It’s February 1825, and 34-year-old Samuel Morse, an accomplished painter as well as inventor of the famous code, is in Washington working on a portrait commission. He writes to his beloved wife, “I long to hear from you.” But he never will; in his absence, she had died of a heart attack. Tragically, news reached him too late even to attend her funeral.
Samuel Finley Breese Morse came into the world in April 1792 in Charlestown, Massachusetts. He was the first child of Jedidiah Morse, a minister and geographer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Breese. Morse senior was a Calvinist who believed that this strand of Christianity was best placed to maintain the founding Puritan traditions of America.
The young Samuel Morse was educated at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, a boys’ school founded in 1778 during the Revolutionary War. He was not an outstandingly successful student, although he showed early artistic talent. From Phillips he went on to continue his studies at Yale College.