University Archives

Lot 247

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Description: Samuel Morse "You Say You Have Also Invented a Telegraph"

Bi-fold autograph letter signed, with integral transmittal leaf addressed in the hand of Morse. Partial separations along fold intersections. Signed by Samuel Morse as "Saml. B. Morse", and dated "Washington March 24, 1846". Penned to recto of first page, balance of pages blank. Red wax seal present with corresponding small hole where the document was opened. Lovely vibrant dark ink.

Samuel Morse offers a blunt but humorous response to a competitor in the race for sophistication in the manner of telegraphy. Written less than two years after he had established the first long-distance telegraph line between Washington and Baltimore. Morse tersely responds " … you say you have also invented a Telegraph, and that you intend doing nothing in relation to it 'until I have had time to speak.'"

"You do not give me any clue to your plan, so that I am unable to speak. But as I am a Yankee I have the privilege of guessing, and also of guessing twice, if I guess wrong the first time.  I guess then your plan is a tube filled with water, which has often been the subject of our thoughts and planning's, and which has long been discarded not because it is not feasible for a certain distance but from its expense and some other inconveniences which virtually make it impracticable. Beside is it a plan calculated and thrown aside before electric telegraphs were thought of.  Now if I have guessed right you are in the vocative, if wrong why there is a chance for your life. Let us have it, for if it is new and original with you, you need no patent papers to secure to you the benefits … I have many communications on various plans from all parts of the country. None as yet can compete with the lightening"

The recipient was likely the Reverend Joseph Tracy (as shown on the address leaf, 1793-1874) who had claimed to have had developed method of using short and long pulses as a code for telegraphy, independently of Morse - and several years after the formulation of Morse's own code (see Edward L. Morse. "the Dot and Dash Alphabet", The Century Magazine, vol. 83, March 1912, pp.700-701)

A superb example with great content by Morse demonstrating the race for methods of communication.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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August 19, 2020 10:30 AM EDT

Westport, CT, US

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