Escher.gif (426 bytes) History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

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AtlanticCableStock.jpg (27830 bytes)
Atlantic cables of 1858, 1865, and 1866 Atlantic Telegraph Company stock certificate dated 19th May 1858  The Eighth Wonder
of the World
The 1857-58 Atlantic Cable - 150th Anniversary Celebration
  History of the Atlantic Cable enterprise, 1850-1858
by Bill Glover
  The 1858 cable history as it happened - reported by Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper
Cyrus Field - A Contemporary Record
  Cyrus Field Photographs, Portraits and Medals - the man behind the Atlantic Cable
  Cyrus Field's Descendants - Diane Gravlee's comprehensive list of Cyrus Field's family and descendants, down to the sixth generation
  The Brothers Field - Russell Carpenter's history of the five brothers of the Field family who held among them a total of 10 academic and honorary degrees from Williams College.
  Cyrus Field Family Portraits - images of paintings of Cyrus Field and his parents, wife, and sons, owned by Peter Christian Hall and Alix-Marie Hall, New York City-based siblings whose great-grandfather was Frederick Joseph Stone, Cyrus Field's nephew
Cable Bibliography
  Main Reference Bibliography - Books and other printed material
Current Bibliography - books available for purchase, book reviews, recent magazine articles
Additional Bibliography - Gill Cookson's Submarine Telegraphy Research Notes
Book Cover Images - from Cable and Telegraph Books
Cable Company Book Advertisements
Atlantic Cable Sheet Music - popular songs and music inspired by the cable expeditions
Click here to search for new and used books described in the bibliographies
Cable Pioneers
  Images, brief biographies, and autographs of the men who pioneered and promoted the cable industry
Cable Timeline - 1845 to 2007 by Bill Glover (ongoing)
  A chronological record of every major submarine communications cable. Corrections and updates are welcome.
Cable Stories - 1858 to 1989
  Personal stories and photographs of the cable industry, shared by site visitors. Contributions are welcome!
Cable Stamps and Covers
  Submarine Cable Stamps and First Day Covers - includes Atlantic Cable 75th and 100th anniversary stamps and covers, Bill Glover's extensive collection of cableship stamps and covers with information on each ship and the cables laid, and Bill's history of Cable & Wireless, illustrated with original telegrams and covers.
Cable Artifacts, Ephemera, and Memorabilia
  Cable Equipment and Cable Samples
Memorabilia, Ephemera, and Promotional Material - Cable Watch Fob, 1858 Atlantic Cable Album, Cable Candlestick, Niagara Anchor, Cable Cane, Cable Snuff Box, Cable Earrings
1858 Cable Souvenir Advertisements - the short-lived frenzy in New York for all things cable after the successful expedition of 1858
Research Requests - contributions welcome
  Mystery Cable at Porthcurno Telegraph Museum by Allan Green. This landline cable may have been used as a telegraph connection, or in a radio application.
Special Feature Sections
  The Cable History Trail - an illustrated guide for visitors to the sites of the earliest Atlantic Cables in County Kerry, Ireland
Cable Route Maps - from the first Atlantic Cable to present
Cable Manufacturing & Laying Companies and Cable Stations - illustrated articles on early cable companies and cable stations
Cableships - illustrated articles on cableships
Report on the IEEE Conference on the History of Telecommunications, St. John's, Newfoundland, 25-27 July, 2001 - includes photographs of the Heart's Content Cable Station Museum
  "Online - 150 Years on the Net" - an overview of the special exhibition at the Danish Post & Tele Museum, Copenhagen (2 February to 19 September 2004)
  150 Years Of Industry & Enterprise At Enderby's Wharf - by Allan Green
  The Atlantic Cable Medal of 1866 - article by Herman Blanton on the medals presented after the success of the 1866 cable
  Distant Writing - The Telegraph Companies in Britain between 1838 and 1868 - article by Steven Roberts on British Telegraphy from 1838 to 1868, which includes considerable detail on the submarine cable companies working in this period. Steven now has his own site hosting this article.
Cable History: original articles and
reprints of early material
