Letter from Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail to Joseph Henry, July 22, 1846

ID: SIA2011-0822 (front) and SIA2011-0823 (back)

Creator: Vail, Alfred

Form/Genre: Letters (correspondence)

Date: July 22, 1846

Citation: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7055, Box 2, Folder: 6

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This letter is from Alfred Vail to Joseph Henry, but it was written by Samuel Morse. The letter expresses Vail's discovery of Henry's grievances against his recently published work. Vail assures Henry that he did not consciously commit an injustice against Henry by not citing Henry's experiments in his book "The American Electro Magnetic Telegraph: With the Reports of Congress, and a Description of all Telegraphs Known, Employing Electricity or Galvanism". He also points out that he had requested information from Henry many times, but Henry never responded to his inquiries. Vail is preparing to make another edition of his work, and he assures Henry that he is more than willing to receive Henry's work, so that it may be properly cited. Vail also attests to the innocence of Morse in the preparation of his book (Henry had lodged his grievances against Morse more so than Vail, although it was Vail's book).


Henry, Joseph 1797-1878


Historic Images of the Smithsonian


  • American machinist and inventor Alfred Vail was a key partner to American inventor Samuel Morse and is credited with designing the machine and alpha code used in the creation of the electromagnetic telegraph.
  • Joseph Henry, first Secretary of the Smithsonian (term 1846-1878), had conducted experiments in electromagnetism relevant to Vail's and Morse's work.
  • For the January 15, 1857 letter in which this letter was enclosed, see Negative Numbers SIA2011-0816 to SIA2011-0821. For Vail's January 11, 1857 letter to Morse requesting his letter to Henry, see Negative Numbers SIA2011-0814 and SIA2011-0815. For materials relevant to Vail's work, see Negative Numbers SIA2011-0824 to SIA2011-0830.

Contained within

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7055, Box 2, Folder: 6

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520, SIHistory@si.edu


  • July 22, 1846
  • 19th century

Restrictions & Rights

No restrictions


  • Electric apparatus and appliances
  • Telegraph
  • Letters
  • Inventions
  • Science
  • Electromagnets
  • Telecommunication
  • History
  • Electromagnetic telegraph
  • Electromagnetism
  • Science--History


United States


  • Letters (correspondence)
  • Document
  • Paper

ID Number

SIA2011-0822 (front) and SIA2011-0823 (back)

Physical description

Number of Images: 2; Color: Color; Size: 7.75w x 10h; Type of Image: Document; Medium: Paper

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