Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Political Coverage in 1845

By: Kajsa Sabatke, Interpretive Projects Coordinator With inaugural excitement in full swing, I decided to learn more about the inauguration of James K. Polk on March 4, a rainy day in 1845. In his speech, Polk addressed the national debt, lowering tariff rates, and his goals for westward expansion. You can find his inaugural speech here.
an engraving of Polk's Inauguration
Polk was the first president whose inauguration was reported by telegraph. Today, with live television coverage and internet streaming, it’s hard to imagine a time when the news was reported only through written accounts. Samuel F.B. Morse used the first telegraph line in the country, from Washington to Baltimore, to provide almost immediate political coverage. During the 1844 presidential election, which Polk narrowly won, he transmitted the official results between the two cities (results from the northern states came into Baltimore and the southern results into Washington). These transmissions helped to prove the practical advantages of the technology.
Did you know that in addition to patenting the telegraph, Samuel Morse was also an artist? In fact, the Fenimore Art Museum , owns a portrait Morse painted of Justice Samuel Nelson, who began his career as a Supreme Court justice just before Polk took office. Nelson lived in Cooperstown and owned the land that is now occupied by the museum, and his law office is part of the historic village.
Samuel Nelson by Samuel F.B.Morse. Gift of Stephen C. Clark N0339.1955
The Brooklyn Museum recently blogged about Samuel FB Morse as an artist. You can read more about him here.

2 comments:

jmuse1 said...

Excellent post! I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Polk, not to mention Nelson.

Though not as educational, it might be worth mentioning that there is a song about James K. Polk by the band They Might Be Giants.

http://tmbw.net/wiki/Lyrics:James_K._Polk

Unfortunately, I don't believe they ever wrote about Samuel Nelson.

Kajsa said...

Thanks! I had forgotten about the TMBG song - and it is pretty educational as far as songs go.

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