Drawing of the Electromagnetic Telegraph and Alpha Code

ID: SIA2011-0828

Creator: Vail, Alfred

Form/Genre: Document

Date: c. 1844

Citation: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7055, Box 5, Folder: 7

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These are two pages from Alfred Vail's experiment notebook. On the left page is his drawing of the electromagnetic telegraph, and on the right page is the alpha code, better know as Morse Code, that Vail developed for sending messages using the electromagnetic telegraph.


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 to SIA2011-0827, SIA2011-08289, and 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, Folder: 7

Contact information

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


c. 1844

Restrictions & Rights

No restrictions


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


United States


  • Document
  • Paper

ID Number


Physical description

Number of Images: 1; Color: Color; Size: 12.75w x 7.75h; Type of Image: Document; Medium: Paper

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