FORT WAYNE, IND. (WPTA21)-It’s the little device everybody seems to have their faces buried in these days, even those barely old enough to hold one. Overnight the smart phone changed our world maybe not for the better. But this electronic wonder didn’t appear magically, it has its beginnings in another age, another world. And the man responsible for it is paying a visit to 21 Country. Fort Wayne’s Karpeles Manuscript Museum on Fairfield Avenue is hosting a ream of original documents handwritten by Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph. Trained as a portrait artist Morse was working in New York City in 1825 when he got a letter saying his beloved wife in Connecticut was ill. By the time he arrived home Sarah Morse was already dead and buried. On that day Morse committed himself to finding a faster way to communicate. This is what he came up with. This is the actual picture he drew in 1837 of the very first telegraph machine. Its potential was obvious.
“The issue of long distance family relationships,” says museum director Al Brothers III, “you find out sooner instead of months and years later that you have a grandchild or someone was passes. That’s huge.”
In 1843 the United States Congress agreed to pay for the first experimental telegraph line between Baltimore and Washington, D. C. buried underground in lead pipe. This is the letter Morse wrote to Congress with cost estimates for 40 miles of lead pipe and five tons of copper wire needed for the job, signed in his Morse’s own hand. Work on the line began a year later but there was a problem, the lead pipe was causing the wire to short out. Morse wrote this letter to Congress explaining the problem and proposing stringing his telegraph wire above ground on poles. This is the estimate he sent to the Secretary of State for 500 chestnut poles at a cost of $.98 cents apiece. In may, 1844 Morse sent the very first telegraph message from the basement of the capital building to Baltimore. It read ‘What Hath God Wrought’. This is the tape that carried that message in Morse Code which Morse himself developed. Just 13 years later Congress passed this bill, signed by Secretary of State William Seward authorizing the laying of the first transatlantic cable to carry telegraph messages to Europe and just fifty years after that Guglielmo Marconi broadcast the first message over wireless radio. The telegraph is considered one of the 25 most important inventions in human history and today’s Iphone is a direct descendant. In this exhibit right here in our own backyard, Samuel Morse himself makes it clear how it all happened.