What better way to pay tribute to Samuel Morse and former Maine Congressman Francis Ormand Jonathan Smith than by using the code they helped usher into the world?
Can you translate this well-known phrase? (The answer is at the bottom of this article)
Telegrams were the text messages of their day—and Samuel Morse was the man who made them possible.
On April 27, 1791, Morse was born into a world that relied on letters for almost all communication. Sending a letter across the country could take weeks, and many more weeks would pass until you got a response.
That all changed when Morse created his device to transit electric signals over a wire, along with a code of dots and dashes to make sense of those signals. For the first time in history, information could travel long distances instantly.
Wires, poles, and power don't come cheap, however, and when Morse needed money to make his dream a reality, a Mainer stepped up to help foot the bill.
Francis Ormand Jonathan Smith represented Maine in Congress from 1833 to 1839. He secured $30,000 in federal funding to pay for the infrastructure that Morse needed to run a test line between Washington D.C. and Baltimore. This was one of the first examples o the government providing financial support to private research.
But Smith didn't do it just for the good of science. He personally invested in Morse's work and had a stake in its success. Smith's ability to recognize a good idea made him a wealthy man. After leaving Congress, he continued to play an active role in state politics until his death in 1876.
So, what better way to pay tribute to both Morse and Smith than by using the code they helped usher into the world. Can you decipher the Morse code message below?
Smith is buried in a prominent tomb overlooking a hillside at Evergreen Cemetery in Portland. It's the final resting place of many leaders in politics, business, and the arts who left a mark on Maine history. The Friends of Evergreen Cemetery run tours of their graves and help to maintain them.
Morse code challenge answer