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Having utilized oceangoing vessels to carry mail for centuries, the completion of a transatlantic telegraph cable opened the United States and Britain to the possibility of near-instantaneous communication when Queen Victoria sent a brief congratulatory message to American President James Buchanan on August 16, 1858. Within weeks, though, the cable failed and the system had to be replaced entirely.
Formed in 1856, the Atlantic Telegraph Company came together when businessmen from both sides of the ocean set out to apply the rapidly-advancing technology to connect the eastern US with Britain. Wires had begun to extend further and further into the American West early in the 1850s – not to mention connecting Britain and France – so Cyrus Field, Charles Tilston Bright and John Watkins Brett worked in their respective countries to find funding for the project. The effort began in earnest late that year, when investors contributed £350,000 to have the organization incorporated.
Throughout 1857, teams worked to determine the best course for the large cable to be laid across while electricians and engineers determined the best materials and design for construction. …(Read more)