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This Day In Founding Fathers History – 1 May
On this day in 1849, Samuel F.B. Morse received a patent for his telegraph register, Patent No. 6,420. Morse first began experimenting with electromagnetic telegraphy around 1832, with his first practical system being implemented over a decade alter in 1844. That telegraph line ran from Baltimore to D.C. This new version incorporated what he described as a method for marking dots and dashes on paper strips, what we now know as Morse Code. Just a decade later, 23,000 miles of telegraph lines crossed the country, allowing for simple communication over vast distances. 1
In 1841 on this day, the first wagon train of emigrants left from Independence, Missouri heading for California. Three westward trails began in Independence, Missouri: the Santa Fe, California and Oregon Trails. This first group was called the Bidwell-Bartleson party, consisting of 100 farmers and their families and led by Thomas Fitzpatrick. The whole party did not reach California as some of them decided to head for Oregon at some point along their journey. The trip was over 2,000 miles and took an average of five months to complete, for those who survived. 2
One notable birthday on this day in 1764, that of architect and engineer Benjamin Latrobe. Latrobe was born in England but immigrated to the U.S. He was hired in 1803 by President Jefferson to serve as Surveyor of Public Buildings, with the responsibility of constructing the south wing of the Capitol. Latrobe also oversaw work at the President’s House and the Navy Yard and eventually the north wing of the Capitol. When funds were withheld in 1810, Latrobe found himself unemployed. During the war of 1812, British troops set fire to the Capitol and Latrobe was again hired, this time by President Madison to manage the restoration of the two wings. Other notable buildings designed by Latrobe include St. John’s Church in D.C. and the Bank of Pennsylvania. 3
1 “Telegraph Register,” Today In Sci, todayinsci.com/5/5_01.htm; www.si.edu/Encyclopedia_SI/nmah/morse.htm
2 “The Oregon Trail Generation,” Oregon-California Trails Association, www.octa-trails.org/learn/people_places/articles_chronology.php; “The Oregon Trail,” Digging In, cdrh.unl.edu/diggingin/trailsummaries/di.sum.0008.html
3 “Benjamin Latrobe, Second Architect of the Capitol,” Architect of the Capitol, www.aoc.gov/architect-of-the-capitol/benjamin-henry-latrobe