1837-1860 Early Landline Telegraph Cables - 1978 article by Francis Celoria on the beginnings of the telegraph cable industry in Britain
1838-1868 Distant Writing - The Telegraph Companies in Britain between 1838 and 1868 - article by Steven Roberts on British Telegraphy which includes considerable detail on the submarine cable companies working in this period
1840-1866 Origins of the Submarine Cable Industry in Britain - a paper presented at the Fleming Centenary Conference, University College London, 1-2 July 2004
1842-1853 Cyrus Field, Paper Merchant - how Field made his fortune
1845-1950 The Gutta Percha Company - insulation, and more; one of Telcon's predecessor companies
1849 Early British Experiments in Submarine Telegraphy - by Charles V. Walker
1849 Horatio Hubbell and his claim to be the originator of the Atlantic Cable - a forgotten pioneer
1849 Joseph Hyppolyte Pulte and the land route to Europe - another forgotten visionary
Pre-1850 Wire Rope and the Submarine Cable Industry - the origins of cable-making technology
1850 The 1850 Dover-Calais Cable - articles from Scientific American and The Living Age on the first cross-Channel cable
1850-1851 The Submarine Telegraph Company - the company which laid the first cross-Channel cables
1854 The Atlantic Cable Projectors - how it all began
1855 European Sub-Marine Telegraph - article from Scientific American on the Crimea cable
1856 Marshall Lefferts at the American Geographical and Statistical Society - speaking on The Electric Telegraph; its Influence and Geographical Distribution
1857 Laying the Atlantic Telegraph Cable from Ship to Shore - a portfolio of eight lithographs together with a description of landing the shore end of the 1857 cable at Valentia, Ireland, by John R. Isaac.
1857 Professor Hall's Floating Telegraph Stations - an alternative to a single span cable across the Atlantic
1858 On Submerging Telegraphic Cables - report on a paper presented to the Institution of Civil Engineers (London)
1858 The Northern Land Route - Tal Shaffner's alternative to the Atlantic Cable
1858 Henry Field's Summer Pictures - a brief account of the meeting of the Field brothers in Plymouth just before the sailing of the expedition
1858 The Cable History as it happened - reported by Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper
1858 The Cable Celebration in New York City - contemporary illustrations and text
1858 Speech by David Dudley Field - at the Crystal Palace, the Cable Celebration in New York City
1858 Robert Merry's Museum - articles on the cable from a children's magazine
1861 Henry O'Rielly and the Russo-American Telegraph - another unsuccessful proposal
1862 Cyrus Field at the American Geographical and Statistical Society - speaking on Prospects of the Atlantic Telegraph
1863 Cyrus Field at the New-York Chamber of Commerce - A Meeting Called to Further the Enterprise of The Atlantic Telegraph
1865 Telegraphy and the Atlantic Cable in the U.S. Capitol Dome
1865 Russell: The Atlantic Telegraph - high resolution scans of the cover, title page, and the tinted lithographs from the book recording the events of the 1865 Great Eastern cable expedition
1865 Original letter from Sir Daniel Gooch describing the loss of the cable on the 1865 Great Eastern expedition
1865 The 1865 Atlantic Cable - companies involved in its manufacture
1865 John C. Deane's Diary of the 1865 Great Eastern expedition
1865 Letter from Sir Robert Peel to John C. Deane, later Secretary of the Anglo-American Telegraph Company, concerning the loss of the 1865 cable
1865 Paper by William Thomson on The Forces Concerned in the Laying and Lifting of Deep-sea Cables.
1866 The Recovery of the Cable - detailed description of the recovery of the 1865 cable, from Henry Field's book
1869 The First French Atlantic Cable - illustrated by stereoviews
1870-74 James Nicol: cableship voyages - life on board ship
1871 Remarks of Mr Cyrus W. Field at the International Telegraphic Conference - Rome, December 28th 1871
1877 The Laying of the Ocean Cable - Peter Cooper's story of the Atlantic Cable
1879 25th Anniversary Celebration Invitation - the anniversary of Field's first involvement with the cable project
1879 Speech by David Dudley Field - at the 25th Anniversary Reception
1879 The Second French Cable - including photographs from the French Cable Station Museum at Orleans, Massachusetts
