A terrific and very rare broadside celebrating the technology of the submarine telegraph and the laying of the second Transatlantic Cable in 1866.
After a number of failed attempts, in early August 1858 Cyrus Field’s Atlantic Telegraph Company finished laying the first transatlantic cable between Ireland’s Valencia Bay and Trinity Bay in Newfoundland. The first official transatlantic telegraph messages were exchanged by President Buchanan and Queen Victoria on the 16th, touching off celebrations on both sides of the Atlantic, though the cable failed within a matter of weeks. It was not until July 1865 that Field was able to launch an attempt to lay a replacement cable, and this too failed on July 31 after the cable parted and was lost. In September 1866 yet another expedition, organized by the newly-formed Anglo-American Telegraph Company, succeeded in laying a new cable and recovering, repairing and installing the one lost the previous year. There were now two transatlantic cables in operation, and their improved design yielded dramatic improvements in speed and capacity relative to the short-lived cable of 1858. Field was hailed as a visionary, with one writer describing him as “the Angel in the Book Revelation with one foot on sea and one foot on land, proclaiming Time is no longer.”
It is hard to overstate the impact of the cables, which prompted a flood of text and imagery in the popular media. Offered here is a fine example of the genre, being an extremely rare broadside published in London and New York while the 1866 Anglo-American Telegraph Company expedition was in progress. The broadside features long text passages summarizing the history of attempts to lay a transatlantic cable, explaining the technology, and describing the Atlantic Telegraph Company’s ongoing expedition. The profusion of graphics includes a map of Europe, Africa and America showing the routes of existing and projected submarine cables; another map, showing a projected telegraph route around the world; a large central view and a cutaway of the Great Eastern, which laid the cable; and diagrams illustrating the differences between the cables of 1858, 1865 and 1866. A statistical chart flanking the map at top lists existing submarine telegraphs and their termini, lengths, capacity and years in service.
This is the second edition of the broadside, which was first published in 1865 during the failed second cable expedition. The two editions are extremely similar in overall layout, though here the long text has been greatly revised to reflect recent developments. Additionally the first edition included at the bottom a small view of the 1865 expedition, which here has been excised to make room for additional text.
Bill Burns, “Atlantic Cable Broadsides and Lithographs.” OCLC lists but a single example of this edition, held by the British Library (#556441063). Not in Harris & DeBlois, An Atlantic Telegraph: The Transcendental Cable.
Originally issued folded into boards, now flattened and boards no longer present. Minor mends and small area of restoration to upper map.