Transatlantic Cables

Transatlantic cables shrunk the world, vastly increasing the speed and lowering the cost of intercontinental communications.

The first cable functioned only a few weeks. Transmissions, in Morse Code, were especially slow.

Field, as a young businessman, joined a paper company that failed six months later. Despite his status as a young employee, with no responsibility for the failure or debt, he negotiated with creditors. Eventually, he took over the company and, despite no obligation, paid off the debts of his prior employer.

Correspondingly, this earned him an enormous amount of respect which led to ever more business until he exited the paper business, a wealthy and well-respected entrepreneur.

Eventually, Field turned his attention to the emerging field of telegraphy, investing and organizing companies laying long-distance cables. Among these, the most aspirational is the first trans-Atlantic cable. He recruited English physician Dr. Widlman Whitehouse to run the English side. Both Whitehouse’s inexperience and arrogance — he insisted on using his own equipment at a high voltage — destroyed the cable.

Today, information equivalent to every printed book in 1858 flies over transatlantic cables in well under a second, every second, of every day.