1882 Facts and Observations Relating to the Invention of the Submarine Cable by R.S. Newall. In which Newall sets the record straight on who did what in the early days of cable laying.
1884 On The Causes Of Failure Of Deep-Sea Cables by James Graves. Article on the failure of the 1865 Atlantic cable from the Journal of the Society of Telegraph-Engineers and Electricians, No. 51, Vol. XIII, 1884. The author was a cable engineer who supervised the manufacture of the 1865 cable and was later superintendent of the Valentia cable station where the recovered 1865 cable terminated.
1884 A Visit to the Works of Messrs. Siemens Bros. - article from The Telegraphist
1885 Life on the Atlantic Telegraph Company's Valentia Cable Station - article from The Telegraphist
1886 Government Telegraphy - article by Cyrus W. Field in The North American Review
1886-95 Captain Basil Combe - a firsthand account of life on the cableships
1887 The India-rubber, Gutta-percha, and Telegraph Works Company, Limited (Silvertown) - article from The Telegraphist
1887 The Submarine Cables Trust
1890 CS Westmeath Cable Survey - detailed report of a survey expedition
1890 With a Cable Expedition - article by Herbert Laws Webb
1892 Cyrus Field's Will - has details on the many awards and souvenirs which Field collected in his long association with the cable industry
1892 The Submarine Cables of the World - cable system survey article from Manufacturer & Builder
1892 Cables Under The Ocean - cable system survey article from the New York Times
1894 Submarine Telegraph Enterprise - article from Engineering on the cost of laying and maintaining cables
1895 Nerves of the World - article on submarine cables by J. Munro, author of Heroes of the Telegraph
1896 Repairing a Break - book extract
1896 The Making and Laying of an Atlantic Cable - article by Henry Muir
1898 Cable-Cutting At Cienfuegos - article by Lieutenant Cameron McR. Winslow on the US Navy expedition to cut Cuba's submarine cables during the Spanish-American War
1898 Submarine Cable Laying - Strand Magazine article by Archer Philip Crouch, C.E.
1898 Submarine Telegraph Lines -article by Ewing Matheson which includes costs for laying and maintaining cables
1900 The Projected Cable-Line to the Philippines - article in The National Review by Chandler Hale
1900-13 James Joseph Cope, Siemens Brothers and CS Faraday
1906 Auction Sale of Cyrus Field's Correspondence and Papers - many interesting and unusual items from Field's library
1914 Walter Claypoole - Far Rockaway and Canso stations of the Commercial Cable Company at the beginning of World War I.
1914 The Battle of Cocos - in which the Germans destroy the cable station on Direction Island, and the aftermath
1915 How submarine cables are made, laid, operated and repaired - article by the Commercial Cable Company
1922 Submarine Telegraph Cables - article by Lt.-Col. C. deF. Chandler
1923 Laying a Deep-Sea Cable Line Delicate and Dangerous Job - New York Times article
1923 Electrical Communications - a survey by John J. Carty of AT&T of radio and cable communications between the USA and the rest of the world at an interesting turning point in technology
1925 On Board the Cable Ship - article by George W. Gray
1926 Cable Chess Match between London and Chicago
1944 Cable Station RM - Cal Sheckler's account of diverting the 1926 Azores-Emden German cable into Normany for use by the Allied Forces after D-Day
1944 Cable & Wireless - Communications Old And New - book illustrations by C.F. Tunnicliffe
1950/60 Salient Features In Cable Design Since 1850 - a timeline of cable technical developments from 1850 to 1959 by Submarine Cables Ltd.
1970 Undersea Cable Systems - A Survey (or: Explanation to an Unknown Lady in Philadelphia) - article by Robert L. Easton
1974 Tiffany Cable Samples - if you've ever wondered about the source of all those Tiffany-marked samples of the 1858 cable which show up on eBay every few weeks, and if they're genuine, here's the story. (The cable samples are genuine; the certificates and boxes are vintage 1974, although authentic 1858 certificates are occasionally found).
2001 The Transatlantic Cable Stations - An Irish Perspective - paper by Cornelia Connolly, presented at the IEEE Conference on the History of Telecommunications, St. John's, Newfoundland, July 2001

