A Brief History
On May 24, 1844, Samuel Morse, inventor of the Morse Code (well, duh!) and of the telegraph, famously sent the message “What Hath God Wrought?” to inaugurate his new telegraph. Certain messages in History have become so iconic that they are familiar to most people (though sometimes not remembered with perfect accuracy). Here we list 5 of these Momentous Messages.
1. “What Hath God Wrought?” – Samuel Morse to Alfred Vail.
Morse used a quotation from the Bible (Numbers 23:23) to send his message from the old Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. to his assistant in Baltimore to publicly demonstrate the long distance ability of the telegraph in 1844. What you might not have been taught about Morse, is that he was a tremendous bigot, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, anti-Black, anti-immigrant and pro-slavery.
2. “We’ve won!” – Pheidippides to the Athenians.
After the Battle of Marathon (Greeks vs. Persians) in 490 BC, Athenian runner Pheidippides is remembered in legend (this legend did not really happen) for running 26.2 miles to Athens to bring tidings of the Greek victory, and after uttering the epic words, “We’ve won!” dying from exhaustion. This story somehow was conflated from a legendary 140 mile run and a 25 mile forced march into one event that gives us the myth behind the reason we run a 26.2 Marathon race today in memory of an event that did not happen. What you may not know, is that the Battle of Marathon also gave us the word “panic.” It seems the Greek God Pan sided with the Greeks and cast fear among the Persians, hence the word “panic” stemming from the God’s name.
3. “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” – Oliver Hazard Perry to William Henry Harrison.
Upon completion of the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813, Perry, the American naval commander, sent word to General William Henry Harrison, American ground commander and future President, of the victory over the British Great Lakes fleet at the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. This famous message was parodied in the comic strip, Pogo, by “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
4. “The Eagle has landed.” – Neil Armstrong to NASA Mission Control.
When Apollo 11 landed on the Moon without destroying the space craft or killing astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the world heard the first message ever sent from another heavenly body, the crackling voice of Armstrong letting the world know man has successfully landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969. Armstrong, an Ohioan, and the first man to actually walk on the Moon’s surface, joined John Glenn, a fellow Ohioan, as the most famous astronauts in American History. Armstrong uttered another epic message when he took that first step onto the Moon’s surface, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Armstrong actually flubbed that line, failing to put the word “a” before “man!”
5. “Veni, vidi, vici.” – Julius Caesar to the Roman Senate.
JC nailed this one when he reported his victory at the Battle of Zela, a concise and graphic description that means, “I came, I saw, I conquered.” This simple message and phrase has become an iconic boast used again and again by people bragging of their latest conquest, indicating swift and decisive victory, including variations on the theme, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying “We came, we saw, he died.” referring to the death of Moammar Qadaffi. (Spell his name any way you want.) have you ever used this quote to gloat over a victory?
Question for students (and subscribers): What famous messages would you include on this list? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Bartlett, John and Geoffrey O’Brien. Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Little, Brown and Company, 2012.