Quick, Annie, Give Me A Catchy Line! A Story Of Samuel F.B.Morse (Hardcover) by Robert Quackenbush. Prentice Hall, 1983. ISBN: 01374976283. pp: 36.
Ages: 8-12, gr: 3-6
Reprinted in a special two-books-in-one paperback edition Two Slapstick Biographies (January 8, 1999) Robert Quackenbush Studios. ISBN: 0961251816. pp: 64



Samuel F.B. Morse was born on April 27, 1791 near Boston, Massachusetts. His father was a pastor and a geographer, and he had hopes that Samuel would follow in his footsteps. Samuel was not interested in studying, however. He thought he wanted to be an artist—a career not highly thought of in his lifetime. He studied art in Europe for four years and brought back his paintings to New York. The public did not appreciate them at all. To earn a living, Samuel painted portraits. Twenty years later on a return trip from Europe, Morse, still a poor artist, heard about how electricity could travel. This was a turning point in Morse’s life. He invented the Morse Code, and after numerous struggles and almost starving to death, Samuel Morse was finally successful in inventing the first audible telegraph. The first line went from Washington to Baltimore, and the first message, provided by Annie Ellsworth, was, "What hath God wrought?" Today, Morse’s artwork is as famous as his telegraph—one of his paintings selling in 1982 for $3,500,000!


  1. Samuel Morse wanted to be an artist. The public rejected his paintings during his lifetime. Today, the public values his paintings. Why do you think people’s opinions changed so much? View some of Samuel Morse’s paintings.

  2. One of Samuel Morse’s paintings was titled, "Dying Hercules." Who was Hercules? Why might Morse want to paint a picture of him? Hint.

  3. When his paintings didn’t sell, Morse turned to portrait painting. He painted portraits of Eli Whitney, Daniel Webster, and Marquis de Lafayette. Explain what each of these three men did that made them famous.

  4. View a model of the telegraph receiver built by Morse. Explain how this device was used to communicate.

  5. View the original of the first message sent by telegraph, "What hath God wrought."

  6. Joseph Henry had invented a telegraph a year before Morse learned about it, and Sir Charles Wheatstone had invented one in Europe by the time Morse wanted to patent his telegraph in Europe. Read about these other telegraphs. Compare and contrast the three telegraphs. Why did Morse’s succeed?

  7. Practice sending messages to your friends using the Morse Code.

  8. Samuel Morse also wanted to be a politician. He ran for Mayor of New York. Read about some of his political platforms. Compare and contrast Morse’s platforms with the platforms of the last Presidential election. To which candidate was Morse most similar? Why?

  9. List inventions that took over the telegraph? Who invented each of these?

  10. Write a story about another invention of communication.

  11. In 1847, Samuel Morse was finally able to purchase a house and land. He named his estate "Locust Grove." He rebuilt the house in 1850 in the Italian villa style. What characteristics of the architecture make it Italian?

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