When studying in Rome in 1830, he became acquainted with the DanishsculptorBertel Thorvaldsen; the two artists would sometimes take walks together at night among the ancient ruins. Morse also painted Thorvaldsen's portrait. In the fall of 1835, Morse built and demonstrated a recording telegraph with a moving paper ribbon. At the beginning of 1836, Morse demonstrated his recording telegraph to Dr. Leonard Gale . Also in 1836, Morse ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of New York on a Nativist ticket, receiving 1,496 votes.
Samuel F. B. Morse
In 1836 Morse finished his first working prototype of the telegraph. It used a one-element battery and a simple electromagnet. This prototype only worked over short distances of about 40ft or less. In winter 1836-1837 Morse showed his prototype to Leonard Gale, professor of chemistry at New York University, where Morse taught painting. Gale was aware of the works of Joseph Henry on electromagnetic relays. Based on this knowledge Gale suggested several improvements and also urged Morse to read Henry's 1831 paper, which described these improvements. With these improvements Morse and Gale were able to record messages through ten miles of wire.
In September of the same year, Alfred Vail, then student at New York University, witnessed a demonstration of the telegraph. Vail's father Stephen Vail was a well-connected tinkerer, inventor, lawyer, community leader, and technology investor. He helped to finance the work on the telegraph.
In 1838, Morse changed the telegraphic cipher, from a telegraphic dictionary with number code to a code for each letter. Whether Alfred Vail was the actual inventor of this simpler code has been debated since the earliest days. According to much of the literature on the subject Vail was indeed the actual inventor, although Morse and his descendants claimed otherwise.
Paul J. Staiti, Samuel F. B. Morse (Cambridge 1989).
Lauretta Dimmick, "Mythic Proportion: Bertel Thorvaldsen's Influence in America", Thorvaldsen: l'ambiente, l'influsso, il mito, ed. P. Kragelund and M. Nykjær, Rome 1991 (Analecta Romana Instituti Danici, Supplementum 18.), pp. 169-191.
Tom Standage, "The Victorian Internet", pp. 21-40.