.. Y n : '. -
It 'V'" UD F D &l.rl ,TTr'NT
Their line Is gone out through all the earth,
And their word to the and of the world."
Feunlts l.. 4
A HISTORY OF THE GREAT
A COMPLETE RECORD OF TIE INCEPTION, PROGRESS, AND FINAL
SUCCESS OF THAT UNDERTAKING. A GENERAL HISTORY OF
LAND AND OCEANIC TELEGRAPHS. DESCRIPTIONS OF
TELEGRAPHIC APPARATUS, AND BIOGRAPHICAL
SKETCHES OF THE PRINCIPAL PERSONS
CONNECTED WITH THE GREAT WORK.
CHARLES F. BRIGS, /
Siunbaitfl anb ISrautifulIl Iflustrattb.
RUDD & CARLETON, 310 BROADWAY.
M DCCC LVIII.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1858, by
RUDD & CARLETON,
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern
District of New York.
PTinter, Smelotyper, and Electrotyper,
81, 83, and 65 Centre Sreet
"What hath God Wrought l"
Firet Message over Morasel line-May 2T, 1844.
"The Queen is convinced that the President will join with her in fervently hoping
that the Electric Cable which now connects Great Britain with the United States,
will prove an additional link between the nations whose friendship is founded upon
their common interest and reciprocal esteem."
Firet JMe age over the Atlantic Cable-Auguta 16,1858.
The publishers of this work have great satisfaction in being
permitted to dedicate this volume to the man whom the public
recognize as the real author of the Atlantic Telegraph-
CYRUS WEST FIELD.
NEW YORK, August, 1858.
The Science of Telegraphing-Its Inception and Progress-
Gradual Development and Perfection, .11
Land and Oceanic Telegraphs, .23
Origin of the Atlantic Telegraph-Organization of the New
York, Newfoundland, and London Telegraph Company-
with Biographical Sketches, ..... 37
The Atlantic Cable-Construction and Experiments, 56
The First Expedition-Summer of 1857,. .92
The Expedition of 1858, 115
The Third and Successful Attempt, .. 172
Working the Atlantic Telegraph-The Termini of the Line, 195
I. Action of Congress in Relation to the International
Submarine Telegraph, 207
IL Lieut. M. F. Maury on the Feasibility of Oceanic Tele-
III. The Basin of the Atlantic, and the Telegraphic Plateau, 229
IV. Early Predictions of Professor Morse, 233
V. Use of the Telegraph in Connxtion with Longitude
VI. Velocity of the Galvanic Current, 239
VII. Table of Submarine Cables, 243
VIII. The Morse Telegraph Alphabet, .244
IX. Reception of the Tidings of Success in the United States, 245
X. Mr. Berdan as the Inventor of the New Paying-Out
Portrait of Cyrus W. Field, Esq.
Map of the Submarine Telegraph between America and Europe,
with its Various Communications on the two Continents.
Register of the Morse Telegraph.
Signal Key of do. do.
Splice of the Wires in a Land Telegraph.
Cable for River Crossings.
Submarine Telegraph Cable, connecting Dover and Calais-exact
Holyhead Submarine Cable.
Vertical Section of the Atlantic Cable-exact size.
Profile View of the Atlantic Cable-exact size.
View of the Atlantic Cable in Sections.
The Splice of th' Cable.
Vertical Section of Shore end of Atlantic Cable-exact size.
THE STORY OF THE TELEGRAPH.
THE SCIENCE OF TELEGRAPHY-ITS INCEPTION AND
PROGRESS-GRADUAL DEVELOPMENT AND PERFEC-
T HE completion of the Atlantic Telegraph, the unap-
proachable triumph which has just been achieved
in the extension of the submarine electrical Cable between
Europe and America, has been the cause of the most exult-
ant burst of popular enthusiasm that any event in modern
times has ever elicited. So universal and joyful an expres-
sidn of public sympathy betokens a profound emotion
that will not immediately pass away. The laying of the
Telegraph Cable is regarded, and most justly, as the
greatest event in the present century; and it is with the
desire to meet the popular demand for an authentic and
concise history of this great event that the authors of this
volume have undertaken their task, and not with the
expectation that they shall be able, in the very brief
time afforded them, to present the world with a volume
entirely worthy of the importance of the subject. The
history, such as it is, will at least have the merit of cor-
The completion of the Atlantic Telegraph may be
regarded as the crown and complement of all past inven-
tions and efforts in the science of Telegraphy; for great
and startling as all past achievements had been, so long
as the stormy Atlantic bade defiance to human ingenuity,
and kept Europe and America dissevered, the electric
Telegraph was deprived of the crowning glory which its
inventor had prophesied it should one day possess. But
now the great work is complete, and the whole earth
will be belted with the electric current, palpitating with
human thoughts and emotions. If we reflect for a
moment that the great Atlantic Cable is the connecting
link between America's web-work of forty-five thousand
miles, and Europe's system of fifty-five thousand miles
of Telegraph wires, thus forming a vast inter-connected
system of a hundred thousand miles of wires, more than
sufficient to put a quadruple girdle round the globe,
some conception of its immense significance may be
In this history, it is the aim of the authors to include
within the scope of their work an account of the deve-
lopment of the Telegraphic system, its beginnings and
applications, its rapid improvements and almost miracu-
lous extension over the civilized parts of the earth.
Ofall the marvellous achievements of modern science, the
Electric Telegraph is transcendently the greatest and most
serviceable to mankind. It is a perpetual miracle, which
no familiarity can render commonplace. This character it
deserves from the nature of the agent employed and the
end subserved. For what is the end to be accomplished,
but the most spiritual ever possible? Not the modifica-
tion or transportation of matter, but the transmission of
thought. To effect this an agent is employed so subtle
in its nature, that it may more properly be called a
spiritual than a material force. The mighty power of
electricity, sleeping latent in all forms of matter, in the
earth, the air, the water; permeating every part and
particle of the universe, carrying creation in its arms, it
is yet invisible and too subtle to be analysed. Of the
natural effects of electricity, the most palpable examples
occur in atmospheric manifestations; but its artificial
generation and application are the mightiest scientific
triumphs of our epoch. It was but little more than a
hundred years ago that Franklin's immature experi.
ments demonstrated the absolute identity of lightning
and electricity. Since then various mechanical contri-
vances have been devised for liberating this subtle but
potent power from its dark windings in the prison-house
of material forms; the result of which is, that the electric
fluid may be produced and employed in any desired
quantity and with any required intensity. Thus the
same terrific agent which rushes with blinding and
crushing force in the lightning, has been brought under
the perfect control of man, and is employed at his will
as an agent of his necessities. With dissolving energy
it effects the most subtle chemical analyses, it converts
the sunbeam into the limner's pencil, employs its titanic
force in blasting rocks, dissolves gold and silver, and
employs them in the gilding and plating of other metals;
it turns policeman, sounding its whistle and alarm-bell;
and lastly, applies its marvellous energy to the trans-
mission of thought from continent to continent with
such rapidity as to forestall the flight of Time, andinaugu-
rate new realizations of human powers and possibilities.
The efficacy of the Electric Telegraph depends on the
power to produce at will the three following effects:-
1st. To develop the electric fluid in any desired
2nd. To transmit it to any required distance without
any injurious diminution of its force.
3rd. To cause it upon its arrival at any required point
to produce some sensible effects which may serve the
purpose of written or printed characters.*
* Lardner. The Electric Telegraph.
Every practical application must have its ground and
genesis in some scientific conception; it must pre-exist in
the mind as law, before it can assume substantive shape
in the world of concrete realities. Thus practical navi-
gation is the result of mathematical discoveries and ob-
servations, that run back to the speculative labors of the
Greek geometers; and our ships now navigate the track-
less ocean with safety, guided by a knowledge of the
principles of conic sections discovered by Apollonius
and Aristarchus. A practical embodiment is real and
lasting, just in proportion to its truthful relation to laws
generalized from the observation of phenomena in nature,
and any discovery is explained, when the ideal steps on
which it depends, are set forth in systematic order.
It was not until the latter part of the eighteenth cen-
tury, that the science of electrology began to receive
some of those great generalizations which give it a
rational character, and which, in fact, constitute it a
science. The first serviceable steps were the distinction
of the two electricities, MUSCHENBROEK'S experiments
with the Leyden Jar, and FRANKLIN'S great meteorolo-
gical discovery, which was the first manifestation of the
influence of electricity in the general system of nature.
These were followed up by the vast labors of CoULOMB and
AMPERE, bringing electrical phenomena under the juris-
diction of mathematics. In the year 1820, OERSTED pub-
lished to the world his beautiful and comprehensive dis-
cover, connecting the laws of Electricity and Magnet-
ism. Ten years afterwards, ARAGO and FARADAY came
with their brilliant intuitions, bringing those grand
generalizations which have been the foundation of all
the magnificent applications of the science which have
since been made.
Such is a brief and rapid view of the development of
the science of Electrology. How practical applications
have kept pace with abstract conceptions, and the energy
and enterprise of intelligent men have been all the while
fully abreast with the discoveries of science, remains to
It would seem to be necessary to the perfection of
every great discovery, that it should pass through a series
of rudimentary and embryonic stages before it can gain a
serviceable and rational form. Through such stages did
the applications of steam pass, as witness the numerous
experiments for centuries previous to its receiving the
foundation in science, from which alone we derive all
our power over this force. Telegraphy, too, has had to
pass through analogous processes of development. To
the present generation, who have seen this greatest of
modern arts grow up under their own eyes within the
past ten or twelve years, it can hardly seem possible that
they have been present at the very birth and adoption of
this great idea. But, notwithstanding that the art is so
new, and has been so suddenly brought to perfection, the
idea is old, and, like other great ideas, has had to strug-
gle through long ages for its perfect development. There
were many abortive experiments through the century
and a half preceding the first practical success. Fruit-
less though the greater part of these experiments were,
yet they were all necessary or inevitable to the final tri-
umph. And as this History will be chiefly occupied
with the triumphs of the telegraphic art during the past
twelve years, under the guidance of the great scientific
laws previously evolved, it will be necessary to take a
glance at the preliminary endeavors towards the consum-
mation, of the great idea; though from the imperfect
development of the science of Electrology, large and per-
manent results were not possible.
THE History of Telegraphy may properly be divided
into three periods:
1st. From the development of electricity by friction
to the discovery of Galvanism, or the production of
Electricity by the chemical union of acids upon metals,
in 1790 by Galvani, and by Yolta in 1800.
2d. From the discovery of the Galvanic or Voltaic
Battery at the beginning of the present century, includ-
ing the discovery of Electro-Magnetism by Oersted in
1820, and Ampere's first application of the principles
he evolved, up to 1831, when Professor Henry disco-
vered the method of constructing improved magnets in
connexion with properly arranged batteries, so as to pro-
duce mechanical effects at a distance.
3d. The Era of application, from 1837, when Profes-
sor Morse in America, and Cook and Wheatstone in
England, respectively patented their telegraphic inven-
tions, and inaugurated the triumphant and almost mira-
culous successes which the past twelve years have wit-
In the year 1726 JOHN WOOD, of England, discovered
that electricity could be conveyed a long distance by
conducting wires, and in 1747 one of the earliest appli-
cations of the discovery was made by Doctor WATSON,
who extended his experiments over a space of four miles,
comprising a circuit of two miles of wire and an equal
distance of ground.
In 1784* M. Lomond, of France, communicated tele-
graphic signals to a neighboring room by means of a
pith-ball electronometer, acted upon by electricity, an
account of which is narrated in "Young's Travels in
France." And, according to the Comptes Rendus, S&ance
1838, M. Belancourt in 1798 established a telegraph
between Madrid and Aranjuez, twenty-six miles in
length, through which a current of electricity was
forced and gave signals for letters.
Phil. Transactions, VoL XIV.
The first Galvanic Telegraph of which we have any
account was constructed by Sdemering, of Munich: it
operated by the decomposition of water, and caused a
bell at the opposite end of the wire to ring. This was
the first decomposing or chemical telegraph, and it can
even now be operated, according to "Jones's Book of
the Telegraph," though less rapidly than Bain's.
The year 1820 was signalized by the discovery of
electro-magnetism by Professor Oersted, of Copenhagen.
