| Builders of Our Country: Book II|
|by Gertrude van Duyn Southworth|
| A lively account of American history told through 31 biographies, beginning with Patrick Henry at the start of the Revolution and ending with Andrew Carnegie at the close of the 19th century. The biographies are so chosen as to acquaint the reader with the chief personages and events in our national life, by including many vivid pictures of each. Ages 10-12 |
SAMUEL F. B. MORSE AND HIS SUCCESSORS
METHODS OF SIGNALING
 "IF danger threatens you from our direction, we will
warn you by a beacon fire," agreed the early inhabitants
of neighboring settlements. This way of sending a message
from hilltop to hilltop by signal fires was a custom our
ancestors brought with them from across the sea. At best
it was uncertain, and the message to be sent had to be
agreed upon beforehand.
Later another signaling device, the semaphore, came
into use to some extent. The semaphore was made by
fastening a movable arm to an upright post, the different
angles at which the arm was placed indicating the different
words of the message.
Then during the Civil War, flags and rockets were
used in signaling on the battlefield, and to notify troops
of the approach of the enemy.
The heliographic system was still another form of
signaling, and was carried out by reflecting the sun's light
from one station to another by means of mirrors.
Heliograph signals have been sent more than one hundred and
fifty miles. But even this system had its drawbacks.
It was only a daylight and pleasant weather system,
darkness or cloudy weather, putting an end to communication
between the stations.
So you see that the invention of the telegraph supplied
 a great and pressing need. Here was a means of rapid
communication, one that could be used by night as well
as by day, and could carry a message long or short.
Samuel F. B. Morse was the inventor of the telegraph.
SAMUEL MORSE AND THE TELEGRAPH
MORSE was a Massachusetts boy born there in 1791.
While in college at Yale, Morse had for professors two
of the most noted scientists of the day in this country,
and through them he first became interested in electricity.
However, at the time of graduation his ambition was to
become an artist, not a scientist. Accordingly he went to
London where he worked for four years with splendid
results and where, through his father's influence, he came
to know many prominent Englishmen.
In 1815 he came back to
America and set about earning
his living through his art. He
seems to have been a true Yankee with an active, inventive
mind, quick to grasp the possibilities of a suggestion that to
many would have meant nothing. At dinner one night, in
1832, when he was returning
from another visit abroad, the conversation turned on
electricity. Then and there the thought flashed through
his mind that this mysterious force might be employed in
For the next eleven years Morse's principal interest in
life was pushing and perfecting the idea of an electric
telegraph. Poor! He was so poor that it was with great
 difficulty that he managed to carry on his investigations
at all. He was even compelled to build his own models
and machines. Discouragement followed discouragement;
but still he plodded on, always confident of final success.
In 1835 he was appointed professor in the University
of the City of New York. Luckily for him one of his pupils
became interested in the experiments and induced his
father, the owner of brass and iron works, to furnish the
Then came the struggle to raise the money needed to
put up a telegraph line. Morse exhibited his apparatus
in Philadelphia. He exhibited it in Washington to the
President and his Cabinet, and for several years sought an
appropriation from Congress with which to build an
experimental telegraph line. Finally, in 1843, an
appropriation of $30,000 was granted by Congress. The Senate
approved the bill late at night on the last day of the
session, after Morse had given up all hope of its being reached
and had gone home to bed. As he was coming down to
breakfast in the morning, a young lady congratulated him
on his success. Had the Senate passed his bill? He could
hardly believe the news.
A year later the bearer of the good tidings was asked
to send the first telegraph message in this country. "What
hath God wrought!" were the words she chose. And on
May 24, 1844, this message was flashed from Washington
to Baltimore over Morse's new telegraph line. Of course
the opening of the line created intense interest; and the
Chamber of the Supreme Court, the Washington end of
the line, was filled with excited people.
THE FIRST TELEGRAPHIC MESSAGE SENT BY THE MORSE SYSTEM, NOW PRESERVED AT HARVARD COLLEGE.
The practical use of the telegraph was shown in a
rather dramatic way a few days later. The Democratic
National Convention was being held in Baltimore, and
Silas Wright was unexpectedly nominated for Vice
 President. The news was telegraphed to Morse at Washington,
and Wright's refusal of the nomination was quickly
sent back to Baltimore, and the convention was told of it.
This was beyond belief. It was not possible that a
message had really been sent, received, and answered in
so short a time. Surely it was some trick of Wright's
enemies, nothing more nor less. So the convention
adjourned, while a committee went to Washington to see
Wright in person, only to learn that the message was
correct and that he had refused the nomination.
Soon after the opening of the telegraph line a young
lady came to Morse with a sealed letter and asked him to
send it by telegraph to Baltimore. When he said that he
could not do that, she asked if he would not send her.
These and other queer notions about Morse's invention
were held by many when it was fast put into operation.
The influence of the telegraph was soon widely
recognized, and Morse richly deserved the many rewards he
received. By his genius and ability he had contrived
a means of overcoming distance, enabling those separated
by many miles to communicate with the swiftness
CYRUS W. FIELD AND MARCONI
 AFTER becoming accustomed to the rapidity of communication
by telegraph, ten days or more seemed a long
time to wait for European news. So Cyrus W. Field
interested himself in plans for the laying of an ocean cable.
Early in 1854 the New York, Newfoundland, and
London Telegraph Company was chartered, and the preliminary
work was begun. By August of
1857 all the arrangements were
made; and on the 7th a steamer
started from Ireland for Newfoundland, unrolling the cable
as it went. But after a few
hundred miles had been laid,
the cable broke; and the attempt was put off for a year.
In 1858 another effort at
cable-laying proved successful,
and for eighteen days England
and America were connected.
Messages of congratulation were
sent by the Queen and the President, and everyone
concerned with the undertaking was happy. Then suddenly
the cable ceased to work; a break had occurred somewhere.
No further attempt was made to carry out Field's plan
until 1865, when the Great Eastern, the largest ship of that
time, succeeded in laying more than a thousand miles of
cable. At that point came another discouraging break.
Mr. Field still persisted, however; and finally in 1866
a cable was successfully stretched across the Atlantic
Ocean. Ever since that time there has been cable
communication between this country and Europe. There are
 to-day more than half a dozen cables across the Atlantic
and Pacific; and, as far as news is concerned, New York is
as near to the capitals of Europe as it is to Washington.
It is indeed wonderful to be able to send messages
over a wire across land and sea. But a still more
marvelous invention is now coming into use. This is
wireless telegraphy. The inventor is an Italian, Guglielmo
Marconi. By Marconi's system messages can be sent,
miles through the air from station to station without a
wire to carry them. And for the first time ships crossing
the ocean can keep in constant communication with land.
ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL AND THE TELEPHONE
EIGHTEEN hundred and seventy-six was the year of
the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia, and at that
time and place another great electrical invention was
exhibited. But in spite of the fact that the telegraph
by land and sea had already illustrated the marvelous
uses of electricity, the telephone of Alexander Graham
Bell was regarded by people generally as a toy.
Few, if any, credited that it could ever be of practical
service. And yet there is hardly any modern invention
that has done as much to add to the convenience of living
as has the telephone. We use it to order our meals, to
chat with our friends, or to transact business, near at
hand or miles away. Most of us use it a hundred times
where we use the telegraph once.
Mr. Bell, its inventor, was born and educated in
Scotland, but has lived in this country for many years. His
father, too, was a noted man. He it was who evolved the
system of "visible speech," as it is called, by which the
deaf are taught to speak by imitating the motions of
another person's lips.
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