Landline Telegraphy

1867 Modern Telegraphy: some errors of dates of events and of statement in the history of telegraphy exposed and rectified / by Samuel F. B. Morse.  Paris, June 1867. From the collection of the Bibliothèque National de France, the preceding link is a 3 megabyte PDF file of the text, and this is a 2 megabyte PDF file of the Appendix
1871 London And North Western Railway Telegraph Rules And Regulations - complete scan of the 1871 employee handbook, with instructions on using the Single Needle telegraph
Links to other sites
  Les Amis Des Cables Sous Marin - French cable history site
Aronsson's Telecom History Timeline - a detailed timeline of communications history from 15,000 BC through September 2001
Ascension Island Heritage Society - includes a history of the Eastern Telegraph Company and Cable & Wireless on Ascension, with period photographs
The Atlantic Cable - by Bern Dibner, 1959. The Smithsonian website has full-page images of the entire text of Dibner's book, an important and comprehensive reference to the history of the cable.
Atlantic Sentinel - a book by Donald R. Tarrant on the history of transatlantic communications in Newfoundland
Ayer Company Publishers - reprints of many of the classic titles in communications history, most of them unavailable or very hard to find.
Bamfield Cable Station - the site in British Columbia of the Pacific Cable Board Cable Station, which served as the eastern terminus of the trans-pacific telegraph cable from 1901 to 1959. The facility is now the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre
Bay Roberts Cable Station - the 1910 cable station building in Newfoundland is now a local history museum. The museum's website has many historic cable images.
Cabot Strait Telegraph Cable 1856 - an early link in the first Atlantic cable
Canso Cable Station - the Commercial Cable Rehabilitation Society is revitalizing the former Commercial Cable trans-Atlantic relay station in Hazel Hill, Nova Scotia.
Connecting the Continent - Australian site which includes material on the Overland Telegraph
Gustavo Coll's Signa Telegraph Collection - has some interesting cable instruments and samples
Gill Cookson's History Today article - a short overview of the laying of the first Atlantic Cables
Copper in the Atlantic Cable - the copper industry's website
County Kerry Transatlantic Cable Stations - Ireland, where it all began
Distant Writing - The Telegraph Companies in Britain between 1838 and 1868 - a comprehensive website by Steven Roberts on British Telegraphy from 1838 to 1868, which includes considerable detail on the submarine cable companies working in this period.

Early Submarine Telegraphy Companies - detailed information on the first cables via Nova Scotia and Newfoundland

The Electromagnetic Telegraph - J.B. Calvert's website includes some useful information on submarine telegraphy and cable codes
Fanning Island (Tabuaeran Atoll) cable station development
French cables interactive map created byPeio Elissalde using Google Maps
The George Glazer Gallery - often has for sale cable samples and other interesting artifacts from cable history
The Great Transatlantic Cable - a documentary on Cyrus Field and the Atlantic Cable, first broadcast 11 April 2005 on PBS TV stations (USA) as part of the American Experience series. DVD available from Amazon.
The Greenwich Industrial History Society - back issues of the Society's newsletter have some material on the cable industry at Greenwich.
Robert Halpin - a brief biography of the captain of the Great Eastern in her cable-laying days.
ICPC - The International Cable Protection Committee.  Links to submarine cable companies and suppliers; historical material in the Information section of the site.
IEEE Heart's Content Cable Station History
IEEE History Center - the (American) Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers website devoted to the preservation of electrical engineering history.