This most important discovery was at once seized upon by
M. Ampere, and embodied in the first Electro-Magnetic
Telegraph. This, however, proved more an experi-
mental than a practical advance in the science.*
The next advance was made by Mr. Sturgeon, of
England, who constructed the first electro-magnet by
rolling a piece of copper wire around an iron of a horse-
shoe form. He found that when the electric fluid passed
through the coil the inclosed iron became a magnet, and
was again demagnetized in breaking the current. Addi-
tional advances were made in 1831, by Professor Henry,
who discovered a method to which we have already
alluded, of forming magnets of great intensity, making
practicable the production of powerful effects at a great
distance. This was indispensable to the creation of
electro-magnetic telegraphing for great distances, and
* Annales de Chemie et de Physique, 1820.
was, of course, a sine qud non to the possibility of that
crowning achievement of science, the Submarine Tele-
In the year 1823, Gauss and Weber first constructed
the simplified Electro-Magnetic Telegraph. It was Gauss
who first employed the incitement of induction, and who
demonstrated that the appropriate combination of a
limited number of signs is all that is required for the
transmission of messages. Weber discovered that a
copper wire, 7,400 feet long, which he carried over the
houses and church steeples of Gittingen, from the Obser-
vatory to the Cabinet of Natural Philosophy, required
no special insulation. This was a most important disco-
very in the construction of telegraphic lines, and has
been of immense service in the art of Telegraphy.
Such were some of the preparatory steps through
which the telegraphic art passed previous to the inaugu-
Sration of the great era commencing in 1837. Thus we
see that the mighty achievements of the past twelve years
were the results of the conspiring labors and investiga-
tions of many generations of patient workers, who were
denied the gratification of witnessing the final glories of
The world has now more than a hundred thousand
/miles of Electric Telegraph. To say that this achieve-
ment marks an era in social life, is not to give it the
Silliman's Jour. Vol. XIX.
General Introduction. -
proper characterization. It marks an area in the unfold-
ing of the human mind. The Telegraph has more than *
a mechanical meaning; it has an ideal, a religious, and a
prospective significance, far-reaching and incalculable in
The inspired author of the Book of Job exclaims
in an interrogatory, meant to bear the burden of the
impossible, "Canst thou send lightning that they may
go, and say unto Thee, here we are? But this is pre-
cisely what science has done in the Electric Telegraph.
In all our cities there are buildings in the cellars of which
machinery exists for the fabrication of lightning, which
is supplied to order, at a very moderate price, in any
quantity required, and of any desired force, which is
conducted for thousands of miles across rivers, through
forests, over mountains, and down through the dark
depths of the ocean. And this lightning is made the
vehicle of thought, to carry messages to the extreme ends
of the earth, between two beats of the pendulum of a clock.
The fabled horses of Arabian tales, and the famous legend
of le Beau Pecopin's midnight ride round the world, are
tame in the comparison of the realities of Telegraphy.
It has been the result of the great discoveries of the
past century, to effect a revolution in political and social
life, by establishing a more intimate connexion between
nation and nation, with race and race. It has been found
that the old system of exclusion and insulation, are stag-
nation and death. National health can only be main-
tained by the free and unobstructed interchange of each
with all. How potent a power, then, is the telegraphic
destined to become in the civilization of the world
This binds together by a vital cord all the nations of the
earth. It is impossible that old prejudices and hostilities
should longer exist, while such an instrument has been
created for an exchange of thought between' all the
nations of the earth.
Such is the vista which this new triumph of the might
of human intelligence opens to us. Every one must
feel stronger and freer at the accession of such an in-
crease of power to the human family, as has been con-
ferred upon it by the success of the Ocean Telegraph. It
shows that nothing is impossible to man, while he keeps
within the sublimely imperious orbit of Nature's laws.
The future hides in it
Gladness and sorrow:
We press still thorow,
Naught that abides in it
Daunting us, Onward."
LAND AND OCEANIC TELEGRAPHS.
THE entire history of the Magnetic Telegraph is
compressible within very narrow limits. The first
Telegraphic line in the United States was erected only
fourteen years ago. But twenty-one years have passed
since the first English patent for a Telegraph was issued.
A period of thirty-nine years has elapsed since the dis-
covery and first application of electro-magnetism. A
space of a trifle over a third of a century, therefore,
embraces the era of Telegraphic operations. The accom-
plishment of the last great feat of underlying the ocean
suggests the propriety of a retrospect of early attempts.
The discovery of electro-magnetism is due to Professor
OERSTED, of Copenhagen, who announced the new
principle in 1819. The discovery was seized by M.
AMPERE, the eminent French physicist, who in the
following year, invented an electro-magnetic telegraph, in
which he used as many wires as there were letters, and
24 Land and Oceanic Telegraphs.
broke and restored the circuit by keys, similar to those
used in the Iouse patent. This attempt was purely
experimental. It was never practically tested. No
current was obtained of sufficient force to traverse any
considerable distance:-the idea of using the earth to
complete the circuit; the possibility of employing a
single wire; any method of recording the magnetic
current, in other words, of not only making it speak, but
of reporting and preserving its utterances, all these were
unknown elements, which it was left for the present
generation to discover. The first advance was made by
Professor JOSEPH HENRY, then of Princeton College,
now of the Smithsonian Institution, who, by the con-
struction and novel combination of magnets, in the year
1831, demonstrated the possibility of transmitting the
current over long distances; a revelation indispensable to
the construction of a submarine telegraph. In 1833,
WEBER, a German experimenter, found that a copper
wire which he carried over sundry houses and church
steeples of Gottingen, required no especial insulation; a
fact of great practical value to telegraphing upon land.
The year 1837 furnished several additions to previous
knowledge; and, in fact, may be regarded as the epoch
of the inland telegraphic system. In July of that year,
STEINHEIL put in use a registering electro-magnetic
telegraph between Munich and Bogenhausen, wherein
clock-work was employed to pass a ribbon of paper
Land and Oceanic Telegraphs. 25
through the machine under a deflected needle, which
impressed upon it dots and marks, accepted as represen-
tations of the several letters of the alphabet. A few
days before the Steinheil apparatus was set to work,
Messrs. COOKE and WHEATSTONE obtained their English
patent for a telegraph using a deflective point, the patent
bearing date, June 12, 1837. Their specific improvement
was the use of transmitting or relay magnets.
In the year 1835, Mr. SAMUEL F. B. MORSE, of New
York, constructed a rude apparatus for telegraphic expe-
riments in the University of the City of New York.
Seventeen hundred feet of wire were stretched around
the walls of a small apartment, and connected with a
recording machine of rough construction. This experi-
ment proved the practicability of the Telegraph. The first
word indicated through the action of the electric current
was "Eureka." Mr. MORSE conducted further experi-
ments until the year 1837, and in October of that
year filed his caveat for the "American Electro-Mag-
netic Telegraph," in which an incomplete outline of his
actual system was presented. He represented that his
plan had been devised in the year 1832, but was then
first reduced to the test of experiment. Dr. CHARLES T.
JAcKSON, of Boston, has always contended that the
MORSE invention was due to his suggestion, made to the
Professor during a voyage from Europe t6 the United
States, on board the ship Sally, in the Summer of 1832.
26 Land and Oceanic Telegraphs.
There is no proof, however, to contradict the averments
of both gentlemen, that they had heard nothing of the
Steinheil and Wheatstone inventions. MORSE obtained
his patent in France, in 1838, and in 1840 a patent in
the United States. In 1846, a re-issue of the latter patent
was obtained, in which the claim to the electric or mag-
netic current was abandoned, but he claimed instead the
use of electro-magnetism as a motor. The same year he
patented a right to the invention of a local circuit. Sub-
sequently, Mr. ALEXANDER BAIN patented, in England,
his claim for an improved Electro-Chemical Telegraph,
where the message was recorded by electricity upon
paper chemically prepared; and in 1848, entered his
claim for an American patent, which was confirmed in
1849. 'In 1848-9, Mr. ROYAL E. HOUSE, of New York,
obtained an American patent for a Telegraph, in which
the message was recorded by types, and the circuit broken
and resumed by means of keys similar to those of the
piano-forte, answering to the letters' of the alphabet.
The first electro-magnetic line in the United States
was that between Baltimore and Washington, the dis-
tance forty miles, completed in 1844. Congress contribu-
ted $30,000 towards its construction. The first message
Over this line was sent by Miss ANNE ELLSWORTH, of
Connecticut, on the 27th May, 1844, and the words
transmitted were these four: What hath God wrought ?"
The operation of this initial enterprise promising suc-
Land and Oceanic Telegraphs. 27
cess, a company was formed, with Mr. Amos KENDALL
as President, for the continuation of the line; and in
1845 it was extended between New York and Wilming-
ton, Del., leaving a gap between the latter point and
Baltimore, which was filled up early in 1846. From this
inception, the work has advanced until the present day,
when there are more than thirty-five thousand miles of
telegraph lines in the United States, connecting the coast
of Newfoundland with the shores of Texas, and the
great plains of the West, and the great lakes of the
North with the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. There
are more than five thousand miles in the British Pro-
vinces; in England there are over ten thousand miles;
and in the world a total length exceeding one hundred
The lines of Telegraph now in operation in the United
States, are (1) Morse's; (2) Bain's; (3) House's; (4)
Hughes'. The latter is a new invention, possessing won-
derful sensitiveness, and combining the advantages of
Morse's and House's. A general description of these
different systems may be usefully introduced in this con-
28 Land and Oceanic Telegraphs.
The engraving exhibits the Register of the Morse
Telegraph, as used in the telegraph offices:
REGISTER OF THE MORSE TELEGRAPH.
In this illustration, the magnet, the armature, the
rollers, and the clock-work, are shown. The machine is
set in operation by a lever-key, placed at the other end
Land and Oceanic Telegraphs.
of the telegraphic route, which, being raised or lowered
by the pressure of a finger, breaks or closes the circuit.
A signal-key is also used, and the apparatus for recording
messages is simple and effective. The subjoined illustra-
tions convey an idea of these parts of the machine:
sIGNAL-KEY OF lOSE'S INSTRIUMET.
The writing by Morse's instrument is a series of dots
and dashes, a full description of which may be found in
30 Land and Oceanic Telegraphs.
BAIN's Telegraph is a modification of Morse's. Its
form is shown in the following cut:
In this Telegraph, chemically prepared paper is marked
by the passage of the current, and the message is recorded
upon the disc.
HOUSE'S Telegraph is a printing instrument. Its gene-
ral character is shown in the subjoined engraving.
The operator with this instrument manipulates a let-
tered key-board, arranged like a piano-forte; the circuit
being closed by pressing down the keys; a type-wheel
revolving at the extremity of the line, records the mes-
sage in printed Roman letters.
HUGHES' Telegraph resembles HOUSE's, and, like that,
prints its messages. The principal advantage claimed for
Land and Oceanic Telegraphs.
this instrument, is its peculiar delicacy; a feebler current
of electricity sufficing to set it in motion. In principle, it
is a combination of the Morse and House Telegraphs.
The method of erecting a line of Land Telegraph is so
familiar, that any description is superfluous. The opera-
tion of splicing the wires, at points of junction, is not,
however, so generally known. It is exhibited in the
Submarine Telegraphs have a very recent history.
One of the earliest difficulties to be overcome in terres-
trial telegraphing, was the extension and perfect insulation
of the wire over streams and sheets of water. At first,
the transit was effected by using bridges, where bridges
32 Land and Oceanic Telegraphs.
existed; and in their absence, of suspending the wires
over the water, from carefully-selected prominences on
either bank. In time, the non-conducting quality of
SE I3 OF THE WIRB IN A LAND TE BAPE.
water suggested the idea of submerging the line, and
permitting it to sink to the bed of the stream; and with
the application of india rubber or gutta percha, as a coat-
ing to prevent oxidation, the plan was successfully
Land and Oceanic Telegraphs.
The Cable generally used for river crossings has the
following size and shape:-
OABUE FO"iB IEV OBO8NQMG.
The employment of Submarine Cables for telegraphic
communications was first successfully accomplished seven
years ago. In October, 1851, a deep-sea Cable was laid
in the English Channel, between Dover and Calais. This
Cable had four conducting wires, insulated by gutta
peroha, and afterwards enveloped by tarred rope-yarn
34 Land and Oceanic Telegraphs.
and galvanized iron wires. Its general plan of construc-
tion is indicated in the engraving:
SUBMARINE TELEGRAPH ABLE CONN1 ING DOVEB AND CALAMS
Land and Oceanic Telegraphs.
