Enterprise Stage 1: Oh, so close
The first attempt to lay a cable, in 1857, was unsuccessful. A year later two ships, each carrying 1500 miles of cable, met at mid-ocean. Three times they spliced cable ends and set off towards opposite shores; each time the cable failed after only a few miles. The ships returned to port in Ireland.
This letter was sent to Field (in London): “Nothing to be done but to dispose of what is left on the best terms we can.” Field was not prone to such pessimism and decided that there was enough cable left for one last attempt.
The last try was successful. With some encouragement from Field’s company there were widespread celebrations, especially in America. Tributes were held in New York (left) and London (right).
[Harper's Weekly from 21 August 1858]
Atlantic Cable Sample with Certificate. Tiffany & Co. purchased the excess 1858 cable and cut it into commemorative samples.
Gift of S. M. Gronberger
Commemorative pitcher with flags, 1858. Much was made of the literal sense in which Britain and America were now tied together by the cable.
Gift of Western Union Corporation
The 1858 cable ceased to function after about a month. Although disappointed, the company decided to carry on.
“The laying of the first Cable has demonstrated the almost certain success which will attend all future well directed efforts,... [This] must be looked upon as a great scientific triumph, out of which, ..., the most valuable commercial result will arise.”