IET (formerly IEE) Archives - the searchable archive catalog of the (British) Institution of Engineering & Technology (The IET), which holds much material on early telegraphy, including the scrapbook of cable pioneer Jacob Brett, the papers of Sir Francis Ronalds, WF Cooke, Oliver Heaviside, and WH Preece, and a collection of drawings by EW Cooke on the 1858 Atlantic telegraph expedition. Direct link to IET archives search.

The IET History of Technology Professional Network page often has information on cable-related books, websites, conferences, and exhibits.

Ramon Jackson's Ships site - includes much detailed information on US Military cable and survey ships.
Jersey (Channel Islands) telegraph and cable history site
Clarence H. Mackay and the Commercial Cable Company - Bill McLaughlin's comprehensive page on Mackay includes this section on cable history.
Samuel Morse Historic Site at Locust Grove, Poughkeepsie - the house and grounds owned by Morse from 1851 to 1872, now a National Historic Landmark. The Morse Exhibit in the Visitor Center displays a number of Morse's paintings, together with some telegraph and cable artifacts. Guided house tours are available, and there is free admission to the 150 acres of grounds running down to the Hudson River.
Mother Earth Mother Board - Neal Stephenson's 1996 Wired Magazine article in which he follows the installation of a modern fiber optic cable over three continents and incidentally presents the history of communications cables.
Mumford Books in the UK has an excellent selection of technical and industrial books, plus prints and photographs, and can often locate material on submarine cables and telegraphy.
N7CFO Homepage - Lynn Burlingame's site; a great resource for telegraph collectors and historians
New Wireless Pioneers - Jim Kreuzer has supplied images of a number of rare items for the Atlantic Cable site.  Now his own site is open, listing many books in the field of radio and telegraph history, and including regular catalog updates.
The Old Cable House - a Bed & Breakfast in Waterville, Ireland, housed in an original Commercial Cable Company building. The site has an interesting cable history section.
The Pickering Family History - a personal connection to the first cable
Porthcurno Telegraph Museum in Porthcurno, Cornwall, England.  A major research resource, with an on-line catalog of the extensive archive of cable material from Cable & Wireless, many photographs, and information on visiting the museum.
CS Restorer - Dirk van Oudenol's comprehensive website on the operations of this cable ship from 1902-1951
The Science Museum (London) has a number of cable-related image in the Picture Library
Smithsonian Online Exhibition: Underwater Web: Cabling the Seas
Submarine Cable Telegraphy Demo - From the Sparks Telegraph Key Review site, a graphical demo of how polarity reversal was used to improve the speed of submarine cables
Telecom Digest - a comprehensive site on all aspects of telecom history, with a searchable archive.
Telecommunications and the Natural History of São Tomé and Príncipe - some interesting notes on the interaction of Gulf of Guinea cable staff and natural history scientists in the 1800s.
The Telecommunications Heritage Group - a British organization dedicated to the history of all forms of telecommunication.
Telecommunications Technology and History - Don Kimberlin's site has some interesting articles and links to other early communications sites
Telegraph Lore - Greg Raven's site covers all aspects of telegraphy and includes a photo gallery of Fons Vanden Berghen's extensive collection of rare instruments
The Telegraph Office - Neal McEwen's site has an excellent submarine telegraphy section.
W1TP Telegraph & Scientific Instrument Museums - Tom Perera's comprehensive and excellent website on all aspects of telegraph history, including the account of his diving expedition to recover early submarine cables
Webster & Horsfall - supplied the steel armouring wire for the 1865 and 1866 Atlantic cables
Weston-super-Mare and the Commercial Cable Company - John Crellin's site on cable history in this English town now presents the cable station archive of the North Somerset Museum (Feb 2003)
A Wire Around the World - BBC radio documentary on the history of submarine cables. Listen to the full programme, or read the transcript.
Der erste Draht zur Neuen Welt (The First Cable to the New World) - German language article by Christian Holtorf
Site Changes 2007 If you have an RSS reader, use the RSS feed
for automatic update notification.
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5 August Added new Cable Story on Eric Tate and the Admiralty Cable Ships 1944-47
4 August Added cable chess souvenirs from 1897 and 1898 to the Cable Chess Match page.
3 August Added new Cable Story on Jose Manuel Gil and CS Mercury, 1978 .
2 August Added newspaper accounts of the completion in 1882 of the Central and South American West Coast cable. Thanks to David Siddle for the text of these articles.
30 July Added 1898 article by Ewing Matheson on Submarine Telegraph Lines, which includes costs for laying and maintaining cables.
26 July Added new Cable Story on Ken Guy and the CS Ocean Layer fire.
24 July

