Cover of Alfred Vail's Experiment Notebook

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This cover of Alfred Vail's experiment notebook has Vail's alpha code on it, better known as Morse Code. The code on the bottom of the cover reads "Alfred Vail's Book."


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.
  • For other materials relevant to Vail's work, see Negative Numbers SIA2011-0824 and SIA2011-0826 to SIA2011-0830. For letters between Vail, Morse, and first Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry, see Negative Numbers SIA2011-0814 to SIA2011-0823.

Contained within

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7055, Box 5

Contact information

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


c. 1844

Restrictions & Rights

No restrictions


  • Electric apparatus and appliances
  • Ciphers
  • Telegraph
  • Inventions
  • Science
  • Telecommunication
  • Notebooks
  • Electromagnets
  • History
  • Electromagnetic telegraph
  • Science--History


United States


  • Document
  • Paper

ID Number


Physical description

Number of Images: 1; Color: Color; Size: 4w x 6.5h; Type of Image: Document; Medium: Paper

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