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Samuel Morse, Painter

Posted by Josh Rothman  August 22, 2011 11:01 AM

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Morse's birthplace, in Charlestown, MA.

In Smithsonian Magazine, David McCullough explains how Samuel Morse, inventor of the code, started out as a painter -- and only gave up when he lost a competition to paint a mural in the Rotunda of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. His anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic views, expressed in op-eds written under the pen-name "Brutus" in the New York Observer -- edited by his brother Sidney -- disqualified him. Once another painter was chosen, McCullough writes,

Morse gave up painting entirely, relinquishing the whole career he had set his heart on since college days. No one could dissuade him. “Painting has been a smiling mistress to many, but she has been a cruel jilt to me,” he would write bitterly . . . . He must attend to one thing at a time, as his father had long ago advised him. The “one thing” henceforth would be his telegraph.

More at Smithsonian: "Samuel Morse's Reversal of Fortune."

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