This Cable was manufactured in the space of three
weeks. It weighed seven tons to the mile, and was
twenty-four miles in length. It will be observed that
the principle differs essentially from that of the
Atlantic Cable; four conducting wires being
used instead of seven, and the aggregate weight
being six times greater. Owing, however, to
the chafing of the wire upon the rocks near the
French coast, this Cable severed at the end of
a month, and a new and stronger Cable had
to be laid. This is now in perfect working
A similar Cable was soon after made and
laid down by R. S. NEWALL & Co., between
Holyhead and Dublin, which worked perfectly
for several days; after which its insulation
became imperfect. Its size and form are exhi-
bited in the accompanying cut.
A Cable entirely of hemp, without any
galvanized wire covering, was laid down be-
tween Portpatrick and Donaghadee by the
same firm, for the Magneto-Electric Telegraph
Company. This has entirely failed.
Including the Atlantic Cable, the aggregate BO:"YAD
length of the Submarine Telegraph lines of OAB.
the world, is now little short of three thousand miles.*
* Appendix-" Table of Submarine Telegraph."
36 Land and Oceanic Telegraphs.
The immediate result of the first apparently successful
attempt with the Cable across the Straits of Dover, was
the suggestion of various projects of a similar character.
The plan of a trans-Atlantic Cable does not seem to have
been among these. The idea was too stupendous, per-
haps, and seemingly impracticable to be conceived; or, if
conceived, to be entertained otherwise than as a desirable
impossibility. In 1851, however, a speculator was found
bold enough to propound the enterprise, using the columns
of the London Atheneum for the purpose. He proposed
to use a single stout wire, enveloped, firstly, in a gutta-
percha coat, and secondly in hemp, saturated with some
imperishable matter, and to extend it directly from the
coast of Ireland to Newfoundland. The suggestion fell
still-born,--only, however, to be revived in a year or two
afterwards, under the auspices of the Company of whose
history it is now time to treat.
ORIGIN OF THE ATLANTIC TELEGRAPH-ORGANIZATION
OF THE NEW YORK, NEWFOUNDLAND, AND LONDON
CONFLICTING claims are always set up for the
honors justly due to the originators of useful enter-
prises. Crude ideas, when first broached, rarely receive
the degree of attention to which they are often really
entitled, and it is not unfrequently the case that the
actual projector of a plan of vast magnitude finds an
incredulous audience to receive his demonstrations. In
the 1"istory of the inception of the Atlantic Telegraph,
it is probable that many new elements will enter. The
credit of the original invention of Submarine telegraph-
ing will undoubtedly be claimed by various parties.
Had this wonderful work proved a total failure, aspiring
inventors would perhaps have been less anxious to claim
its paternity. Having become a fact in the history of
the world, it is not a matter of surprise to find a host of
38 Origin of the Atlantic Telegraph, &c.
rival claimants springing up; each pressing his demand
for priority, and each unwilling to yield to the preten-
sions of others. We do not propose to enter into any
elaborate discussion of this knotty question. The great
fact remains unaltered, that a Submarine Oceanic Tele-
graph is not only possible, but actual. It is idle to
attempt to compress within the compass of a single
chapter any complete record of the conflicting claims
which are put forward in connexion with the story of
this undertaking; indeed, a work much larger than the
present one would scarcely suffice for the presentation
of the plans for which their authors require the endorse-
ment of the public. We, therefore, content ourselves
with a general summary of the facts of the case, which
seem, after careful comparison of data, and conscientious
investigation of the merits of opposing claims, to be
established beyond the reach of cavil.
The question of the priority of discovery of the
principle of the Electro-Magnetic Telegraph, as lying
between Prof. MORSE, Prof. HENRY, and Dr. JACKSON,
does not properly enter into this department of the
history of Telegraphing. The merits of the claims set
up for these parties are treated elsewhere. For the
present, we have to deal solely with the record of the
origin of Submarine Telegraphs; and in order to arrive
at a satisfactory conclusion in regard to this particular
branch of the subject, it is essential to refer briefly to
Origin of the Atlantic Telegraph, &c. 39
events which occurred at intervals from the years 1847
to 1856, a period covering some nine years. While dis-
claiming any intention to slight the claims of ingenious
inventors, whose skill and industry will insure them the
grateful remembrance of posterity, even if their names
be disconnected from the historical record of the Atlantic
Telegraph, we are led to the belief that the credit of the
inception, progress, and successful completion of that
great undertaking, which forms the existing link between
Europe and America, is due to the foresight, prudence,
and unwearying energy of three or four 'gentlemen, all
of whom have contributed to the enterprise the results
of long experience and the fruits of enlarged scientific
One fact should be stated at the outset. It is undoubt-
edly true that the success of Submarine Telegraphing
depends upon a single point. That point, once gained,
insures other conditions, necessarily consequent upon
it. In other words, no submarine cable for telegraphic
purposes can be perfect until its insulation is rendered
positive. But one material is known to possess this
insulating property. But for the discovery of gutta
percha, the Atlantic Telegraph would not have been
worked; the electric current would have been dissipated
in the depths of the sea; the triumph of mechanical
skill and scientific genius, over which two nations have
become ecstatic, could not have been accomplished.
40 Origin of the Atlantic Telegraph, &c.
Prior experiments, on shorter lengths of submarine
cables, demonstrated the useful properties of this new
material. From these early attempts sprang the project
for underlying the ocean. Diligent industry, the
application of fertile resources, and the hearty co-opera-
tion of two countries in the work, have made the Atlantic
Telegraph the fitting climax to a long series of careful
investigations. The utility of the insulating material,
known as gutta percha,* has been abundantly tested,
both by scientific experiment and in practical, service.
But a few years have elapsed since its introduction as an
article of trade; fewer still have passed since its suitabi-
lity as an insulating material for telegraphic wires was
first definitely established. The credit of the discovery of
Gutta Percha.-A valuable substance, known only within the last
few years. It is the concrete juice of a large tree (Isonandra gutta), grow-
ing in certain parts of the Malayan Archipelago. The first specimen of
the inspissated juice which appeared in England, was presented to the
Society of Arts in 1843, but two or three years elapsed before a just sense
of the importance of the substance began to gain ground. In 1845 the
importation of gutta percha into England amounted to only 20,600 lbs.; in
1848, it had reached 3,000,000 lbs.; in 1851, it amounted to 30,580,480
lbs. The honor of having drawn attention to its real nature and uses is
due to Drs. D'Almeida and W. Montgomerie. The purposes to which
gutta percha is applied, are too numerous for recapitulation. It resists the
action of water, and is at the same time a bad conductor of electricity;
it is, therefore, employed for enclosing the metallic wires used in the
Electric Telegraph. The efficiency of the Submarine Telegraph is largely
due to this valuablee substance.'"--omanw Cyclopcdia of Commerce.
Origin of the Atlantic Telegraph, &c. 41
this peculiar virtue seems to be justly awarded to Mr. S.
T. ARMSTRONG, of the City of New York. This gentle-
man was invited to visit England in the year 1847, for the
purpose of examining the new material, then just coming
into notice as an article of commerce. The practicability
of its application to many useful purposes was considered
settled. A new branch of trade appeared to be opened
by its discovery. A company was formed in New York,
of which Mr. ARMSTRONG became President. The first
shipment made from England to the United States, was
an invoice of five tons, which was received here in the
year 1847. Various experiments demonstrated the
utility of the new material for manufacturing purposes,
but it was not until the autumn of 1848, that the insulat-
ing property was so far developed as to be relied upon
with certainty. At that period, a number of experiments
were made, the result of which, proved that copper wires
became perfect conductors of electricity when coated
with gutta percha, resisting the action not only of the air,
but of the water; and that a telegraphic wire, encased
in this material, became a safe conductor of an electric
current under conditions which would otherwise prove
an insuperable bar to success. This was the germ of
the Submarine Telegraph, and it would be unjust to Mr.
ARMSTRONG to detract from the merit to which his early
investigations fairly entitle him.
Next came the practical solution of the problem. In
42 Origin of the Atlantic Telegraph, &c.
this branch of the subject the first practical experimenter
seems to have been a telegraphic agent in an office at
Montreal, Mr. F. N. GISBORNE. Other persons had con-
ceived general ideas of the principles of constructing
oceanic telegraphs; but the facts in the history of early
experiments upon this point demonstrate that the first
practical application of the principle, at least on this
side of the Atlantic, was made by Mr. GISBORNE. In
1851-2, Mr. GISBORNE, then recently from England,
went to Halifax, and thence to New Brunswick and the
United States, endeavoring to find responsible parties
who would undertake the work of laying a submarine
line. He was unsuccessful in this quest; but in a few
months afterwards received partial aid, and accom-
plished the experiment of laying a small insulated
Cable from the main land to Prince Edward Island.
His next step was to lay a submarine line from New-
foundland to Cape Breton, and in a preliminary survey
he underwent many hardships. In the interval which
elapsed before arrangements could be made for perfecting
this project, his backers failed. In the Spring of 1854
Mr. GISBORNE came to New York, placed himself in
communication with Mr. CYRUS W. FIELD, enlisted the
sympathies of other influential gentlemen, and finally
received an appointment as Superintendent of the Com-
pany which was formed about that time to establish a line
of Telegraph between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
Origin of the Atlantic Telegraph, &c. 43
The connexion of Mr. CYRUS W. FIELD with the
Atlantic Telegraph enterprise, therefore, dates from the
early part of the year 1854. Receiving with undoubt-
ing faith the plan for connecting the continents by means
of an Oceanic Telegraph, seeing no obstacles which
could not be overcome by patient perseverance, and
possessed of an indefatigable energy, to Mr. FIELD may
be accorded the honor of sustaining the main burden of
an extraordinary effort. When others sank, discouraged
by the pressure of untoward events, and dismayed by
the prospect of failure, this gentleman revived hopes
that were nearly extinguished, infused fresh energy into
the efforts of his associates, and finally succeeded in
arousing a spirit of enterprise which has reaped its
own reward. The history of the organization of the
Telegraph Company, and the record of the steps in the
progress of the Atlantic Telegraph are so intimately
associated with the name of Mr. FIELD, that we may be
pardoned for a brief digression from the main subject of
this narrative, in order to give a running sketch of that
gentleman's personal history.
CYRUS WEST FIELD is a native of Massachusetts, hav-
ing been born in the town of Stockbridge, in that State,
in the year 1819. His father was the Reverend D. D.
FIELD, a native of East Guilford, Connecticut, a graduate
of Yale, and first settled at Haddam, Ct. Dr. FIELD had
nine children-seven sons and two daughters. The sons
44 Origin of the Atlantic Telegraph, &c.
have all risen to distinguished positions. The elder bro-
ther, the Hon. DAVID DUDLEY FIELD of New York, is well
known on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the Revisers
of the Code of the State of New York. MATTHEW DICK-
INSON FIELD is a leading citizen of Massachusetts, and was
recently or still Senator.~ NATHA'A ED'WARiVCFIELD
is a Judge of the Supreme Court of California. The
Rev. HENRY M. FIELD was formerly Pastor of a Congre-
gational society in West Springfield, Massachusetts, and
now Editor of the New York Evangelist. One son,
TIMOTHY, went to sea, many years since, and has never
been heard from. CYRUS WEST FIELD, in early life,
came to New York, and was engaged as clerk in the
establishment of Mr. A. T. STEWART. He subsequently
returned to Massachusetts, and was employed in the
paper manufactory of his brother MATTHEW, in the
town of Lee; and on attaining his majority entered into
the same line of business on his own account, at West-
field, Massachusetts, but failed during the panic of 1837.
He then returned to New York, and established a large
paper commission warehouse, of which he is still the
head. Some four or five years ago, Mr. FIELD'S attention
was directed to the project of an Oceanic Telegraph. In
the spring of 1854, his ideas on that subject first took
definite shape, and the active and earnest cooperation of
several prominent citizens of New York-among whom
were Messrs. PETER COOPER, MOSES TAYLOR, MAR-
Origin of the Atlantic Telegraph, &c. 45
SHALL O. ROBERTS, CHANDLER WHITE, S. F. B. MORSE,
and DAVID DUDLEY FIELD-was given in aid of his
enterprise. The further development of the plan is
recorded in these pages.
