Many have been incredulous as to the powers of this wonderful triumph of science and art. All such may now have an opportunity of fairly testing it. It is destined to work a complete revolution in the mode of transmitting intelligence throughout the civilized world.
Before the appointed hour on the morning of the 19th, Morse hastened to the Battery, and found a curious crowd already assembled to witness this new marvel. With confidence he seated himself at the instrument and had succeeded in exchanging a few signals between himself and Professor Gale at the other end on Governor’s Island, when suddenly the receiving instrument was dumb. Looking out across the waters of the bay, he soon saw the cause of the interruption. Six or seven vessels were anchored along the line of his cable, and one of them, in raising her anchor, had fouled the cable and pulled it up. Not knowing what it was, the sailors hauled in about two hundred feet of it; then, finding no end, they cut the cable and sailed away, ignorant of the blow they had inflicted on the mortified inventor. The crowd, thinking they had been hoaxed, turned away with jeers, and Morse was left alone to bear his disappointment as philosophically as he could.
Later, in December, the experiment was repeated across the canal at Washington, and this time with perfect success.
Still cramped for means, chafing under the delay which this necessitated, he turned to his good friends the Vails, hoping that they might be able to help him. While he shrank from borrowing money he considered that, as they were financially interested in the success of the invention, he could with propriety ask for an advance to enable him to go to Washington.
To his request he received the following answer from the Honorable George Vail:—
SPEEDWELL IRON WORKS,
December 31, 1842.
S.F.B. MORSE, Esq.,
DEAR SIR,—Your favor is at hand. I had expected that my father would visit you, but he could not go out in the snow-storm of Wednesday, and, if he had, I do not think anything could induce him to raise the needful for the prosecution of our object. He says: “Tell Mr. Morse that there is no one I would sooner assist than him if I could, but, in the present posture of my affairs, I am not warranted in undertaking anything more than to make my payments as they become due, of which there are not a few.”
He thinks that Mr. S—— might soon learn how to manage it, and, as he is there, it would save a great expense. I do not myself know that he could learn; but, as my means are nothing at the present time, I can only wish you success, if you go on.
Of course Mr. Vail meant “if you go on to Washington,” but to the sensitive mind of the inventor the words must have seemed to imply a doubt of the advisability of going on with the enterprise. However, he was not daunted, but in some way he procured the means to defray his expenses, perhaps from his good brother Sidney, for the next letter to Mr. Vail is from Washington, on December 18, 1842:—