Samuel F. B. Morse Papers Home Page

About the Collection

The Archival Collection

The Samuel Finley Breese Morse Papers are housed in the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress. The Morse Papers were given to the Library of Congress by his son, Edward Lind Morse, and his granddaughter, Leila Livingston Morse, between 1916 and 1944. Other items were added to the papers through purchase and gift between 1922 and 1995.

The Morse Papers consist primarily of correspondence but also include diaries, scrapbooks, clippings, printed matter, maps, drawings, and other miscellaneous materials. These manuscripts span the years 1793 to 1944, but the bulk of the papers dates from 1807 to 1872. They document Morse’s life as artist and inventor and highlight his development of the electromagnetic telegraph, his career as a portrait painter, and his interest in the nativist movement.

The Morse Papers are arranged into eight series: General Correspondence and Related Documents; Family Correspondence; Letterbooks; Diaries and Notebooks; Scrapbooks, Clippings, and Newspapers; Printed Matter; Miscellany; and Addition. The collection was microfilmed in 1975 and makes up thirty-five reels. Some materials from the Scrapbooks, Clippings, and Newspapers series as well as the whole Addition series were never microfilmed.

The Online Collection

The online presentation of the Samuel F. B. Morse Papers totals about 6,500 library items, or approximately 50,000 digital images. Dates span from 1793 to 1919 with the bulk of the papers covering the years 1807 to1872. Nearly everything in the archival collection was digitized. The Family Correspondence series and some folders from the Miscellany and Printed Matter series were not scanned because they are made up of twentieth-century materials that are outside the time range of Morse’s life and would present copyright problems. Most of the scrapbooks were also omitted because the poor condition of the originals resulted in unacceptable microfilm images: the paste used to affix clippings in scrapbooks has bled through, making the images blotchy, dark, and nearly impossible to read. Twenty-two original letters from the Addition series were digitized in-house at the Library of Congress and included in this online presentation.

Samuel F. B. Morse Papers Home Page