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The Capitol's First Official Telegraph

May 24, 1844
The Capitol's First Official Telegraph Apotheosis of Washington, fresco, Constantino Brumidi, 1865, Architect of the Capitol Constantino Brumidi's Apotheosis of Washington depicts Samuel Morse (immediately to the right of the rainbow) alongside famous inventors Benjamin Franklin and Robert Fulton.
On this date, surrounded by an audience of Congressmen, inventor Samuel Morse sent the first official telegraph from the Supreme Court Chamber (then located in the Capitol) to his partner, Alfred Vail, in Baltimore. He tapped out the message “What hath God wrought?” using a system that sent out a signal in a series of dots and dashes, each combination representing one letter of the alphabet (what became known as “Morse code”). A few years earlier in February 1838, Morse, seeking a congressional appropriation to fund expansion of his research, performed the first public demonstration of his machine for Congress. The Chairman of the House Commerce Committee, Representative Francis O.J. Smith of Maine, was so impressed that he became one of Morse’s business partners and lobbied on Morse’s behalf. The inventor won a patent for his device, “The American Recording Electro-Magnetic Telegraph,” in 1840. By the 1880s, a commercial telegraph office opened in the Capitol building.

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