Sent the First Telegram

New York Tribune

Mrs. Roswell Smith, seventy-three years old, widow of the founder of the Century Company, died at her home in the Tolosa, at New York City, on January 21, 1900. It was Mrs. Roswell Smith who, as Miss Annie Ellsworth, then a girl of seventeen, sent the famous first telegraphic message, "What hath God wrought!" Her father, Henry L. Ellsworth, a son of Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth, was the first Commissioner of Patents, and has been called "the father of the Patent Office." He had been a college friend of Professor S. F. B. Morse. Together they had endeavored to induce Congress to pass a bill granting $30,000 for the construction of a trial line between Washington and Baltimore. Morse had been seeking the help of Congress since 1838, but it was not until the last hours of the session of 1842-43 that the bill was passed, by the close vote of eighty-nine to eighty-three, and then went to the Senate. At twilight on the last evening of the session there were 119 bills ahead of it, and, as it seemed impossible that his measure would be reached, Professor Morse, disheartened, went to his hotel and prepared to return to New York by an early morning train. His friend, the Commissioner of Patents kept doggedly working for the bill and at five minutes before adjournment it was passed, only one measure going through after it. It was Miss Ellsworth who carried the news of the passage of the bill to Professor Morse the next morning. It was then that he assured her that she should send the first message, and a little more than a year after, at her mother's suggestion, Miss Ellsworth wrote down the words, "What hath God wrought!" and they were sent in triplicate in the dot and line alphabet from Washington to Baltimore. The original message was given to Miss Ellsworth, and has always been in her keeping. The duplicate, which was returned from Baltimore to Washington, is in the Connecticut Historical Rooms at Hartford. In 1852, Miss Ellsworth married Roswell Smith in Lafayette, Ind. In 1870 they moved to New York, where Roswell Smith, in connection with the late Dr. J. G. Holland and the house of Charles Scribner & Co., founded Scribner's Monthly, the name of which was changed to The Century Magasine, published by the Century Company, in 1881. Roswell Smith, who was the publisher of the magazine from the start, continued as president of the Century Company until his death, in 1892.

New York Tribune.

October 25, 1900

We'd love to hear from you!

Easily submit your testimonies, articles, and poems online.