In person, Mr. FIELD is slight and nervous. His
weight is about one hundred and forty pounds. His
features are sharp and prominent, the most striking
peculiarity being the nose, which projects boldly. His
body is lithe and his manner active; eyes grayish-blue
and small; forehead large, and hair auburn and luxuriant.
He does not appear as old as he is. The steel portrait
which accompanies this volume conveys a perfect idea of
the appearance of the man.
Another name,-that of Professor MORSE,-has been
intimately associated with the early history of the Atlan-
tic Telegraph, and merits particular mention. Although
not actively connected with the last stages of that under-
taking, yet Professor MORSE has freely given his co-opera-
tion and sympathy to it; while the acknowledged value
of his services in the cause of Telegraphy entitles him
to grateful remembrance. SAMUEL FINDLAY BREESE
MORSE, like Mr. FIELD, is a native of Massachusetts.
He was born at Charlestown, Mass., on the 29th April,
1791; graduated at Yale College in 1810; and then went
to London to study the art of painting under BENJAMIN
WEST. Returning to the United States in 1815, he began
the practice of his art in the city of New York, and
46 Origin of the Atlantic Telegraph, &c.
about the year 1820 was one of the founders of the
National Academy of Design. He revisited Europe in
1829, and on his return to America in 1832, seems to have
worked out the plan of an Electro-Magnetic Telegraph;
the honor of which invention, however, is claimed by
Dr. JACKsoN. Of this point, we treat briefly else-
where. Since the year 1835, the attention of Prof.
MORSE has been chiefly directed to Telegraphic ope-
rations; and during the past year a handsome remune-
ration has been voted him by the Continental Govern-
We return to the narrative of the primary stages of the
The organization of the New York, Newfoundland,
and London Telegraph Company dates back to the year
1854. In March of that year, Mr. CYRUS W. FIELD, his
brother, DAVID DUDLEY, and Mr. CHANDLER WHITE
were commissioned to proceed to Newfoundland, to
obtain from the Government of the Province an act of
incorporation. On arriving at St. John's, they called
upon the Governor, who convoked the Executive Coun-
cil the same day. The Governor gave a favorable answer
to the Commissioners, and immediately sent a special
message to the Legislature, then in session, recommending
them to pass an act of incorporation, with a guaranty of
interest on the Company's bonds to the amount of 50,000,
and a grant of fifty square miles of land on the island of
Origin of the Atlantic Telegraph, &c. 47
Newfoundland, to be selected by the Company. These
terms were agreed upon.
Additional grants were subsequently received from the
Governments of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia,
Canada, and the State of Maine; and afterwards from
the Governments of Great Britain and the United States.
The results of these negotiations may be summarily indi-
cated, for future reference, in this place, as upon the
liberal nature of the grants depended the ultimate results
of the project. The governmental grants extended to
the Company, from first to last, have therefore been as
Exclusive privileges for fifty years of landing Cables on New-
foundland, Labrador, and their dependencies.
The exclusive right embraces a coast line extending from the en-
trance of Hudson's Straits southwardly and westwardly along the
coasts of Labrador, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Cape
Breton, Nova Scotia, and the State of Maine, and their respective
Grant of fifty square miles of land on completion of Telegraph
to Cape Breton.
Similar concession of additional fifty square miles when the Cable
shall have been laid between Ireland and Newfoundland.
Guarantee of interest for twenty years at five per cent. on 50,000.
Grant of 5,000 in money towards building road along the line
of the Telegraph.
48 Origin of the Atlantic Telegraph, &c.
Remission of duties on importation of all wires and materials for
the use of the Company.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND.
Exclusive privilege for fifty years of landing Cables.
Free grant of one thousand acres of land.
A grant of 300 currency per annum for ten years.
Act authorizing the building of telegraph lines throughout the
Remission of duties on all wires and materials imported for the
use bf the Company.
Grant of exclusive privilege for twenty-five years of landing
Telegraphic Cables from Europe on the shores of this Province.
STATE OF MAINE.
Similar grant of exclusive privilege for like period of twenty-five
Annual subsidy of 14,000 sterling until the net profits of the
Company reach 6 per cent. per annum, on the whole capital of
350,000 sterling, the grant to be then reduced to 10,000 sterling
per annum, for a period of twenty-five years.
The aid of two of the largest steamships in the English navy to
lay the Cable, with two subsidiary steamers.
A Government steamship to take any further necessary sound-
ings, and verify those already taken.
Origin of the Atlantic Telegraph, &c. 49
Annual subsidy of $70,000 until the net profits yield 6 per cent.
per annum, then to be reduced to $50,000 per annum, for a period
of twenty-five years, subject to termination of contract by Congress
after ten years, on giving one year's notice.
The United States steamship Arctic to make and verify soundings.
Steamships Niagara and Susquehanna to assist in laying the
A Government steamer to make further soundings on the coast
The original organization of the Company was as
NEW YORK, NEWFOUNDLAND, AND LONDON
DIRECTORS IN NEW YORK:
PETER COOPER, CYRUS W. FIELD,
MOSES TAYLOR, MARSHAL 0. ROBERTS,
S. F. B. MORSE,
MOSES TAYLOR, .
DAVID DUDLEY FIELD,
F. N. GISBORNE,
The first step in the great enterprise, now fairly
inaugurated, was the connexion of St. John's with the
50 Origin of the Atlantic Telegraph, &c.
Telegraphic lines already in operation in Canada and
the United States. The first attempt to lay these wires
was made in 1855, but it then proved unsuccessful. In
1856 the effort was renewed with success, and there has
been little interruption of the union between the two
islands. The Cable employed for this service is quite
large, composed of three strands, and has three conduct-
ing wires. From Port-au-Basque, the Cable station on
the western part of Newfoundland, the telegraph extends
directly across the island to Trinity Bay, the American
terminus of the Atlantic Telegraph.
In the year 1856, the Company dispatched Mr. CYRus
W. FIELD to England to enlist the aid of capitalists in
that country. The most complete success attended his
efforts. The capital stock of the New York Company
was fixed at $1,750,000, and the whole was subscribed
for,-one hundred and one shares in London, eighty-eight
in America, eighty six in Liverpool, thirty-seven in
Glasgow, twenty-eight in Manchester, and the remainder
in other parts of England. The capital, however, had
to be subsequently increased to $2,500,000, to meet the
failures that occurred in the various attempts to sub-
merge the Cable.
The project, when brought to the notice of the British
and American governments, was received with a like
degree of favor, and liberal subsidies were granted; the
substance of which has already been indicated.
Origin of the Atlantic Telegraph, &c.
The Act of Congress, approved March 3, 1857, and
the Charter of Incorporation, granted by Parliament, are
given in the Appendix. The stipulations contained in
these acts form an interesting part of the general history
of the Telegraph.
The Charter of the New York, Newfoundland, and
London Company, conferring upon it the exclusive right
to land telegraphic cables on the shores of Newfoundland
and other parts of North America, and for twenty-five
years to do the same thing on the shores of Nova Scotia,
was made over to the Atlantic Telegraph" Company-
the Direction of which is now constituted as follows:
SAMUEL GURNEY, M.P., London.
T. H. BROOKING, London.
BRETT, J. W., London.
BRowN, WILLIAM, M.P., Liverpool
DUGDALE, JAMES, Manchester.
HANKEY, T. A., London.
HARRISON, HENRY, Aigburth, near Liverpool.
HoRNBY, THOMAS DYSON, Liverpool.
JOHNSTON, EDWARD, Liverpool.
LAMPSON, C. M., London.
LE BRETON, FRANCIS, London.
LOGIE, WILLIAM, Glasgow.
PEABODY, GEORGE, London.
PENDER, JOHN, Manchester.
52 Origin of the Atlantic Telegraph, &c.
PICKERINO, C. W. H., Liverpool.'
SCHWAIE, GUSTAV CHRIS., Liverpool.
THOMSON, Professor W., LL.D., Glasgow.
ARCHIBALD, HON. E. M., H.M. Consul, New York.
BELMONT, AUGUSTE, Banker, New York.
COOPER, PETER, Merchant, New York.
CoRBIN, FRANCIS P., New York.
HUNT, WILSON G., Merchant, New York.
Low, A. A., Merchant, New York.
MORGAN, MATTHEW, Banker, New York.
SHERMAN, WATTS, Banker, New York.
CARTIER, HON. GEORGE E., Quebec, Lower Canada.
Ross, HON. JOHN, Toronto, Upper Canada.
YOUNG, HON. JOHN, Montreal, Upper Canada.
ROBERTSON, HON. JOHN, St. John, New Brunswick.
General Manager: CYRUS W. FIELD.*
Engineer : CHARLES T. BRIGHT.
Electrician: E. O. W. WHITEHOUSE.
Secretary: GEORGE AWARD.
Solicitors: FRESHFIELDS & NEWMAN.
Auditors:-JONATHAN RIGG, No. 17 Mark Lane, Lon-
don, Merchant; HENRY W. BLACKBURN,
Bradford, Yorkshire, Public Accountant.
Bankers: THE BANK OF ENGLAND.
The New York Company also made over to the new
Corporation all concessions bearing upon the under-
taking which may be hereafter obtained, and all the
patent rights of Messrs. WHITEHOUSE and BRIGHT,
Origin of the Atlantic Telegraph, &c. 53
which in any way concerned the working of instruments
in marine circuits of great length, were prospectively
secured to it. In order that the capital subscribed might
be entirely applied to the immediate object of the under-
taking, the projectors, Messrs. BRETT and FIELD, and
Messrs. BRIGHT and WHITEHOUSE, considerately ar-
ran'ged that compensation for the privileges assigned, and
for past expenditure and exertions, should be left entirely
dependent on the successful result of the undertaking.
The final agreement with these gentlemen was, that upon
attaining success, a half-yearly dividend of ten per cent.
per annum on the capital should first be paid to the
shareholders, and then one-half of any further profit
should be given to them, and the other half be retained
by the Company, it having been estimated upon a very
moderate computation of the probable amount of reve-
nue, conjoined with a consideration of the comparatively
small working expenses, where there can only be two ter-
minal stations to be maintained, that a very satisfactory
result might be secured to all parties upon this ground.
But while the electrical and financial preparations had
terminated so favorably to the views of the Company,
there were other topics of equal moment not yet satis-
factorily determined. The solution of one momentous
question remained to be given. Could a telegraphic
wire be laid on the bottom of the Atlantic? Every care
was, therefore, taken to bring together all the evidence
54 Origin of the Atlantic Telegraph, &c.
that could be gleaned of the actual character of the vast
oceanic basin, which was to be the scene of the great
enterprise, and to collate them with the labors of Lieu-
tenant MATrHEW F. MAURY, who had already demon-
strated the existence of an Atlantic plateau.*
This plain, according to Lieut. MAURY, was scarcely
twelve thousand feet below the level of the sea, and
extended in a continuous ledge from Cape Race, in New-
foundland, to Cape Clear, in Ireland. Its greatest
depression was declared to be in mid-ocean, whence it
imperceptibly ascended to the shore on either side. In
order to verify the theory of such a plateau, the aid of
the government of the United States was invoked by the
Company. A cordial assent was given; and Lieut. O.
H. BERRYMAN, U.S.N.,-was twice dispatched in the
steamer Arctic to make soundings along the proposed
line; while, to verify his observations, Her Britannic
Majesty's steamer Cyclops traversed the ground in an
opposite direction. The knowledge thus obtained was
conclusive. The plain was gently levelled, so deep as
to be below the reach of disturbing superficial causes,
and composed of particles of shells, so minutely tritu-
rated as to render their character indetectible save with
the aid of a microscope. Their presence, examined by
the lights of science, proved how little those profound
depths had been disturbed in the course of uncounted
Origin of the Atlantic Telegraph, &c. 55
ages, and encouraged the hope that the Cable, when
once laid along with them, might rest as tranquilly-per-
haps as long. The tendency of these infinitesimal frag-
ments to agglutinate to any metallic centre exposed to
them, held out the expectation that the submerged Cable
would soon be thickly enveloped by them, and a fresh
element of security so obtained. The accompanying
map comprises a complete view of the plateau, as it
stretches from shore to shore.
This submarine plateau is really a gently-levelled
plain, lying just so deep as to be inaccessible to the
anchors of ships, and to other sources of surface-inter-
ference, and yet not so far depressed but that it can be
reached by mechanical ingenuity without any very extra-
vagant effort. It seems, indeed,, that it is a portion of a
great zone of table land, which entirely engirdles the
earth, or which at least stretches from the western side
of America to the Asiatic coasts of the Pacific.
