[MORSE, SAMUEL F.B. 1791-1872.]
Hide-covered and wrought iron-mounted wooden barrel-form stagecoach trunk, 660 x 330 x 330 mm, hinged top opening to reveal newspaper lined interior; top with close-nailed initials "S M" (for Samuel Morse). Covering with loss and wear, leather strap perished, hinge weak, waterstains to interior; in need of some restoration.
Provenance: Samuel F.B. Morse; by descent to the present owner.
MORSE'S STAGECOACH TRUNK, USED BY HIM TO HOLD IMPORTANT PAPERS DURING HIS TRAVELS TO PROMOTE TRANSCONTINENTAL TELEGRAPHY. Samuel F.B. Morse [1791-1872] trained as an artist with an interest in the subject of electricity. He became interested in telegraphy in 1832 after overhearing a conversation about electromagnetism while traveling between Europe and America. The technology for the telegraph already existed at that time, but it was a cumbersome model requiring a different wire for each letter. Morse set about developing a system that would use only one wire for transmitting information. Next, he realized that the most effective way to transmit would be via a simple code of dots and dashes. His telegraph device was first exhibited in New York in 1838; by 1842 he convinced Congress to grant him $30,000 for further development. By 1844 he sent the first inter-city message ("What hath God wrought?") between Washington and Baltimore, and soon after the telegraph spread quickly across the continental United States, often following the paths established by the railways.
Family lore holds that this was Morse's personal stagecoach trunk, used to hold important papers during his travels. The trunk likely dates from the first quarter of the 19th century: the newsprint used to line the interior dates from approximately 1805 (with extensive coverage of Jefferson's treaty with the Choctaws).