Letter from Alfred Vail to Samuel Morse, January 11, 1857

ID: SIA2011-0814 (front) and SIA2011-0815 (back)

Creator: Vail, Alfred

Form/Genre: Letters (correspondence)

Date: January 11, 1857

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

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Alfred Vail writes to Samuel Morse, saying that he has seen another article injurious to himself, regarding his book and Joseph Henry's work. He requests of Morse a copy of his 1846 letter to Joseph Henry. He also inquires about several legal matters dealing with his invention of the electromagnetic telegraph: Mr. Ellsworth's activity in the case against Francis Orman Jonathan Smith; the claim against Livingston and Wells; and the case against Bain.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Morse, Samuel Finley Breese 1791-1872


Historic Images of the Smithsonian


  • 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 the work of Vail and Morse.
  • For Morse's response, see the January 15, 1857 letter (Negative Numbers SIA2011-0816 to SIA2011-0821). For the letter to Joseph Henry enclosed in the January 15 letter, see Negative Numbers SIA2011-0822 and SIA2011-0823. 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: 2

Contact information

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


  • January 11, 1857
  • 19th century

Restrictions & Rights

No restrictions


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


United States


  • Letters (correspondence)
  • Document
  • Paper

ID Number

SIA2011-0814 (front) and SIA2011-0815 (back)

Physical description

Number of Images: 2; Color: Color; Size: 8.75w x 10h; Type of Image: Document; Medium: Paper

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