THE ATLANTIC CABLE-CONSTRUCTION AND EXPERI-
IN the construction of the Atlantic Cable, many im-
portant considerations were necessarily taken into
account. There were certain characteristics which the
Cable must possess, to enable it to meet the peculiar
circumstances of the case, and the conditions in which
it would be placed. The success of any plan for the
laying of an Oceanic Telegraph was believed to be
greatly dependent upon the form and character finally
given to the Cable itself. Before the terms and details
of the contract could be satisfactorily presented to con-
tractors, it was essential to compare different plans of
construction, and decide upon that which promised the
most effective results. The Directors of the Company
gave patient attention to the proposals which were laid
before them, and after a careful examination of the rela-
tive merits of plans submitted for their adoption,
Cable-Construction and Experiments. 57
awarded the contract for the construction of the great
Submarine Cable to the firm of GLASS & ELLIOT, of
Greenwich, near London. The beautiful workmanship
of this Cable is not less creditable to the establishment
in which it was manufactured, than honorable to the
scientific skill and assiduity of Mr. GLASS, the senior
partner of the firm, to whom the Directors unanimously
accorded the praise due to his indefatigable exertions in
their interest. A contract for the construction of one-
half of the Cable was subsequently awarded to Messrs.
R. S. NEWALL & Co., of Birkenhead.
The general plan of the Cable having been adopted,
certain specific calculations became necessary. The first
important point to be settled was the weight of the Cable.
While it must be sufficiently heavy to sink quickly to
the bottom of the sea by its gravity, when launched
from the stern of the paying-out vessel, it was requisite
that any excessive weight should be avoided; else the
difficulty of management in the deep sea would become
an obstacle almost insuperable. The Directors, in an-
nouncing to the stockholders the results of their long
investigation, dwelt with much earnestness upon the
difficulty which they encountered, in the commencement
of the enterprise, in the determination of this delicate
problem. They cited the account given by Mr. BRETT,
of his unsuccessful attempt to connect Europe with
Africa by a Cable of massive construction; and argued
58 Cable-Construction and. Experiments.
from the experience of that gentleman, that the manage-
ment of heavy Cables in the ocean would be an imprac-
ticable, undertaking. If, on the contrary, the Cable
were too light, it would be at the mercy of the currents,
its integrity would be greatly risked, its strands might
be separated, and its insulation destroyed. Again, it
was obviously desirable that, size and specific weight
being given, the Cable should be made as strong as
material and dimensions allowed. Its positive require-
ments were tenacity and flexibility. The ingenious
combination of these qualities with a perfect electrical
condition, which were attained as the result of the
careful experiments of Mr. GLASS, aided by distin-
guished scientific gentlemen, justified the choice of his
plan by the Directors of the Company.
The Atlantic Cable, now lying at the bottom of the
ocean, is an extremely simple contrivance. No altera-
tion has been made in its construction during the entire
progress of the Telegraph Expeditions. Severe tests have
failed to develop defects in its practical operation; elec-
trical experiments have established its fitness for the pur-
pose designed; the frigate Niagara has tested its strength
by swinging to it as though at anchor in mid-ocean; its
wonderful flexibility has been proved by repeated trials.
Had the Atlantic Telegraph enterprise developed only
this remarkable result of mechanical ingenuity, the work
would not have been undertaken in vain. A slender
Cable-Construction and Experiments. 59
thread, laid by powerful mechanism at the bottom of a
vast ocean, and laid without a flaw or break, linking
two worlds together in bonds of amity, and marking
a new era in the history of the earth, is in itself a
The illustration on page 62 shows the exact size of
the Atlantic Cable.
The profile view of the Cable (p. 63) gives a general
idea of its appearance when ready for use. In order to
show more fully the process of manufacture, an illus-
tration of sections of the Cable is given on page 63.
The central conducting wire is a strand made up of
seven wires of the purest copper, known in the trade as
No. 22. The strand itself is about the sixteenth of an
inch in diameter, and is formed of one straightly drawn
wire, with six others twisted round it; the twisting hav-
ing been accomplished by dragging the central wire
from a drum through a hole in a horizontal table; the
table itself revolving rapidly, under the impulse of steam,
carrying near its circumference six reels or drums, each
armed with copper wire. Each drum revolved upon
its own horizontal axis, and delivered its wire as it turned.
This twisted form of the conducting wire was first used
in the Submarine Cable laid across the St. Lawrence in
1856. It was then employed with a view to the reduc-
tion to the lowest possible amount of the chance of an
interruption of continuity. It was considered improba-
60 Cable-Construction and Experiments.
ble that a fracture would occur in more than one of the
wires in this twisted strand at precisely the same spot;
so that, although the whole seven wires might be broken
at different parts of the strand, the capacity of the Cable
for the transmission of the electric current would not be
destroyed. During the process of manufacture at Green-
wich, the copper used in the construction of the Atlantic
Cable was assayed from time to time in order to insure
absolute homogeneity and purity. Experiments upon
the strand itself proved that, when subjected to strain, it
was capable of stretching 20 per cent. of its length with-
out breakage, and without material interference with its
This yielding temper in a strand of pure copper
inspired grave doubts in the minds of many gentlemen
connected with the early stages of the undertaking. It
was anticipated that when the Cable was subjected to
strain, the yielding core would become attenuated to
such an extent that its capacity for the transmission of a
current would be virtually destroyed. To meet this
objection, and dispel the growing apprehension, Mr.
WHITEHOUSE, a capable electrician, who had taken an
active part in the scientific investigations pertinent to
this undertaking, devised a simple and very effective
experiment. He connected three lengths of the Cable of
200 miles each into a continuous line, and then passed a
current from two 86-inch double induction coils excited
Cable-Construction and Experiments. 6i
by 10 SMEE cells, each having plates of 100 square
inches of area, through the 600 miles of Cable to the
magneto-electrometer. The weight of 745 grains was
raised on the end of the steel yard, and was thus the
measure of the current after transmission through the
Cable. He next made a break in the Cable at the
distance of 400 miles from the nearer end, and introduced
into the gap one mile of fine insulated wire, which
possessed only one-eleventh of the capacity of the copper
strand. This proportion was ascertained by weighing
equal lengths of the wire and the strand. The piece of
wire weighed three grains, and the piece of strand
weighed thirty-three and a half grains. A current from
the same induction coils was now again passed through
600 miles length of Cable to the magneto-electrometer,
with the one-mile length of fine wire interpolated in its
course, and 725 grains were lifted on the steel-yard.
Only twenty grains of lifting power out of a force equi-
valent to 745 grains had been lost in consequence of the
introduction of the mile of fine wire, measuring but one-
eleventh of the central strand. The fear that a stretch
of two feet in a mile for six miles of the Cable would
render it electrically unfit for service, was thus met by
showing that, if the entire copper strands of the Cable
were stretched 96 feet in every mile, the loss of con-
ducting capability would amount to no more than a
62 Cable-Construction and Experiments.
A subsequent experiment determined the fact that the
copper strand bore twenty per cent. of the elongation
without injury to its integrity of texture, or in other
words, it could be stretched one thousand feet in a mile
not only without breaking, but without impairing its tele-
graphic utility. The copper strand, indeed, was never
broken until elongated to the extent of twenty-five or
thirty per cent. These experiments having satisfied the
incredulous-a troublesome class of persons who always
swarm upon the track of a new invention, and whose lit-
tle faith is sometimes a serious bar to progress-the con-
struction of the Cable was pushed forward with remark-
able vigor. The general plan of manufacture is exhi-
bited in another page. The following is a vertical section
of the Atlantic Cable, showing the position of the
central conducting wires, with their cover-
ings of gutta-percha, rope-yarn, and twisted
The principal processes through which the
Cable passed were four in number-1, the 'TH AL"No
twisting of the conducting wires; 2, a triple SA.
coating of gutta-perdha; 3, a covering of fine thread
yarn soaked in a mixture of pitch, tar, oil, and tallow;
4, the final enclosure of twisted wire.
We shall describe these processes in their order. The
copper strand of the Cable having been prepared in the
manner already indicated, was rolled upon drums as it
SCable-Construction and Experiments.
PROFILE VIEW OF THE ATLANTIO CABLE-EXACT SIZE.
VIEW OF THE ATLANTIC CABLE IN SECTIONS.
1. Exterior covering of wires, eighteen in number, of seven strands each.
2. Covering of tarred rope-yam.
3. Three coatings of gutta-percha.
4. Copper conducting wires, seven in number.
64 Cable--Construction and Experiments.
was completed, in lengths of two miles. It was taken
from these drums to receive a coating of three separate
layers of refined gutta-percha. The original diameter of
the conducting wire before this coating was one-sixteenth
of an inch. After receiving the coating, the diameter
was increased to three-eighths of an inch. These prelimi-
nary processes were by far the most important of the
whole, for the perfection of the insulation of the Cable
depends upon the integrity of the insulating material.
Three coatings of gutta-percha were applied at suitable
intervals to insure the efficiency of the work. The gutta-
percha employed for the purpose was prepared with the
utmost possible care. Lumps of the crude substance
were first rasped down by a revolving toothed cylinder
placed within a hollow case. The raspings were then
passed between rollers, and macerated in hot water;
afterwards washed in cold water, and driven, at a boiling
water temperature, by hydraulic power, through wire-
gauze sieves, attached to the bottom of wide vertical
pipes. The gutta-percha came out from these sieves in
plastic masses of remarkable purity and fineness. It
then passed into an apparatus known as a masticator,
consisting of a series of interrupted screws revolving in
hollow cylinders; the material being squeezed and
kneaded for some hours in this manner, in order to ex-
pel the water and render the substance perfectly homo-
geneous. Horizontal cylinders heated by steam received
Cable-Construction and Experiments. 65
the purified gutta-percha. Screw-pistons driven down
slowly, but with resistless force, pressed the material
through a die, which at the same time had the strand of
copper wire moving along through its centre. The
strands entered the die naked, bright copper wire, and
emerged as thick, dull-looking cords, having received one
complete coating. The same process was repeated,
until three coatings inclosed the copper strands.
The Cable, having been prepared thus far in lengths
of two miles, rigorous tests of insulation and electric
continuity were applied. Each length was coiled on a
wooden drum, with a short piece of the copper con-
ductor projecting at each end. These drums were then
immersed in water, and the task of the Electricians
began. The continuity was ascertained by passing a
voltaic current of low power through the strand, from a
battery of a single pair of plates, and causing it to record
a signal after issuing from the wire. The amount of
insulation was determined by a different plan. One
pole of a voltaic battery, consisting of 500 pairs of plates,
was connected with the earth; the other pole was united
to a wire coiled around the needle of a sensitive hori-
zontal galvanometer, and running thence to the exposed
strand of the Cable, which was. left without any con-
ducting communication. If the insulation was perfect,
the earth formed one pole of the battery, and the end of
the insulated strand the other pole, the circuit remaining
66 Cable-Construction and Experiments.
open: consequently no current passed, and the needle
of the galvanometer was not deflected in the slightest
degree. If the insulation was imperfect, or there was
undue electrical permeability in the sheath of gutta-
percha, a portion of the current forced its way from the
strand through the faulty places in the covering of gutta-
percha, and the needle of the galvanometer was deflected,
the degree of deflection being the measure of the amount
of imperfection. It was found that the best coating was
not a thorough insulation, a slight deflection being pro-
duced in the needle, but insufficient to cause serious
interference with telegraphic operations. A certain
degree of deflection, therefore, was considered allowable
and safe. It was only when this degree was exceeded
that the core was condemned. While the test for con-
tinuity was absolute, that which determined the insula-
tion was in a measure relative. A very powerful battery
was used in the tests for insulation, in order to render
the trial as severe as possible. During the progress of
these experiments, an ingenious method was adopted
for the purpose of testing at the same time both the
continuity and the insulation. The operation was as
follows: The entire length of the Cable was joined
into a loop or endless ring, when a voltaic sand-battery
of 500 pairs of plates was connected by one of its poles
with the entirely insulated strand of the Cable, and by
its other pole with the earth. The circuit was thus
Cable-Construction and Experiments. 67
insulated as a whole, and charged as a Leyden jar. But
a charged Leyden jar may be made a part of a voltaic
circuit; and therefore this charged ring of wire was able
to transmit a low-tension circuit without its charge being
interfered with. A small insulated battery was then
introduced into the circuit, and its low current flowed
from pole to pole through the strand.
