|Jeremiah Gurney, American (1812-1886). Young Girl with Arms Crossed, ca. 1852-1858. Daguerreotype. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, 2006.44.11.|
My daughter Martha enters the room in her quiet, kind manner. She's carrying a tray of tea and breakfast breads along with a loving smile and gentle admonishment of "Papa, you know you shouldn't be writing without the reading light on at this hour of the morning." I turn my gaze to her and my mind's eye transforms her from the middle aged widow standing before me into the 13 year old girl who posed for the first prize winning photograph ever taken in this or any other country.
"My dear, your father's eyes are as clear and focused as they were forty some odd years ago when I handed you Mr. Anthony's silver pitcher." She smiles and places the tray on the table, handing me a cup of tea and inquiring into what I am writing on this chilly first day of April. A birthday letter, she hopes, to her brother Ben?
The smile stays fixed upon my face for I dare not dash Mattie's longing for a reconciliation between myself and my only son. But underneath it, the thought of how things went so terribly wrong with him and myself, how so much love and success could be replaced with such an abyss, fills my heart with despair.
And so it came to be, that on a warm, sun drenched October morning in '39, the little silver bell that hung on the door of my jewelry shop announced a visitor who would change my life from that moment on.
In hindsight, I had of course already heard of him though I can't recall ever having seen his portrait nor an engraving. Professor Samuel Finley Breese Morse was, at that point in time, one of the most famous men in New York City if not the world and in reading of him and his developments in our newspapers, I had come to admire his constant, inquisitive nature.
An artist, historian and teacher at the University of the City of New York by profession, Morse had recently made headlines with the announcement of a new means of electrical long distance communication he called the Telegraph. The promise of such a means of sending and receiving messages instantly from say, New York to New Jersey or even, dare we dream, New York to Washington City, gave many a learned individual pause to consider, what could man possibly come up with next!
Introductions were established and it was at this point that Professor Morse made clear the reason for his visit.
|Samuel Finley Breese Morse in 1840|