Added text of Epitome of Proceedings at a Telegraphic Soirée, given by Samuel Gurney M.P., At 25, Prince's Gate, Hyde Park, March 26,1862.

23 July Added page by Allan Green on a Mystery Cable at Porthcurno Telegraph Museum. This landline cable may have been used as a telegraph connection, or in a radio application.
18 July Added page by Bill Glover on the history of the Atlantic Cable enterprise, 1850-1858
12 July Added page by Bill Glover on CS Mirror (2)
16 June Added page by Jim Jones on cable gear supplied by SCL/Telcon to the USSR
14 June Added note by Bill Glover on CS Iris and the Falklands War
7 June Added page by Bill Glover on the USSR cableship CS Ingul
5 June Added page by Steven Roberts on the Electric Telegraph Company of Ireland
31 May Added detailed description of the laying of the 1861 Malta-Alexandria cable
22 May Added Salient Features In Cable Design Since 1850 - a timeline of cable technical developments from 1850 to 1959 by Submarine Cables Ltd.
16 May Added The Cable History Trail - an illustrated guide for visitors to the sites of the earliest Atlantic Cables in County Kerry, Ireland
3 May Added new Cable Story on Alfred Lawrence Spalding and CS Levant II - cable laying during the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915-16
6 March Added page by Steven Roberts on the Indo-European Telegraph Company
20 February Added page on companies involved in manufacturing the 1865 Atlantic Cable
5 February Added page on 1858 Atlantic Cable souvenir advertisements
30 January Added page on the 1984 ANZCAN cable, with images of the STC commemorative medallion
24 January Added page on CS Levant II
19 January Added page on the 1856 Cabot Strait cable, a crucial link for the first Atlantic Cable
15 January Added article from Chambers' Journal on the 1869 French Cable
15 January Added technical note on Sea Earths
10 January Added page on Cable Signalling Speeds
8 January Added new Cable Story: James Dooley's Violin, made on board HMTS Iris (2) in 1941
4 January Added page on the 1857 maiden voyage of the USS Niagara
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All site content copyright © 1999-2007 FTL Design

Unless otherwise noted all images and text on the Atlantic Cable website are
copyright © 2007 FTL Design and may not be reproduced without permission
Most images for which we hold the copyright may be licensed
for commercial or personal use; please enquire.

Contact Information
Site owner and webmaster: Bill Burns
email me at:


As the site enters its ninth year, I continue
to extend special thanks to Bill Glover,
who has been contributing time and material
to the project for much of that time.

Thanks also to Jim Jones, a cable industry
veteran of many years, who has not only
provided much of his own material, but
has also tracked down former
colleagues and other cable workers
for contributions to the site.

And finally, thanks to all contributors
and correspondents for their help
in making the site a major resource
for communications history research.

Contributors are credited on their
individual pages; all uncredited
material is by Bill Burns.

The background image on this page is taken from the front cover of
W.H. Russell's The Atlantic Telegraph, and shows a section of the 1865 cable.

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