Telegraph message, printed in Morse code, transcribed and signed by Samuel F. B. Morse. This message was transmitted from Baltimore, Maryland, to Washington, D.C., over the nation's first long-distance telegraph line.
In 1843, Congress allocated $30,000 for Morse (1791-1872) to build an electric telegraph line between Washington and Baltimore. Morse and his partner, Alfred Vail (1807-1859), completed the forty-mile line in May 1844. For the first transmissions, they used a quotation from the Bible, Numbers 23:23: "What hath God wrought," suggested by Annie G. Ellsworth (1826-1900), daughter of Patent Commissioner Henry L. Ellsworth (1791-1858) who was present at the event on 24 May. Morse, in the Capitol, sent the message to Vail at the B&O Railroad's Pratt Street Station in Baltimore. Vail then sent a return message confirming the message he had received.
The original message transmitted by Morse from Washington to Baltimore, dated 24 May 1844, is in the collections of the Library of Congress. The original confirmation message from Vail to Morse is in the collections of the Connecticut Historical Society.
This tape, dated 25 May, is a personal souvenir transmitted by Vail in Baltimore to Morse in Washington the day following the inaugural transmissions. The handwriting on the tape is that of Morse himself. Found in Morse’s papers after his death the tape was donated to the Smithsonian in 1900 by his son Edward, where it has been displayed in many exhibitions.
Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.