A bell, also insulated, was so placed in the same
circuit that any break of continuity dropped a needle
previously held by magnetic attraction, released some
wheel-work, and sounded an alarm; the bell was conse-
quently heard whenever the continuity of the strand
failed. Another bell was so placed as to be rung when-
ever the current from the five-hundred-cell battery
acquired undue power in consequence of faulty insu-
Electrical experiments having finally established the
perfection of continuity and insulation, the Cable was
now ready to undergo the process of joining the lengths.
The two-mile coils of completed and proved core were
wound on large drums, with projecting flanges on each
side, the rims of which were shod with iron tires, so
that they could be rolled about as broad wheels. When
the core was in position on these channelled drums, the
circumference of each drum was closed in carefully by a
sheet of gutta-percha. The work of the gutta-percha
manufacturers ended with this final preparation. The
68 Cable-Construction and Experiments.
core-filled drums passed from their hands into the cus-
tody of the joiners. Each drum was then mounted
with axles, the gutta-percha covering removed, and the
projecting ends of the copper strands carefully brazed
together. This process may be described as follows:
A piece of copper wire was attached by firm brazing an
inch or two beyond the point of junction on one side,
tightly wound round until it reached to the same extent
on the other side, and was then firmly brazed on again.
A second piece of copper wire was then brazed over the
first in the same fashion, and extended a little way
beyond it; and finally several layers of gutta-percha
were carefully laid over and around the joint by the
use of hot irons. This operation is identical with
that of splicing the Cable, which has been repeatedly
effected with entire success, and by means of which the
laying of the wire in mid-ocean was accomplished during
the last voyage of the Niagara and Agamemnon. A
clear idea of the stages of this delicate manipulation is
given in the subjoined illustration.
The explanation of this method of splicing the Cable,
which has already been given, will suffice for a compre-
hensive view of a part of the Telegraphic enterprise upon
which depended the success of the whole. It will be seen
by reference to the cut, that the electrical connexion must
be preserved even if the joint in the Cable yields. In
the event of a rupture of the Cable, by which the core
Cable-Construction and Experiments. 69
on each side should be dragged opposite ways, the
electric condition would still remain perfect. The outer
investment of the wire would unroll spirally as the ends
THE SPLICE OF THE CABLE.
of the Cable were pulled asunder; so that however the
mechanical continuity of the strand itself might be
broken, the conducting power would still remain.
After the lengths had been joined in the manner
indicated, the Cable underwent another process, passing
to= a "serving" machine, fitted with a horizontal wheel,
on which were placed five bobbins. Each bobbin was
supplied with some hundreds of yards of five-thread
rope-yarn, prepared for the purpose by a previous
70 Cable-Construction and Experiments.
immersion in a mixture of pitch, tar, oil, and tallow.
The coated wire moved slowly through the centre of
the wheel, and as it passed up, the bobbins, revolving at
the rate of three hundred and seventy-five times a
minute, spun the five strands of yarn tightly about it,
not leaving the smallest interstice. At this stage of
preparation, the Cable passed from this machine through
a gauge, which showed its diameter to be nine-sixteenths
of an inch; while the electric current with which it was
in connexion, proved by the needle of the galvanometer,
that the connexion and insulation of each fathom as it
moved off was uninjured by the serving process.
The Cable being now in a state of great forwardness,
it only remained to "close" or bind it up in wire. For
this purpose another horizontal table, arranged like the
one for the serving process, was provided. It carried
near its circumference eighteen bobbins or drums; each
drum filled with bright charcoal-iron wire, and having
two motions, one round its horizontal axis, and one
round an upright pivot, inserted into the revolving table,
so that the strand was delivered always towards the
centre of the table as it was carried swiftly round. The
iron strand was of the same diameter as that which was
used for the copper core, each strand consisting of seven
iron wires. With each whirl of the closing-machine, there-
fore, eighteen iron strands were firmly twisted round the
central core. The core, actuated by the rollers of the
Cable-Construction and Experiments. 71
machinery, rose through the middle of the table and
ascended towards the ceiling; the metallic twist, as it
passed, tightly embracing it. One hundred and twenty-
six iron wires were, therefore, woven about the Cable
in order to complete the process of its manufacture.
Twenty-one of these machines were kept constantly at
work in the factory of Messrs. GLASS & ELLIOTT, and
about an equal number in NEWALL'S establishment at
Birkenhead. The labor accomplished at GLASS &
ELLIOTT'S establishment in the course of twenty-four
hours, by the use of twenty-one machines, was as
follows: Two thousand and fifty-eight miles of iron
wire were daily twisted into two hundred and ninety-
four miles of strand; this length of strand sufficing to
cover about ten miles of the Cable.
The Cable thus completed was drawn from the closing-
machines at the rate of thirty feet per minute, or eighteen
hundred feet per hour, passing through a gauge of five-
eighths of an inch diameter. It was then carried by
revolving wheels through a tank of hot tar, issu-
ing forth into the yard thoroughly fitted for the duty to
which it was to be devoted. In the yard it was coiled
away in huge piles, ready for shipment; each day's
labor adding some inches to the height and bulk of the
The weight of the main Cable was eighteen hundred
and sixty pounds, or nearly one ton, to the mile. For
72 Cable-Construction and Experiments.
the shore-ends, a heavier style was provided, of aug.
mented dimensions and greatly increased power of resist-
ance, but constructed upon the same general plan. The
weight of the shore-ends now in use, is seven tons to the
mile, and the diameter at the shore is about one and a half
inches, tapering through about half a mile into the main
Cable. The following engraving exhibits a vertical
section of the shore-end, of
the Atlantic line is encased
by twelve solid charcoal-iron
wires of No. 1 gauge. The
No. 1 wires pass gradu-
ally into No. 2, and No. 2 into
No. 3, as deep water is reach-
ed. The gutta-percha casing WVETCAL -Eo So=ftHO~E OF
and serving of tarred hemp
are also thlicker upon these shore-ends as well as the
outer iron coat.
The Directors of the Company, in their official mani-
festo, published last year, took occasion to explain the
reasons why a return circuit had not been provided in
planning this Cable. It was well known that in every
land telegraph yet brought into use, the earth itself had
been found sufficient for the completion of the circuit,
and hence a return wire could not be deemed absolutely
essential. Moreover, the addition of a second wire would
Cable-Construction and Experiments. 73
have adaed largely to the size, weight, and expense of
the Cable, and would have unavoidably deferred the
completion of an Atlantic Telegraph to another year.
The total cost of the Atlantic Cable was nearly five
hundred dollars per mile. The aggregate outlay of the
Company in the year 1857, on account of the construe
tion of the Cable alone, was stated as follows:-
Price deep-sea wire per mile, .. $200
Price spun-yarn and iron wire per mile, 265
Price outside tar per milr . 20
Total per mile, .. $485
For 2,500 miles, $1,212;500
For 10 miles deep-sea Cable, at $1,450 per mile, 14,500
For 25 miles shore-ends, at $1,250 per mile, 31,250
Total cost .. $1,258,250
The scientific experiments which were undertaken by
competent electricians in the employ of the Company
established the fact, that a wire across the Atlantic was
not only practicable, so far as mechanical possibility was
concerned, but that the scientific difficulties, which were
naturally suggested as the effect of distance, and the
peculiar conditions in the sea, were not insuperable.
A general view of the results of careful experiments,
74 Cable-Construction and Experiments.
which finally decided the Directors upon the adoption of
the plan of an Atlantic Cable, now successfully carried
out, presents a record of industrious scientific application
that may not inappropriately form a part of the history
of the enterprise.
In the ordinary arrangement of the wires of the Elec-
tric Telegraph, where they are stretched upon posts, and
insulated by glass and the surrounding air, the current
of electricity runs along as a simple stream, and with a
velocity that is almost inappreciable for ordinary dis-
tances. But when the wires are inclosed in a sheath of
insulating substance, like gutta-percha, and placed in a
moist medium, or a metallic envelope, the case is very
different. The influence of induction then comes into
play as a retarding power. As soon as the insulated
central wire is electrically excited, that excitement ope-
rates upon the adjoining layer of metal or moisture, and
calls up in it an electrical force of an opposite kind.
Each of these forces disguises, or holds fast, an equiva-
lent portion of the other,-and the electricity of the cen-
tral wire is thus prevented from moving freely onward,
as it otherwise would. It is found, in short, that the
Submarine Telegraph Cable is virtually a lengthened
Leyden jar, and transmits signals while being charged
and discharged, instead of merely by allowing a stream
of the electrical influence to flow dynamically and evenly
along it. And every time it is used it has first to be filled
Cable-Construction and Experiments. 75
and then emptied. In the case of a long submarine wire,
this was found to be a task requiring considerable time,-
and this was found, moreover, to be very much increased
with an increase in the length of the wire. And when
experiments came to be made in 1851, upon telegraphic
lines running underground, between London, Manches-
ter, and Glasgow, and upon others partly underground,
and partly submarine, between London, Paris, and Brus-
sels, it was found that the speed of the current did not
exceed 1,000 miles per second. In that year, Mr. WHITE-
HOUSE invented a very ingenious method of determining
with precision the force of currents thus transmitted;
and the result of his investigations was to show, that in
submarine telegraphs the wires act as reservoirs, and not
as mere channels,-that the larger reservoir receives and
holds a larger quantity than the smaller one, and that this
naturally produces the most powerful effects when allowed
to escape from its imprisonment. By 1855, the scientific
corps provided themselves with much more complete
and perfect instruments for pursuing these inquiries, and
the construction of new Telegraph lines also furnished
them with better opportunities of making their experi-
ments. It was soon found that a magneto-electrical cur-
rent took a second and a half to discharge itself, when it
moved through 1,146 miles of wire, in consequence of
the retarding power of induction in this extended me-
dium. This was a rate of speed not at all compatible
76 Cable-Construction and Experiments.
with any profitable employment of a Transatlantic Tele-
graph for commercial purposes,-and the next step was
to devise some remedy for this inductive obstacle. The
first thing done was to send different kinds of electricity
along the wire in succession, in the hope that each trans-
mission of one kind would clear away the residue of the
other which had immediately preceded it. The result
was a complete success. Although the same wire, and
the same magneto-electric combination were employed,
which had before demanded a second and a half for the
completion of a single discharge, seven and eight cur-
rents now readily recorded themselves in a single second.
When positive followed negative, and negative followed
positive, in exactly equal proportions, the electrical
equilibrium of the wire was continually restored as fast
as it was disturbed-each current clearing away the in-
ductive influence which the other had left behind it. It
was proved, moreover, in the course of these experiments,
that successive charges of electrical influence,-either of
the same kind, or of alternate opposite kinds,-may be
travelling along lengthened conducting wires simultane-
ously, the one following the other, like successive waves
upon the sea. Alternate positive and negative signals
were sent along 900 miles of wire, at the rate of eight
signals in each second,-and two signals arrived at the end
of'the wire after the acts of transmission had been discon
tinued. In.another experiment, by the use of a wire,
Cable-Construction and Experiments. 77
1,020 miles long, three signals of a single-stroke bell were
distinctly heard after the movement of the hand which
originated the current had ceased. This, therefore,
indicated a way in which the rapidity of transmitting
electrical currents along a submarine wire could be in-
creased; it was necessary only to employ opposite kinds,
-positive and negative alternately.
