OTD: First telegram message sent

May 23, 2022

May 24, 1844

"What hath God wrought?"

Samuel Morse sent the first telegraphic message via an experimental line from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore. Morse’s invention revolutionized communication and enabled people to send messages without being limited by distance.

Samuel Morse, originally known for his work as an artist, conceived the idea of the telegraph while traveling to New York. While working as an arts professor at NYU, he experimented with an electromagnetic communications system connected by a network of stations. He spent the next 10+ years perfecting the system.

The first message, “What hath God wrought?”, was taken from the Bible -suggested to Morse by a friend’s daughter.

Morse noted how the telegraph could strongly influence public opinion. In 1844 he wrote, “be especially careful not to give a partisan character to any information you may transmit.”

Pic of telegram

Morse invented “Morse Code” – an alphabet of electronic dashes and dots – in order to efficiently transmit telegraph messages.

Fact-checking: He spent 10+ years developing technology – “The idea of using electricity to communicate over distance is said to have occurred to Morse during a conversation aboard ship when he was returning from Europe in 1832.

Library of Congress: Today in History

What the Digital Age Owes to the Inventor of Morse Code (Time)

by Jenna Lee,