachusetts in 1810 where he became a clerk for a publisher until 1811 when his parents allowed him to go to London, England to attend the Royal Academy of Arts. His parents didn't think it proper for him to be a painter, and so he didn't pursue his interest until he went to London even though he had encouragement from a well-known American painter named Washington Allston.

In London, Samuel was taught by an American named Benjamin West. Due to Morse's charismatic, warm personality, he made many other friends such as Charles Leslie, another painter, and a poet named Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Morse wins a gold medal at an arts exhibition in London, and returns home in 1815. He proceeded to open an art studio, and in search of commissions to earn himself money, he travels to New Hampshire. There, he met his first wife; Lucretia Pickering Walker, who was 16 at the time. In 1819, the city of Charleston, South Carolina commissioned Morse to paint a portrait of President James Monroe.

In 1825, Morse's wife Lucretia died unexpectedly while he was away on a painting commission. The slowness of communications at the time meant he did not get home until after she was buried.[2]

Morse had another significant impact on American culture that is less well known in that he introduced photography to the United States after Louis Daguerre taught Morse his novel method of capturing images that became known as the daguerreotype[3],[4]. Morse soon was back in the United States and within months had trained several others including Jeremiah Gurney and Alexander Wolcott this new art form. These photographers then opened studios and began the craze for daguerreotype portraits that rapidly spread across the Americas until about 1860 when it was replaced by other photographic techniques.

Morse continues his life largely as an artist until autumn of 1835, when he creates a recording telegraph with a moving paper ribbon. Morse demonstrates his telegraph to a few acquaintances and soon finds himself attached to two partners, Alfred Vail and Dr. Leonard Gale. After an old acquaintance of Morse's tries to take credit for his telegraph design, Morse moves to get a patent for it. In December of 1837, Morse withdrew from painting to work on the telegraph. Morse described his telegraph as "including a dot and dash code to represent numbers, a dictionary to turn the numbers into words and a set of sawtooth type for sending signals."

Other people were also working on wired communications at the time, but they used multi-wire systems, typically four or five wires. Morse's system was the first practical single-wire solution.

In 1843, Morse got funding from Congress to make a telegraph line from Baltimore to Washington D.C. The first ever inter-city telegraph line message encompassed his amazement, saying: "What hath God wrought!" Morse quickly became an American hero and his technology became widely used. Several private companies opened their own telegraph lines and paid royalties to Morse. By 1848, Morse was married again and with enough money from his telegraph, he brought his family together in a country home. He grew to the age of 80, and in those years he donated money to Yale and other colleges, and also to struggling artists. On April 2nd, 1872, Morse died of pneumonia at the age of 80[5].


Note: Artist whose telegraph and Morse code prefigured the electronic age of telephones, radio, television sets,and computers, lived in London, Boston, Concord, NH, New Haven, CT, Charleston, SC, post 1823, and New York. Graduated from Yale in 1872. Resident of Charlestown, MA.
Note: Samuel F B Morse is a well known historical personality. Though he had 2 brothers, Richard and Sidney who founded the "New York Observer" he laid claim to his own fame on several accounts. Samuel distinguished himself as an artist. He painted a portrait of Lafayette himself and the two become personal friends. Secondly he became well known for his inventive genius. Among his contributions in this area are the Morse Code Teletype, and the electric light bulb. Samuel also founded a school called the "Academy of Design".
  • Fact: Christening (1 May 1791) Charlestown, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States
  • Fact: Residence (1860) 4th District 18th Ward New York City, New York, New York, United States
  • Fact: Residence (1870) Poughkeepsie, Dutchess, New York, United States
  • Fact: Burial (1872) Brooklyn, Kings (Brooklyn), New York, United States of America


  1. "Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626-2001," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 18 February 2020), Samuel Finley B Morse, 27 Apr 1791; citing Birth, Charlestown, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, Boston; FHL microfilm 007009468.
  2. Inventor profiles
  5. "New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949", database, FamilySearch ( : 3 June 2020), Samuel F. B. Morse, 1872.

See also:

  • NEHGS Nexus, VOL. XII, No.4, Aug-Sep 1995, p.118
  • Obituary of Samuel Finley Breese Morse, Yale College, Class of 1810. "Obituary Record of Graduates of Yale College, Deceased during the academical year ending in July 1872," Presented at the meeting of the alumni, July 10, 1872. Digital image at [1]
  • Jeremiah Gurney [2]


Memories: 1
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"My price is five dollars for a miniature on ivory, and I have engaged three or four at that price. My price for profiles is one dollar, and everybody is willing to engage me at that price." - Samuel Morse
posted 30 Oct 2009 by Anissa Truscott
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Comments: 4

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Hi! The Morse Name Study has a new category for Relatives of Samuel F. B. Morse. You can see the category here

You can add his relatives by using the category pull-down option when editing. Look for "Relatives of Samuel F. B. Morse, Morse Name Study."

Let's fill the page! Remember this is for any kind of relative - cousins, great grand nephews, etc. Its been my experiences over the years that Morse's like to tell their connection to Samuel F. B. Morse. At least in the US where I live.

posted by Kathryn Morse
Morse-3263 and Morse-11 appear to represent the same person because: Inventor of telegraph
posted by Brett Barbaro

Featured German connections: Samuel is 16 degrees from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 21 degrees from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 24 degrees from Lucas Cranach, 17 degrees from Stefanie Graf, 19 degrees from Wilhelm Grimm, 21 degrees from Fanny Hensel, 24 degrees from Theodor Heuss, 16 degrees from Alexander Mack, 32 degrees from Carl Miele, 14 degrees from Nathan Rothschild and 19 degrees from Ferdinand von Zeppelin on our single family tree. Login to see how you relate to 33 million family members.