The next point to be investigated was the ratio in which
increase of distance in a gutta-percha covered telegraph
wire augments the difficulties of rapid transmission. It
had been supposed that the available force was diminished
in the ratio of the square of the distance traversed,-that
is, that a current which has traversed 600 miles has only
a thirty-sixth part of the working force of a precisely
similar current which has travelled only 100 miles. In
experimenting upon this point they had to consider:
First-the diminution of the current's power to produce
mechanical effects; and, Second-its loss of speed. A
voltaic battery of 72 pairs of plates, each with a surface
of 16 inches, was set to work, and it was ascertained how
many grains the current would raise upon being trans-
mitted through a wire just long enough to effect the con-
nexion. The number of grains lifted was 25,000. The
experiment being repeated with the same current through
200 miles of wire, the number of grains lifted was 10,650;
with 400 miles of wire it was 3,250; and with 600 miles
it was 1,400. Clearly the loss of mechanical power in
78 Cable-Construction. and Experiments.
this case was not diminished in so large a ratio as had
been supposed. In regard to loss of speed, nearly five
thousand observations were made, with wires varying in
length from 83 to 1,020 miles, to determine its ratio; and
from these it appeared that with a wire 83 miles long the
transmission was effected in .08 of a second; with 166
miles in .14 of a second; with 249 miles in .36 of a
second; with 498 miles in .79 of a second; and with
1,020 miles in 1.42 of a second. This ratio was far less
than had been supposed. The result of the experiments
was to establish, with tolerable accuracy, the fact that the
velocity of movement of a magneto-electric current,
through a gutta-percha covered wire, is 300 miles in from
one-twelfth to one-sixteenth of a second; 600 miles in
from one-sixth to one-ninth of a second; and 900 miles
in from one-fifth to one-fourth of a second. Still further
experiments proved that a rate of transmission could be
obtained by the employment of magneto-electric currents
from two and a half to three times as great as that of any
simple voltaic impulse which can be used. The maximum
speed attained by voltaic electricity was 1,800 miles per
second; the maximum for the magneto-electric current
was 6,000 miles per second. This showed conclusively
that this is the current which must be employed. And
it was also established that large coated wires, used
beneath the water or the earth, are worse conductors, so
far as velocity of transmission is concerned, than small
Cable-Construction and Experiments. 79
ones; and it was this which led to the adoption of the
small-sized copper wire which was finally decided on as
the conductor by the Atlantic Telegraph Company.
After these points had been established by experiment
-rendering it theoretically probable that there would be
no difficulty in using a wire, if it could once be laid down
across the Atlantic-the next point was actually to record
a signal by a current sent through a circuit of 2,000 miles.
For this purpose, in 1856, the various lines of Telegraph
under charge of the English and Irish Magnetic Telegraph
Company were used, and they are so extensive, have so
many ramifications, and each line contains so many sepa-
rate wires, that a continuous length of nearly 5,000 miles
could be made up among them. The experiments were
made with great care, under the supervision of Mr.
BRIGHT, the Engineer; and Mr. WHITEHOUSE, subse
quently the Electrician of the Company. On the 9th of
October, 1856, ten gutta-percha covered wires, each
measuring over 200 miles, were connected, so that a
continuous circuit was formed of above 2,000 miles, and
signals were distinctly and satisfactorily telegraphed
through the whole length, at the rate of 210, 241, and,
upon one occasion, 270 per minute. Experiment having
shown that the conditions present in insulated wires
placed under the ground and beneath the sea are strictly
analogous, this result was regarded as establishing, beyond
80 Cable-Construction and Experiments.
all reasonable doubt, the practicability of working the
The Company was therefore indebted to Mr. WHITE-
HOUSE and Mr. BRIGHT for a series of experiments which
established certain important facts. General results may
be indicated in a few words-viz:
That gutta-percha covered submarine wires do not
transmit as simple insulated conductors, but that they
have to be charged as Leyden jars, before they can
transmit at all.
That, consequently, such wires transmit with a velo-
city that is in no way accordant to the movement of the
electrical current in an unembarrassed way along simple
That magneto-electric currents travel more quickly
along such wires than simple voltaic currents.
That magneto-electric currents travel more quickly
when in high energy than when in low, although voltaic
currents of large intensity do not travel more quickly
than voltaic currents of small intensity.
.That the velocity of the transmission of signals along
insulated submerged wires can be enormously increased
from the rate, indeed, of one in two seconds, to the rate
of eight in a single second, by making each alternate
signal with a current of different quality, positive follow-
ing negative, and negative following positive.
That the diminution of the velocity of the transmission
Cable-Construction and Experiments. 81
of the magneto-electric current in induction-embarrassed
coated wires, is not in the inverse ratio of the squares of
the distance traversed, but much more nearly in the ratio
of simple arithmetical progression.
That several distinct waves of electricity may be travel-
ling along different parts of a long wire simultaneously,
and within certain limits, without interference.
That large coated wires used beneath the water or the
earth are worse conductors, so far as velocity of trans-
mission is concerned, than small ones, and therefore are
not so well suited as small ones for the purposes of sub-
marine transmission of telegraphic signals; and
That by the use of comparatively small coated wires,
and of electro-magnetic induction-coils for the exciting
agents, telegraphic signals can be transmitted through
two thousand miles with a speed amply sufficient for all
,commercial and economical purposes.
About the time that the manufacture of the Cable was
completed, the London Times rather startled its readers
by the announcement that the enterprise must necessarily
prove a failure. "It will scarcely be credited," said that
journal, but it is nevertheless true, that the twist of the
spiral wires of the Birkenhead half of the Cable is in
exactly the opposite direction to the twist of the wires
made at Greenwich. Thus, when joined in the centre of
the Atlantic, they will form a right and a left-hand screw,
and the tendency of each will be to assist each other to
82 Cable-Construction and Experiments.
untwist and expose the core. By attaching a solid
weight to the centre joining, it is hoped this difficulty
and danger may be overcome; but none attempt to con-
ceal that the mistake is much to be regretted. We are
informed that Messrs. GLASS and ELLIOTT had nearly
one hundred miles of their portion completed before
Messrs. NEWALL commenced theirs, and that, therefore,
the fault rests with those who began theirs last."
This attack called forth a reply from Messrs. NEWALL,
who denied the conclusions at which the writer of the
article in question had arrived, holding that the so-called
"blunder was literally of no importance. At the same
time they exculpated themselves from blame on the
ground that they were acting throughout under the direct
instructions and supervision of the engineer of the Com-
pany, and that the fault, if there was any, was his.
It may not be uninteresting to give a general descrip-*
tion of the machinery contrived for paying out the Cable
during the progress of the first Expedition, in the sum-
mer of 1857. But a small space need be occupied in
this description, for that piece of machinery, when put to
trial, proved so totally inefficient that it was rejected in
the following year, and replaced by a new one, a de-
scription of which will be found in its appropriate -place
in the chapter devoted to the Expedition of 1858. The
plan of the first machine was briefly as follows:
Four cast-iron sheaves, or cylinders, about five feet in
Cable-Construction and Experiments. 83
diameter, were ranged in line with one another, fore and
aft. The first, commencing forward, was single-grooved;
the second and third were double-grooved, and the fourth
was single-grooved. The Cable, as it came up from the
hold of the ship, passed over one of the grooves in the
second drum,-then under it backwards and over and
around the first single drum,-thence it returned over
the remaining groove in the second,-then it went
directly across to one groove in the third, following but
a small are in its periphery,-thence to the last single
drum, and downward around this, back to the preceding
double one, and, finally, over the unoccupied groove in
that to a fifth grooved drum standing out upon rigid
arms over the stern, from which it was dropped into the
sea. The grooves in all these drums were exactly
adapted, in size and form, to the Cable. The passing
and repassing of the Cable over them served to afford
friction-service for controlling the velocity of the rope
in passing out. But additional checks for this purpose
were provided. The four drums were so connected by
gearing that their motions were exactly coincident-the
motion of any one of them involving corresponding
motion in all the rest. Upon two of the shafts, more-
over, friction-brakes-the same in principle as those
used upon railroads-were applied, to control the velocity
of the drums; and to these, which were worked by a
screw, was attached a balance, which was to indicate the
84 Cable-Construction and Experiments.
precise amount of strain thrown upon the Cable at any
moment. The screw was worked by a crank, at which
was stationed an officer whose duty it was to watch the
balance and regulate the friction of the brakes accordingly.
The shipment of the Cable speedily followed the
completion. The portion received by the Niagara was
manufactured by Messrs. NEWALL & Co., at Birkenhead,
and shipped at that place; and the other half, received
on board the Agamemnon, was shipped from the works
of Messrs. GLASS & ELLIOTT, at Greenwich. The total
length of Cable manufactured was twenty-six hundred
miles. In order to make room for the immense coils in
which the Cable was deposited in the Niagara, the fore-
hold of that vessel was cleared of the chain-lockers,
coal-bunkers, and tanks, and fitted with a level floor over
the kelson, the beams having each been trussed with
double stays to compensate for the removal of the
stanchions. Part of the Cable was also stowed in a
space which had been cleared out on the main deck,
abaft the engine-room, by displacing some of the officers'
berths and encroaching on the ward-room. Three small
vessels of 500 tons each were employed to convey the
coils from the works of Messrs. NEWALL to the frigate.
The part taken on board the Niagara was coiled under
the superintendence of Mr. WOODHOUSE, C.E., who
assisted in laying down the Varna and Balaldava sub-
Cable-Construction and Experiments. 85
The operation of shipping the Cable was begun in
June and completed in the early part of July, 1857.
The event was celebrated in England with high festivity
and rejoicing. A fite champetre was given on the 23d
of July, at Belvidere House, by Sir CULLING EARDLEY;
an immense marquee pitched upon the lawn in front of
the mansion, affording accommodation for some eight
hundred and fifty invited guests, among whom were
.many distinguished gentlemen, both English and Ameri-
can. The unvarying success of the enterprise, thus far,
inspired strong hope, and the greetings interchanged on
the occasion of this festivity were enthusiastic and
cordial to a degree.
In the latter part of July, 1857, the Niagara and Aga-
memnon sailed for Queenstown, Ireland, the appointed
place of rendezvous. During this voyage, various suc-
cessful experiments were made. On board the Aga-
memnon, the mechanical appliances for regulating the
delivery of the Cable into the sea were kept continually
in motion by the small engine on board, which was con-
nected with them, and the whole worked with great pre-
cision and facility. The experiments then made by the
Agamemnon justified hopes of ultimate triumph. A 13-
inch shell was attached to the end of a spare coil of the
Cable, for the purpose of sinking it rapidly, and was
then cast into the sea, drawing after it a sufficient quan-
tity of slack to enable it to take hold of the ground and
86 Cable-Construction and Experiments.
so set the machinery in motion. The paying out com-
menced at the rate of two, three, and four knots respect-
ively. The ship was then stopped, and the Cable was
hauled up from the bottom of the sea with great facility.
The Cable, when recovered, -was reported to have been
cleaned as bright as the specimens which were distri-
buted among the friends of the enterprise. The exterior
coating of tar had been completely rubbed off by being
drawn through the sandy bottom of the sea. On the
day after this experiment, a length of Cable was run out
opposite the Isle of Wight, and was hauled in with per-
fect ease-the speed in this case having been increased
to five knots. On the next day, a mile of Cable was
run out and hauled in, while the speed was increased to
six and a half knots. The Agamemnon then steered for
Cork, where her consort, the Niagara, had already
While the Agamemnon and Niagara lay about a quar-
ter of a mile apart in the Cove of Cork, their Telegraph
Cables were passed to each other, and for the first time
a circuit was established through twenty-five hundred
miles. The Niagara's being attached to the galvanome-
ter, and the Agamemnon's brought directly to the bat-
tery, an electrical current was found to pass immedi-
ately, though at first slowly; at once putting at rest
the question of transmission through such a length of
wire. This demonstration was the more satisfactory,
Cable-Construction and Experiments. 87
from the fact that the force developed lifted twenty-five
grains on Dr. WHITEHOUSE'S galvano-electrometer,
when three grains had been found to indicate sufficient
power to record intelligible signals. There was no time
that night, however, to attach the recording instru-
ments; and when the Agamemnon swung at her moor-
ings, she unluckily fouled the wire and broke the con-
nexion. The whole of the next day was spent in reco-
vering and re-uniting the Cable-ends; but, in the mean-
time, the Agamemnon sent aboard a large iron buoy,
and several wooden ones, to be used, in case of necessity,
for securing the Cable in soundings. On Saturday, Au-
gust 1, connexion was re-established between the ends,
and each of them connected with the earth, as in lines
actually laid out. A distinct message was then immedi-
ately telegraphed through the whole scope of two thou-
sand five hundred miles-" Land in sight: all's well"-
were the first memorable words. In this experiment
one current occupied, in its passage, an interval of one
second and three-quarters; but three successive signals,
each perfectly intelligible, could be passed through
twenty-five hundred miles in two seconds; thus confirm-
ing observations made on shorter circuits, by which it
appeared that one wire may, at the same instant, be
engaged in conveying several distinct electrical waves,
with well-marked intervals between them.
It had been at first decided by the Directors of the
88 Cable-Construction and Experiments.
Atlantic Telegraph Company, that the Niagara and
Agamemnon should proceed to mid-ocean, and there,
having spliced the Cable, separate, and steer, the one for
Newfoundland, and the other for the coast of Ireland.
