Art exhibit

Before he changed the world with electric telegraph, Morse was painting it

July 11. 2018 1:26PM

John Langdon Storer’s likeness was captured by painter-turned-telegraph-inventor Samuel F. B. Morse in Portsmouth around 1816. (Courtesy of Portsmouth Athenaeum)

PORTSMOUTH — Twenty years before Samuel F.B. Morse changed the world with his electric telegraph, he was an itinerant painter in Portsmouth.

Two of his paintings are part of a new exhibit at the Portsmouth Athenaeum, “Painting Portsmouth Notables: 1750-1850.”

On the back of Morse’s circa-1816 portrait of John Langdon Storer are scrawled the words, “served in President Andrew Jackson’s cabinet.” It is one of 20 or so portraits that will be on display through Nov. 3 in the Athenaeum’s Randall Gallery, 9 Market Square.

Morse (1791-1872) was born in Massachusetts, and married a woman from Concord. Storer would have been almost 30 when he had his portrait painted, about the time he was appointed a Navy agent.

“Sometimes when you became successful, you decided to commemorate yourself,” said Sandra Rux, who is co-curating the exhibit with Athenaeum Keeper Tom Hardiman.

The free exhibit opens Friday with a reception at the Athenaeum, a nonprofit membership library and museum founded in 1817, from 5 to 7 p.m.

For more information, go to or call 431-2538.

The Athenaeum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m.

ArtsHistoryPortsmouthPhoto Feature

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