Carleton Mabee, Biographer of Morse, Dies at 99

Historians in the News
tags: obituary, Carleton Mabee

Carleton Mabee, a history professor who won a Pulitzer Prize 70 years ago for his unsparing biography of Samuel F. B. Morse, one of the early developers of the electromagnetic telegraph, died on Dec. 18 in Gardiner, N.Y. He was 99.

The cause was complications of a fall at his home, said his daughter, Susan Mabee Newhouse.

Professor Mabee (pronounced like the word “maybe”), an emeritus professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, was best known for “The American Leonardo,” his biography of Morse, whose name lives on in the Morse code, the system of taps representing each letter of the alphabet that was used to send the famous 1844 message “What hath God wrought?” on the new telegraph line from Washington to Baltimore.

Fred Carleton Mabee Jr. was born on Dec. 25, 1914, in the French concession of Shanghai, the son of Baptist missionary teachers. He spent his first nine years in China before the family moved briefly to Virginia, then to Maine, where his father was a chemistry professor at Bates College.

He attended Bates as an undergraduate. He then enrolled at Columbia University, where he wrote a dissertation that became his biography of Morse...

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