Morse "Canvas-stretcher" telegraph receiver

Morse "Canvas-stretcher" telegraph receiver

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This is the prototype of the Morse telegraph receiver made by Samuel F. B. Morse and exhibited in New York in 1837. A clockwork mechanism draws a roll of paper under a pencil. The line thus drawn moves to the right or to the left depending on whether an electromagnet is active. The shape of the line represents the coded message.
Samuel F. B. Morse gained modest public attention as an artist in the 1820s. Seeking a more profitable venture, he converted this artist’s canvas stretcher into a telegraph receiver in 1837. The weight hanging off the right side of the piece powered a clockwork mechanism that pulled a strip of paper under a rocker arm. Electrical pulses from the transmitter activated an electromagnet that pulled a rocker arm to one side while a spring pulled the arm back when the power was off. A pencil mounted on the rocker arm drew a wavy line on a strip of paper as the arm moved left or right. The shape of the line represented the coded message.
Object Name
telegraph receiver
Telegraph Instrument
Date made
Morse, Samuel Finley Breese
overall: 41 1/2 in x 39 1/4 in x 7 3/4 in; 105.41 cm x 99.695 cm x 19.685 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
from Western Union Telegraph Co.
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Inventing In America
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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