Morse Claims Henry's Work in Electromagnetism Did Not Contribute to Invention of Telegraph




Date: July 19, 1854


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In a letter to the New York Daily Times responding to an editorial praising the Smithsonian and Joseph Henry, Samuel F.B. Morse writes that "the magnetic telegraph owes little, if anything, to Prof. Henry's labors or discoveries, notwithstanding the labored and reiterated efforts to make that impression." Morse's attack comes in the wake of controversy over Henry's dismissal of Assistant Secretary Charles Coffin Jewett and contradicts earlier statements by Morse. Henry had provided legal testimony for a telegraph entrepreneur contesting Morse's patents.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Morse, Samuel Finley Breese 1791-1872
  • Jewett, Charles C (Charles Coffin) 1816-1868


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Image is of Samuel Morse's Experimental Telegraph from 1837. With this instrument Morse first demonstrated the receiving of electro-magnetic telegraphic messages. Smithsonian Institution Archives, negative number 91-3689.
  • Rothenberg, Marc, et al, eds. The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 9. Washington, D.C.: Science History Publications, 2002, pp. xxii, 111-12.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


July 19, 1854


  • Electric apparatus and appliances
  • Telegraph
  • Inventors
  • Controversies
  • Inventions
  • Electromagnets
  • Electromagnetic telegraph

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