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Posted By: Pete on: 11/30/2004 18:47:33 EDT
Subject: Signal Research and Development

Message Detail:

Note: The following is taken from the "Scientific American" dated July 29, 1861.

Night Telegraph Army Signals.
MESSRS. EDITORS—My attention has been directed to Mr. Tuttle’s letter in regard to a system of night signals based on short and long flashes of light, thereby imitating the dot and line alphabet of Morse.
The idea is not new, as I applied the same system during the winter of 1844, by means of two parabolic reflector lamps, the short and long flashes being made with a movable slide or screen, worked with a lever, for telegraphic purposes. The experiments were made in Baltimore, in presence of several gentlemen, during my superintendence of the government experimental telegraph office in that city, under the direction of Professor Morse, the Superintendent of United States telegraph lines. All of the experiments proved satisfactory, at that time, but the mode of signaling was objected to by masters of merchant vessels, as well as by navy officers, from the fact that trained operators would be required, and therefore the system could not be generally introduced.
About this time, (1844,) I proposed to Lieut. (now Captain) Ringgold, U. S. N., to apply the short and long flashes of light to telegraph, by means of the electric light. This was also objected to for the same reason.
At a subsequent period, in 1847, Mr. B. F. Coston, Superintendent of the Naval Laboratory at Washington, prepared a system of night signals composed of brilliant fires, Which I considered better adapted to the purpose.
My object in addressing this note is to claim the invention,, reserving the right to offer it to the government or to patent it hereafter. At present, however, I must say, in justice to Mrs. Coston, the widow of the late B. F. Coston, U. S. N., that the signal lights, recently furnished the Navy Department, under the patent granted for Mr. Coston’s invention, surpass all I have seen in the United States or in Europe, and therefore that lady’s invention is well worthy of the patronage of the government.

Telegraphic Engineer.

[Our correspondent could not now secure a valid patent for this discovery, as it is manifest that he has abandoned it to the public. Inventors ought never to delay making application for their patents in this manner—-they are sure to regret it. Almost any invention is worth the cost of a patent. —EDS.

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