The Erie Canal, in the state of New York, connects the Hudson River at Albany with Lake Erie at Buffalo. It is the greatest work of the kind in America, and was completed many years ago. When the water was let into the canal from the lake, the news was flashed from Buffalo to New York City by a row of cannon, about five miles apart, which were fired as rapidly as possible one after the other. The first cannon was fired at Buffalo at ten o'clock in the morning; the last was fired at New York at half-past eleven. In an hour and a half the sound had travelled over five hundred miles. Everybody said that was wonderfully quick work; but to-day we could send the news in less than a minute. The man who found out how to do this was Samuel F. B. Morse. We have seen how Benjamin Franklin discovered, by means of his kite, that lightning and electricity are the same. Samuel Morse was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, about a mile from Franklin's birthplace, the year after that great man died. He began his work where Franklin left off. He said to himself, Dr. Franklin found out what lightning is; I will find out how to harness it and make it carry news and deliver messages.
When Samuel Morse was a little boy, he was fond of drawing pictures, particularly faces; if he could not get a pencil, he would scratch them with a pin on the furniture at school: the only pay he got for making such pictures was some smart raps from the teacher. After he became a man he learned to paint. At one time he lived in France with several other American artists. One day they were talking of how long it took to get letters from America, and they were wishing the time could be shortened. Somebody spoke of how cannon had been used at the time of the opening of the Erie Canal. Morse was familiar with all that; he had been educated at Yale College, and he knew that the sound of a gun will travel a mile while you are counting five; but quick as that is, he wanted to find something better and quicker still. He said, Why not try lightning or electricity? That will beat sound, for that will go more than a thousand miles while you are counting one.
Some time after that, Mr. Morse set sail for America. On the way across the Atlantic he was constantly talking about electricity and how a telegraph—that is, a machine which would write at a distance—might be invented. He thought about this so much that he could not sleep nights. At last he believed that he saw how he could make such a machine. Suppose you take a straight and stiff piece of wire as long as your desk and fasten it in the middle so that the ends will swing easily. Next tie a pencil tight to each end; then put a sheet of paper under the point of each pencil. Now, if you make a mark with the pencil nearest to you, you will find that the pencil at the other end of the wire will make the same kind of mark. Such a wire would be a kind of telegraph, because it would make marks or signs at a distance. Mr. Morse said: I will have a wire a mile long with a pencil, or something sharp-pointed like a pencil, fastened to the further end; the wire itself shall not move at all, but the pencil shall, for I will make electricity run along the wire and move it. Mr. Morse was then a professor or teacher in the University of the City of New York. He put up such a wire in one of the rooms of the building, sent the electricity through it, and found that it made the pencil make just the marks he wanted it should; that meant that he had invented the electric telegraph; for if he could do this over a mile of wire, then what was to hinder his doing it over a hundred or even a thousand miles?
But all this was not done in a day, for this invention cost years of patient labor. At first, Mr. Morse lived in a little room by himself: there he worked and ate, when he could get anything to eat; and slept, if he wasn't too tired to sleep. Later, he had a room in the university. While he was there he painted pictures to get money enough to buy food; there, too (1839), he took the first photograph ever made in America. Yet with all his hard work there were times when he had to go hungry, and once he told a young man that if he did not get some money he should be dead in a week—dead of starvation.
Directions: Answer the following multiple choice questions. Also, answer the following questions on a sheet of paper: