Making a Fortune

Transatlantic Cable
Transatlantic Cable Ad

(* photo credits below)

"I do not think that feat is surpassed by any other human achievement. The cable was taken out of the water, two and a half miles deep, in mid-ocean. It was pulled up three times before it was saved."

Cooper later wrote that the cable enterprise seemed to him:
"As though it was the culmination of that great prophecy that 'knowledge shall cover the earth, as waters cover the deep'."

John Steele Gordon, business Journalist & Author of 'A Thread Across the Ocean'

In the mid 19th Century, communication between the United States and Europe was only as quick as the fastest ship could cross the Atlantic Ocean. Since Europe was then the center of world affairs, the situation left America isolated and vulnerable.

By the 1850s, Peter Cooper was among the richest men in the United States. His neighbor, the wealthy paper merchant Cyrus Field, asked Cooper to help fund and organize a project lay a telegraph cable across the Atlantic.

"He had a deep sense of the moral obligations imposed by wealth and a streak of mysticism that made the idea of an Atlantic cable attractive", according to John Steele Gordon who covered the remarkable story of the Transatlantic cable in A Thread Across the Ocean.

It was one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th Century and one that literally changed the world. It took ten years, marked by numerous failed attempts, millions of dollars in capital, and a near disaster at sea. Finally in 1866, the huge ship Great Eastern successfully laid a new cable and fished up the one lost the year before.

map of the submarine telegraph

(* photo credits below)

* Library of Congress
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