New York inventor and industrialist Peter Cooper (1791-1883) was the first president and a principal investor in the project, along with a group of prominent New York businessmen, including telegraph inventor Samuel F.B. Morse. Cyrus W. Field (shown above), the prime mover of the project, took it on a few years after retiring from a successful business career at the age of 40. The cable was made jointly by two English firms – Glass, Elliot & Co., of Greenwich, and R. S. Newall & Co., of Birkenhead. The cable-laying vessels were the converted warships HMS Agamemnon and USS Niagara. After a failed attempt to lay and join the cable in 1857, it was successfully laid and operated in 1858 for a short period of time. Field arranged for the first cable message to be sent from Queen Victoria to President James Buchanan in 1858, an event greeted with great popular acclaim. Although the cable broke three weeks later, Field persevered for the next several years, getting additional financing and completing a new and improved transatlantic cable in 1866.
Field sold a quantity of unused 1858 Atlantic Cable to Tiffany & Co., to be cut into small lengths and sold as souvenirs. A facsimile document signed by Field originally was included with the cable, attesting to its authenticity: “New York, Aug. 21st 1858. This is to certify that I have sold the balance of the Atlantic Telegraph Cable now on board of the U.S.S.F. “Niagara” to Messrs. Tiffany & Co. Jewelers No. 550 Broadway of this city, and that the piece which accompanies this, is a genuine section thereof. [/s/ Cyrus W. Field].” One of these 1858 certification letters is shown above. A photocopy is available with purchase of a cable section at no extra cost.
Condition: Generally very good with some wear and oxidation. Brass re-polished.
“1866 Cyrus Field: The Laying of the Atlantic Cable.” CanadaHistory.com. http://www.canadahistory.com/sections/documents/atlanticcable1866.htm (1 December 2004).
“About the Cooper Union: History.” The Cooper Union. http://www.cooper.edu/administration/about/history.html (1 December 2004).
“Cyrus West Field.” National Portrait Gallery. http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/brady/gallery/78gal.html (4 March 2003).
“The Atlantic Cable Projectors.” FTL Design: History of the Atlantic Cable & Submarine Telegraphy. http://www.atlantic-cable.com/Projectors/ (1 December 2004).