It was while working on the portrait of Lafayette that Morse suffered the personal tragedy that changed his life forever. In Washington, D.C., for the commission, Morse received a letter from his father–delivered via the standard, slow-moving horse messengers of the day–that his wife was gravely ill. Morse immediately left the capital and raced to his Connecticut home. By the time he arrived, however, his wife was not only dead—she had already been buried. It is believed that the grief-stricken Morse, devastated that it had taken days for him to receive the initial notification of his wife’s illness, shifted his focus away from his art career and instead dedicated himself to improving the state of long-distance communication.
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