Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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July 27th
The Transatlantic Cable
Cyrus West Field made so much money in the wholesale paper business, by age thirty-three he had retired to a mansion in New York City. He was feeling restless in 1853 when he had the wild idea of laying an underwater telegraph line across the Atlantic Ocean. At that time messages between the U.S. and Europe still went aboard sailing ships. A transatlantic cable would connect America with the rest of the world.

With little knowledge of oceans or telegraphy, Field threw himself at the task. He queried scientists, rounded up investors, and hired engineers. He convinced the U.S. and British navies to lend him two ships.

In 1857 the steamship Niagara began laying cable from Ireland’s coast. The line snapped after 350 miles had been laid, and the attempt was abandoned.

A depression reduced Field’s personal fortune, but he continued to work without pay. In June 1858 two ships met in the middle of the Atlantic, spliced together two halves of a cable, and proceeded toward opposite shores, laying cable as they went. Again the line broke.

A month later, Field tried again. This time he got the cable laid. President Buchanan and Queen Victoria exchanged messages. New York City celebrated with parades and fireworks. Then the line went dead. Somewhere on the ocean floor, the cable had failed. Field went from being a hero to being called a fraud.

Public disillusionment and the Civil War forced a wait of seven more years. In 1865 Field bought the Great Eastern, the world’s largest steamship, and tried again with an improved cable. The ship had paid out more than 1,000 miles when the line snapped.

On July 27, 1866, on the fifth attempt, the Great Eastern arrived at Newfoundland trailing 2,000 miles of line. “Thank God, the cable is laid,” an exhausted Field telegraphed. Since that day, the Old and New Worlds have been wired together.

American History Parade
1866
Cyrus W. Field succeeds in laying the first successful transatlantic cable.

1909
Orville Wright makes a record flight of 1 hour, 12 minutes, and 40 seconds while demonstrating the Military Flyer, the first military plane, at Fort Myer, Virginia.

1940
Bugs Bunny makes his debut in the cartoon A Wild Hare.

1953
The Korean War armistice is signed at Panmunjom, a village on the border between North and South Korea.

1995
The Korean War Veterans Memorial is dedicated in Washington, D.C.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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