At the last hour, however, this plan was altered, though
not without some strong opposition in the Board. It
was now determined that the Niagara should commence
laying down the Cable from the Irish coast westward;
that she should be accompanied by all the vessels of the
fleet, and that upon reaching mid-ocean, the Agamemnon
should join her Cable to that of the Niagara, and com-
plete the.connexion by proceeding to the coast of New-
foundland. An argument in favor of this arrangement
was, that one end of the Cable being ashore, it could not
be all lost in event of an accident. It was further con-
tended that by this plan there would be much less
weight of Cable to be sustained at any one time. Then
the vessels of the fleet would be together, ready to give
each other aid in any emergency, and the work, so it
was believed, could be more satisfactorily performed by
this than by the mid-ocean arrangement.
The scientific arrangements on board both vessels were
complete. In the electricians' department, on board of
both the frigates, a concerted plan of signals was provid-
ed, in order to test the effect of the electric current upon
the Cable during every step of the work. These signals
indicated time by seconds, and were passed through the
Cable-Construction and Experiments. 89
whole extent of the wire. At the side of the Niagara
and Agamemnon, patent-logs were placed, which dipped
into the sea, and were fitted with vanes and wheels, the
latter turning with a degree of velocity exactly propor-
tioned to the rate at which the vessel dragged them
through the water. One of these wheels was so ar-
ranged as to make and break an electric circuit at every
revolution, and record upon the deck of the ship, by
apparatus provided for the purpose, the speed of the
vessel. A bell also sounded upon every passage of the
electric current through the Cable. The brakeman,
therefore, watched the balance which indicated the strain
upon the Cable, and tightened or relaxed it as occasion
required. He was also to listen for the bell, and if at
any time its sound ceased-indicating an interruption in
the circuit-he was to stop the machinery, the vessel
would be backed, and a winding machine, provided for
the purpose, and worked by a horizontal steam-engine
of about 20 horse-power, would be at once.set at work,
gathering up the slack-rope as the vessel moved astern-
the electrician all the while testing the insulating con-
tinuity of the Cable, yard by yard, until the defective
portion had been discovered. This would then be cut
out and the gap supplied by joining up the ends of the
uninjured parts, when the paying-out and testing would
be resumed as at the first.
Special provision, too, was made for storms. In ordi-
g9 Cable-Construction and Experiments.
nary weather, or even with brisk strong winds, either
ahead or astern, the work could go on without interrup-
tion, as the motion would not be so great as to prevent
the machinery from retaining complete control of the
Cable. But if the wind should blow astern so heavily
as to make it necessary for the vessel to come up head to
the wind, an apparatus was prepared for paying out over
the bow, similar to that already described. And in case
a regular gale should arise, strong enough to render it
impossible for the vessel safely to retain hold of the
Cable at all, preparations were made for abandoning it
temporarily. Upon the deck stood two large reels, each
wound round with a very strong auxiliary cable, com-
posed of iron wire only, and capable of resisting a strain
of ten or twelve tons. Of this there were about two
miles and a half on each reel. In case of a heavy storm,
rendering necessary the abandonment of the Cable, it
would be cut, and the sea end attached to the end of one
of these strong iron cords wound upon the reel. This
would then be rapidly let out, and the Telegraph Cable
lowered to the quiet bottom of the sea, leaving the entire
strain of the tempest to be borne by the iron cord. Assoon
as possible, moreover, the end of this cord would be
attached to immense buoys, shaped like the quill-float
of the angler's line, and provided with reflectors, so
as to be easily seen, which would be tossed overboard,
and left to sustain the Cable until the storm should
Cable-Construction and Experiments. 91
subside, when they would again be picked up, the Cable
recovered and rejoined to the part remaining upon the
ship, and the work proceed as before.
Such were the preparations and precautions made in
the year 1857, for paying out the Atlantic Cable; and
complete and perfect as they were then thought to be,
yet were they insufficient to insure success.
THE FIRST EXPEDITION-SUMMER OF 1857.
THE first attempt to lay the Atlantic Cable was made
Early in the month of August, 1857. A period
of less than thirty days sufficed for the completion of
the final arrangements for this Expedition, the festivities
incident to the occasion, the departure of the fleet from
Valentia, the trial, the defeat, and the return. At 6
P.M. on Tuesday, August 4, the Telegraph" Squadron
left Queenstown Harbor for Valentia Bay. It arrived
at Valentia on the day following. The fleet detailed for
service on this Expedition consisted of eight vessels,
four American and four English, as follows:-
1. The U.S. steam-frigate Niagara, Captain HuDsoN, to lay
the half of the Cable from Ireland.
2. The U.S. steam-frigate Susquehanna, Captain SANDs, to attend
upon the Niagara.
3. The U.S. steamer Arctic, Captain BERRYMAN, to make further
soundings on the coast of Newfoundland.
First Expedition-Summer of 1857. 93
4. The U.S. steamer Victoria, Captain SLUYTER, to assist in land-
ing the Cable at Newfoundland.
5. H.M. steamer Agamemnon, Captain NoDDAL, to lay the half of
the Cable on the American side.
6. H.M. steamer Leopard, Captain WAINWRIGHT, to attend upon
7. H.M. steamer Cyclops, Captain DAYMAN, to go ahead of the
steamers and keep the course.
8. II.M. steamer Advice, Captain RAYMOND, to assist in landing
the Cable at Valentia.
The presence on the Island of the representative of
Royalty in Ireland contributed in no small degree to the
popular idea of the importance of the occasion; and the
idea found development in bonfires, pyrotechnic displays,
music, feasting, dancing, and cheering, and the charac-
teristic attributes of an Irish merry-making.
His Excellency, the Lord Lieutenant (the Earl of
Carlisle), attended by his suite, and accompanied by
Sir EDWARD M'DONNELL, Chairman of the Great
Southern and Western Railway, several of the Directors
of the Company, and Mr. G. E. ILBERY, the courteous
and efficient Superintendent of the line, proceeded by
special train on Monday morning to Killarney. The
Vice-regal party were received at the King's Bridge
Station by Mr. ILBERY, and conducted to the stat:
carriage. An elegant dejeuner had been provided at
Valentia by the Knight of Kerry; the festivities
94 First Expedition-Summer of 1857.
taking place in a large storehouse adjoining the hotel
of the place. This storehouse was handsomely deco-
rated for the occasion. It was paved with slabs of slate
taken from the extensive quarries in the vicinity, and
the tables at which the Company sat were formed of the
same material. The banqueting-room was draped with
banners, and adorned with evergreens, flowers, and
mottoes. At one end, the words of the Irish Welcome,
Cead Mille Failtha, were prominently displayed; and
over the head of the Chairman were placed the flags of
the United States and of the United Kingdom, with the
initials "J. B." and "V. R." suspended below in hand-
some wreaths. The Knight of, Kerry presided at the
banquet, and gave a toast in honor of the Queen, which
having been duly honored, the Chairman again rose and
proposed the health of the Lord Lieutenant and pros-
perity to Ireland.
Lord CARLISLE, in responding, made the following
eloquent and appropriate remarks:-
I beg to return you my most hearty thanks for the
honor you have done me in so kindly drinking my
health. I believe, as your worthy chairman has already
hinted, that I am probably the first Lieutenant of Ire-
land who ever appeared upon this lovely strand. At all
events, no Lord Lieutenant could have come amongst
you on an occasion like the present. Amidst all the
pride and the stirring hopes which cluster around the
First Expedition-Summer of 1857.
work of this week, we ought still to remember that we
must speak with the modesty of those who begin and not
of those who close an experiment; and it behoves us
to remember that the pathway to great achievements has
frequently to be hewn out amidst risks and difficulties,
and that preliminary failure is even the law and condi-
tion of the ultimate success. Therefore, whatever disap-
pointments may possibly be in store, I must yet insinuate
to you that in a cause like this it would be criminal to
feel discouragement. In the very design and endeavor
to establish the Atlantic Telegraph there is almost enough
of glory. It is true if it only be an attempt there would
not be quite enough of profit. I hope that will come,
too; but there is enough of public spirit, of love for
science, for our country, for the human race, almost to
suffice in themselves. However, upon the rocky frontlet
of Ireland, at all events, to-day we will presume upon
success. We are about, either by this sundown or by
to-morrow's dawn, to establish a new material link
between the Old World and the New. Moral links
there have been-links of race, links of commerce, links
of friendship, links of literature, links of glory; but this,
our new link, instead of superseding and supplanting the
old ones, is to give a life and intensity they never had
before. Highly as I value the reputations of those who
have conceived, and those who have contributed to
carry out this bright design-and I wish that so many
96 First Expedition-Summer of 1857.
of them had not been unavoidably prevented from being
amongst us at this moment-highly as I estimate their
reputation, yet I do not compliment them with the idea
that they are to efface or dim the glory of that Columbus,
who, when the large vessels in the harbor of Cork
yesterday weighed their anchors, did so on that very
day 365 years ago-it would have been called in He-
brew writ a year of years-and set sail upon his glorious
enterprise of discovery. They, I say, will not dim or
efface his glory, but they are now giving the last finish
and consummation to his work. Hitherto the inhabitants
of the two worlds have associated perhaps in the chilling
atmosphere of distance with each other-a sort of bowing
distance; but now we can be hand to hand, grasp to
grasp, pulse to pulse. The link which is now to con-
nect us, like the insect in the immortal couplet of our
While exquisitely fine,
Feels at each thread and moves along the line.
And we may feel, gentlemen of Ireland, of England, and
of America, who may happen to be present, that we may
take our stand here upon the extreme rocky edge of our
beloved Ireland; we may, as it were, leave in our rear
behind us the wars, the strifes, and the bloodshed of the
elder Europe, and I fear I may say, of the elder Asia;
and we may pledge ourselves, weak as our agency may
First Expedition-Summer of 1857.
be, imperfect as our powers may be, inadequate in strict
diplomatic form as our credentials may be, yet, in the
face of the unparalleled circumstances of the place and
the hour, in the immediate neighborhood of the mighty
vessels whose appearance may be beautiful upon the
waters, even as are the feet upon mountains of those who
preach the Gospel of peace-as a homage due to that
serene science which often affords higher and holier les-
sons of harmony and good-will than the wayward passions
of man are always apt to learn-in the face and in the
strength of such circumstances, let us pledge ourselves to
eternal peace between the Old World and the New.
Why, gentlemen, what excuse would there be for misun-
derstanding ? What justification could there be for war,
when the disarming message, when the full explanation,
when the genial and healing counsel may be wafted even
across the mighty Atlantic, quicker than the sunbeam's
path and the lightning's flash? I feel, gentlemen, that I
shall best embody the sentiments which I am sure per-
vade this entire meeting-the sentiments most akin to this
company and this hour, if, after having drunk the health
of the gentle mistress of the British Islands, I now call
upon you to drink, with congenial honors, to the lasting
friendship of the British Islands and of America, and to
the health and welfare of the President of the United
On the afternoon of Wednesday, August 5, the shore-
98 First Expedition-Summer of 1857.
end of the Cable was safely landed at Yalentia. The Lord
Lieutenant formally received it from Lieut. PENNOCK
of the U.S. steamer Susquehanna, to whom the duty of
the landing had been assigned. As his Excellency
received it, he gave expression to a hope that the work so
well begun would be carried to a satisfactory completion.
The scene in the harbor of Valentia at this time was
extremely animated and exciting. The shore was covered
with an immense multitude, attracted by the extraordi-
nary interest of the occasion. The bay was dotted with
vessels of all descriptions, filled with eager spectators of
the scene. His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant was
among the first to seize the end of the Cable, as it was
passed on shore, and in a few moments the attachment
was firmly made on the Irish coast, in the telegraph
house at the head of Valentia bay.
The wire having been safely secured, the Reverend
Mr. DAY, of Kenmore, pronounced the following
0 Eternal Lord God, who alone spreadest out the heavens, and
rulest the raging of the sea; who hast compassed the waters with
bounds, till day and night come to an end; and whom the winds
and the sea obey; Look down in mercy, we beseech thee, upon us
thy servants, who now approach the throne of grace; and let our
prayer ascend before thee with acceptance. Thou hast commanded
and encouraged us, in all our ways, to acknowledge thee, and to
commit our works to thee (Prov. iii 5, 6; xvi. 3); and thou hast