MORSE, Samuel F.B. Autograph document signed ("Saml. F.B. Morse Superintendt. Of Elec[tric] Mag[netic] Tel[egraph]"), comprising his "Eleventh Monthly Report" to the Treasury. Washington, D.C., 11 February 1844. 1 page, folio (12½ x 7 7/8 in.), on a sheet of lined paper ruled in columns. -- MORSE. Autograph memorandum, possibly a draft, with numerous corrections, in ink over pencil. N.p., n.d., 1½ page, 4to. -- SPENCER, J.C., Secretary of the Treasury. Autograph letter signed to Morse, Treasury Department, 22 January 1844. 1 page, 4to, pale blue paper, Morse's 8-line endorsement on verso. -- Three manuscript vouchers (numbers 446, 449 and 464), Washington, 1841 and 1844, each with careful four-line endorsement by Morse on verso. Each a narrow oblong. Together 6 items. All in mint condition.
THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF THE FIRST OPERATIONAL TELEGRAPH LINE
Although the U.S. Treasury had appropriated funds for the construction of the first telegraph line from Baltimore to Washington under the supervision of Morse, and granted him the grand title "Superintendant of the Electrical Magnetic Telegraph," Morse was required to keep rigorous accounts of his disbursements for materials, as amply attested in this group of documents. In the folio document, which Morse labels in his fine italic hand "Eleventh monthly report," Morse lists "Expenditures on acct. of Materials for the Elec[tric] Mag[netic] Tel[egraph] for the month." He lists three vouchers by number (all three of which are included here), two to George Collard and one to F.O. Smith, one of Morse's partner in the venture. All three vouchers are made out to "Professor S.F. B. Morse." Payments to Collard are authorized of $13.88 and $2.66. These are evidently for small items of hardware. F.O. Smith, on the other hand, is owed a substantial sum: $2,207.20.
In his 1837 proposal for the telegraph, Morse had considered running the telegraph cable overhead on poles or underground. By the time construction was authorized, he elected the latter method, for reasons of cost. It was Morse's idea to protect his fragile copper telegraph cable by running it protective lead pipe, half an inch in diameter. After bids were taken, he contracted with James E. Serrell to deliver the necessary quantity. But by Fall of 1843, as the line progressed, Serrell could not produce pipe quickly enough, and encountered problems with its manufacture. The exasperated Morse revoked the contract and hired Tatham & Bros. of New York, but they too, experienced serious problems with the process. As his draft memorandum shows, much of this special pipe, manufactured "by a method devised by me," proved defective. The entire telegraph project was jeopardized. But Smith insisted on being paid for his share of the pipe contract and relations between Smith and Morse rapidly deteriorated. In his letter of 22 January 1844, Treasury Secretary Spencer attempts to resolve the issue, instructing Morse that "all the Telegraphic pipe called for in the contract...has been manufactured and delivered and accepted by you." In spite of "certain mentioned defects in said pipe, the Department consents" to his paying Smith, after deducting fifty dollars as per his suggestion. Finally, in a voucher dated the same day, Smith attests that he has been paid in full by Prof. Morse for "lead pipe with wire enclosed," "for the Telegraph," and briefly alludes to "the deficiency under his contract."
In light of difficulties with the pipe, Morse decided to abandon the underground wire plan and turned to stringing his wire on poles, which would ultimately prove successful. On 24 May 1944, tapping a key in his Washington D.C. terminus, he transmitted the first message over the new line, the now famous words "What hath God wrought." (6)