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Online Quiz (Worksheet A B C D)

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American History
4.2 The Dream Came True

A young man named Alfred Vail happened to see Professor Morse's telegraph. He believed it would be successful. He persuaded his father, Judge Vail, to lend him two thousand dollars, and he became Professor Morse's partner in the work. Mr. Vail was an excellent mechanic, and he made many improvements in the telegraph. He then made a model [a small copy or representation of something. Professor Morse made a small telegraph and sent it to Washington, to show what his large telegraph would be like.] of it at his own expense, and took it to Washington and got a patent[a written or printed right given by the government at Washington to an inventor to make something; as, for instance, a telegraph or a sewing-machine. The patent forbids any one except the inventor, or holder of the patent, from making such a machine, and so he gets whatever money comes from his work. In order to get a patent, a man must send a model of his invention to be placed in the Patent Office at Washington.] for it in Professor Morse's name. The invention was now safe in one way, for no one else had the right to make a telegraph like his. Yet, though he had this help, Professor Morse did not get on very fast, for a few years later he said, "I have not a cent in the world; I am crushed for want of means."

Professor Morse now asked Congress to let him have thirty thousand dollars to construct a telegraph line from Washington to Baltimore. He felt sure that business men would be glad to send messages by telegraph, and to pay him for his work. But many members of Congress laughed at it, and said they might as well give Professor Morse the money to build "a railroad to the moon." Week after week went by, and the last day that Congress would sit was reached, but still no money had been granted. Then came the last night of the last day (March 3d, 1843). Professor Morse stayed in the Senate Chamber of Congress until after ten o'clock; then, tired and disappointed he went back to his hotel, thinking that he must give up trying to build his telegraph line.

The next morning Miss Annie G. Ellsworth met him as he was coming down to breakfast. She was the daughter of his friend who had charge of the Patent Office in Washington. She came forward with a smile, grasped his hand, and said that she had good news for him, that Congress had decided to let him have the money. Surely you must be mistaken, said the professor, for I waited last night until nearly midnight, and came away because nothing had been done. But, said the young lady, my father stayed until it was quite midnight, and a few minutes before the clock struck twelve Congress voted the money; it was the very last thing that was done. Professor Morse was then a gray-haired man over fifty. He had worked hard for years and got nothing for his labor. This was his first great success. He doesn't say whether he laughed or cried—perhaps he felt a little like doing both.

When, at length, Professor Morse did speak, he said to Miss Ellsworth, "Now, Annie, when my line is built from Washington to Baltimore, you shall send the first message over it." In the spring of 1844 the line was completed, and Miss Ellsworth sent these words over it (they are words taken from the Bible): "What hath God wrought!" For nearly a year after that the telegraph was free to all who wished to use it; then a small charge was made, a very short message costing only one cent. On the first of April, 1845, a man came into the office and bought a cent's worth of telegraphing. That was all the money which was taken that day for the use of forty miles of wire. Now there are about two hundred thousand miles of telegraph line in the United States, or more than enough to reach eight times round the earth, and the messages sent bring in over seventy thousand dollars every day; and we can telegraph not only clear across America, but clear across the Atlantic Ocean by a line laid under the sea. Professor Morse's invention made it possible for people to write by electricity; but now, by means of the telephone, a man in New York can talk with his friend in Philadelphia, Boston, and many other large cities, and his friend listening at the other end of the wire can hear every word he says. Professor Morse did not live long enough to see this wonderful invention, which, in some ways, is an improvement even on his telegraph.

Directions: Answer the following multiple choice questions. Also, answer the following questions on a sheet of paper:
  • Who helped Morse and how?
  • Write short notes on the first telegraph line and the first message.

Q 1: What was the cost charged for the first message?
1 cent
3 cents
2 cents

Q 2: Model : a small copy or representation of something :: Simulation : ----------------

Q 3: Who messaged at first through the telegraph line?
Miss Annie Ellsworth
Miss Bonnie Ellsworth
Miss Cathy Ellsworth

Q 4: The first telegraph line was built from ----------- to ---------------
Washington to New Jersey
Washington to Baltimore
Washington to New York

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Question 6: This question is available to subscribers only!

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