The monument was unveiled on April 27, 1871, on the occasion of Morse’s 80th birthday in 1871, making him the only person to have a monument erected in the Park while still living. Soon after, Central Park’s administrators adopted a series of guidelines for monuments, one of which required that any commemoration occur posthumously.
Morse began his career as a portrait painter but became famous for the invention of the single-wire telegraph system, which was a primary mode of communication across long distances before the invention of the telephone. He also contributed to the invention of Morse code.
The telegraph operators of America submitted thousands of small donations toward the creation of the monument, which was sculpted by the American artist Byron Pickett. The monument depicts Morse with his inventions, with one hand on a telegraph and the other holding a strip of Morse code. On the day the monument was unveiled, Morse sent a telegraph from New York City to every telegraphic office in the country.