May 05, 2016 - Sale 2413

Sale 2413 - Lot 64

Price Realized: $ 18,200
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 6,000 - $ 9,000
REQUESTING FUNDS TO CONTINUE TESTING FIRST-EVER TELEGRAPH LINE MORSE, SAMUEL F.B. Autograph Letter Signed, "S.F.B. Morse / Supt. Elec. Mag. Tel.," to Treasury Secretary McClintock Young, retained draft, in pencil with several holograph corrections in ink, requesting the remainder of the government appropriation to continue his Telegraph experiments. 2 pages, folio, with integral blank, ruled paper; faint scattered soiling, some foxing in left margin, horizontal folds, docketing on terminal page. (TFC) Washington, 29 June 1844

Additional Details

"Understanding that there is some doubt expressed at the Department respecting the power of applying the surplus of the appropriation to the further trial of the experiment for which the fund was created. . . . I would respectfully suggest a few considerations which . . . will make it clear that the remainder of the appropriation is available . . . for the objects proposed.
"The act provides for two specific objects, to wit, 1st to test the practicability and 2d to test the utility of the system. The first comprises the work on construction of the Telegraphic line, and a set of instruments adapted to test the efficiency of that line. This work is done, and the practicability proven, and on the ground of the completion of this work, I asked, and have received the conditional addition of $500 to my salary. The 2d object . . . presupposes the work done. Its utility is now in process of being tested and I had supposed there could not be a doubt that the sum remaining from the expenses of construction, was legitimately used if applied merely to the keeping in repair and otherwise maintaining what has been constructed. . . . In the testing of the utility of the Telegraph I had conceived that experiments were included to ascertain the greatest economy of the materials that are consumed in the process of communicating intelligence, such as acid, zinc, & paper, the greatest amount of intelligence that can be communicated in a given time, and the actual cost . . . of maintaining stations, as also the demand likely to be made for the use of the telegraph. These points are not yet ascertained and experience alone . . . can satisfactorily determine them. With the approbation of the department, I have already made many experiments which have resulted in economical modes . . . which, if successful, will be the means of diminishing the cost of maintenance of the Telegraph many thousands of dollars . . . .
"Should the opinion prevail however that no more of the appropriation can be drawn out upon my application, I beg it to be considered in what condition the property of the Gov't thus invested in the Telegraph will be left. I cannot bring myself to believe such a construction of the law as will endanger the whole work, will meet with the approval of the Department."
After Morse's initial success in 1844, Congress debated whether to convert the telegraph service into an agency of the government, making the body reluctant to invest further in the Washington-Baltimore line. A conclusion was not reached until 1847, when Congress turned over the Washington-Baltimore line to the Magnetic Telegraph Co., judging the enterprise too risky to continue under public sponsorship.