Although it was completed only five years after the first transcontinental telegraph line in the United States, the trans-Atlantic telegraph line had been on the drawing board for far longer. The Western Union Company (NYSE:WU) built the transcontinental telegraph in less than a year, taking advantage of extant lines, but trans-Atlantic cable-laying efforts had been stymied twice in the 1850s before the effort was nearly derailed by the American Civil War.
A trans-Atlantic line was built and successfully transmitted messages for a few days in 1858 before succumbing to corrosive damage in the Atlantic. That project’s developer, Cyrus Field, would return to his dream after the war with a better cable design in 1866, and this one would hold up until 1872. By then, newer cables were already in the works. Field’s company, the Anglo-American Telegraph Company, laid down four more trans-Atlantic cables from 1873 to 1912, when its assets were leased by the far stronger The Western Union Company (NYSE:WU). This arrangement continued until 1963, by which point modern telecommunications cables — in service beneath the Atlantic since the late 1950s — had rendered the old lines obsolete.
The article Today in History: Central Banks, Trans-Atlantic Telegraphs, and Bugs Bunny originally appeared on Fool.com is written by Alex Planes.
Fool contributor Alex Planes has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Western Union.
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