Communication Lessons Learned…

Morse photo

Almost 200 years ago, the world made great strides in creating mass communication. Contrary to popular belief Samuel Morse did not invent the telegraph but his persistence in perfecting the invention in the 1830’s and re-creating its’ capabilities allowed him to re-design and commercialize the invention known as Morse Code.

Samuel Finley Breese Morse was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, in 1791. A Yale graduate and son of a minister, Morse was an aggressive and inventive entrepreneur and he was determined to succeed. Although he trained as an artist, his path would lead him to one of the greatest accomplishments created to link the world of mass communication.

Coincidence or premonition, Morse wrote a letter to his parents during a long voyage from America to England,

“I wish I could communicate this information, but 3000 miles are not passed over in an instant, & we must wait 4 long weeks before we can hear from each other.”


Morse returned home in 1815 with a desire to sell historic-themed paintings to the American public. But, his customers wanted something else; portraits of themselves. Morse is credited with famous paintings of Americans like Eli Whitney. He helped found the National Academy of Design. He moved to New York and accepted the position as professor of Literature of Arts and Design at the newly created University of the City of New York (now New York University).

Concurrently, Morse became engrossed in his hobby as a daguerreotypist and through this advancement in new technology became one of the first to practice photography in America, even training photographers like Mathew B. Brady, one of the best-known American photographers of the nineteenth century.

Through adventures in art, photography, and even politics, Morse accomplished his greatest achievement in the perfection of the telegraph. In fact, it was during another transatlantic voyage that Morse studied and tested his invention. After 12 years of dedication, he perfected the Morse Code.


It was on January 6, 1838 that Morse gave a public demonstration of the telegraph. But, like all entrepreneurs, Morse lacked financial backing to build his telegraph line over a long distance. After a full 5 years and sheer determination, Congress granted Morse $30,000 to build a trial telegraph line Washington, DC to Maryland. In fact, it was at the Whig party national convention in 1844 that the telegraph carried the news that Henry Clay would run for president.

Morse received necessary funds to extend the telegraph line to other and like all free commerce telegraph companies grew across the country. In fact, one of the largest, Western Union opened for business in 1851 and within 10 years, their lines reached coast to coast, mainly along the railways which were spreading at about the same time. Engineers built the first transcontinental telegraph line in 1861 that served most thriving countries.


Finally, Morse’s telegraph proved to be a monumental achievement and immediate success. Being educated and a businessman, Morse obtained the necessary patents and established telegraph exchanges in countries worldwide, but it would take the Supreme Court to reward Morse with royalties for making use of a “single-circuit, battery-powered machine” that he was denied initially by the government. Finally, Morse became a wealthy man. In an 1838 letter to Francis O.J. Smith in 1838, Morse wrote:

“This mode of instantaneous communication must inevitably become an instrument of immense power, to be wielded for good or for evil, as it shall be properly or improperly directed.”


By the 1850s, the telegraph changed business and politics around the world. Similar to the internet today, the telegraph connected real-time news and events, allowed for dialogue about current and future preparations for commerce, industry, internal and external relationships around the world. For the first time in history, technology was the focus of communication leading the way to radio, telephone, television, and now the internet. When the first transatlantic cable was built, US President Buchanan and Queen Victoria exchanged messages in 1858, a writer for the Times of London raved:

“Tomorrow the hearts of the civilized world will beat in a single pulse and from that time forth forevermore the continental divisions of the earth will, in a measure, lose those conditions of time and distance which now mark their relations.”


How do we determine the long-term ripples or waves of our dreams turned creation? Surely, Samuel F.B. Morse couldn’t have known the global impact of his determination and work ethic. The willingness to study, devote time and energy, try, fail, switch gears is part of our lives inside the office and at home. And, the thread that weaves through our hard-fought battles is hope. Morse hoped for success, demonstrated his abilities, and ventured into the world to follow his passions and dreams. You never know if your hopes and dreams turned reality could impact the world 300 years later. In their 1858 book “The Story of the Telegraph“, Authors Charles F. Briggs and Augustus Maverick wrote:

“Of all the marvelous achievements of modern science the electric telegraph is transcendentally the greatest and most serviceable to mankind … The whole earth will be belted with the electric current, palpitating with human thoughts and emotions … How potent a power, then, is the telegraphic destined to become in the civilization of the world! This binds together by a vital cord all the nations of the earth. It is impossible that old prejudices and hostilities should longer exist, while such an instrument has been created for an exchange of thought between all the nations of the earth.”

Many lessons can be learned from Samuel Morse’s strive for success and creation of something new.  With the advent of so many new mediums, each client Chemistry Multimedia interacts with has different needs and goals.  Just like Morse, we will go to the ends of the earth to insure your organization reaches the success you’re looking for!