History and development of Morse Code and the Keys to send it.
Written by:
Jacob C. Herman

There have been countless important inventions over the last several centuries that have changed the way people live their lives in a positive way. The light bulb, the television, the computer, voicemail and live answering services are all instrumental in helping people communicate and live better lives. Perhaps no other invention was more important to human development that the telegraph and Morse code. Morse code is a way of communicating using a series of different lights, clicking sounds, and tones. Each letter or character is represented by different dots and dashes, and when put together can create sentences to help communicate to others. This amazing, inventive form of communication revolutionized the way people talked to each other, and is still an integral part of modern communication today, although not as prevalent.

The Development and Invention of Morse Code

In 1836, an American artist named Samuel Morse along with his partner Joseph Henry, a physicist, developed a new telegraph system that would change the world. They wanted to come up with a way to transmit communications long distances without the use of mail or handwritten means. The system used electric currents that went along wires to transmit an electromagnetic current. The system was first widely used in 1844, and was then translated over a long paper tape. The person on other end could then see the currents that had been produced on the tape, and translate them for reading. These dots and dashes were the first beginnings of real, modern communication.

Later in the 1890s, Morse code was used in radio communications and then in the 1930s, it was used during wartime by pilots and other soldiers to better get messages out into the battlefield. This was especially important in World War II, when the warships and naval bases needed to be in direct contact with one another. In fact, Morse code was the prevalent form of maritime communication all the way up until 1999! International Morse code was used in Germany, France, and Canada. It has been used for everything from aviation and radio to the stock market, and for people to signal SOS that they need help in emergency situations. There have even been instances where prisoners of war have used Morse code by blinking signals with their eyes to communicate with their rescuers.

Samuel Morse

We owe the development and use of Morse code to its main inventor, Samuel Morse. He was born in 1871 in Charlestown, Massachusetts. His father was a preacher but was also a geologist. When Morse was older, he attended Yale and studied religious philosophy, math, and horses. He was quite interested in electricity and the theories that it held and was quite the artist. In fact, he used his paintings to help pay for college and support himself. While most people simply know Samuel Morse to be the inventory of Morse code, his paintings were quite impressive and are considered to be important American works of art.

After the death of his wife, Morse became obsessed with coming up with the telegraph system. He even got assistance from Washington, DC, when he told them he wanted to invent and develop a means of communication over wires. Congress gave him $30,000 for the construction of a very long telegraph wire that stretched from Washington to Baltimore. When Henry Clay was nominated for US President, the news was transmitted over Morse code from the convention being held in Baltimore straight to the US Capitol building in DC. This success granted Morse an official patent for his invention in 1847. From there, he continued to tweak and develop his communication system, making it more effective and able to reach further distances. There is no doubt that the use of Morse code and the telegraph system was instrumental in the industrial and communication revolutions.

Additional information on the following links:

100 Years of Morse Code: A Century of Service

The First Telegraphic Message

Those Inventive Americans! Samuel Morse

1830s-1860s: The Telegraph

Invention of the Telegraph

History of Morse Code

Why is Morse Code Still Used?

International Morse Code

The Telegraph and Morse Code


Inventor Profile of Samuel Morse

All About Morse Code

Morse Telegraph Register Lesson Plan

Samuel Morse

The Morse Telegraph

How is Morse Code Used Today?

Learning and Using Morse Code

When Morse Code Went out of Use

A British POW Stitches Morse Code During World War II

Samuel Morse: His Life and Inventions

Samuel Morse’s Reversal of Fortune

Inventing the Telegraph

Photo Gallery of the Telegraph

The Electric Telegraph: A Revolutionary Invention

The True Origins and History of the Telegraph