1958 4¢ Atlantic Cable
Issue Date: August 15, 1958
City: New York, New York
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforations: 11 x 10 ½
Color: Reddish purple
U.S. #1112 commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Transatlantic Cable. American Cyrus W. Field formed the Atlantic Telegraph Company to lay a cable across the Atlantic Ocean floor between Ireland and Newfoundland. The first two cables failed, before a third cable transmitted the first trans-Atlantic telegraph message in 1858.
Messages Cross Atlantic Ocean In Minutes
Dreams of a cable connecting North America and Europe were born soon after the telegraph was made public in 1839. The first efforts at building an underwater telegraph were made to connect the island of Nova Scotia to mainland Canada. The eastern Canadian islands turned out to be an ideal location as a connecting point to England.
By the mid-1850s, a cable across the Cabot Strait was successfully laid, connecting Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. In 1857, the first effort to cross the Atlantic was made.
The Atlantic Telegraph Company was formed to handle the project. It was a joint U.S.-Great Britain effort, with most of the funds raised in England. In the summer of 1857, two ships, the H.M.S. Agamemnon and the U.S.S. Niagara, sailed from the beach near Ballycarbery Castle in County Kerry, Ireland. The cable broke on the first day, but was repaired. It broke again further out in the ocean, and the project was postponed until the following year.
In 1858, the two ships set out from opposite ends of the ocean with the plan to meet in the middle. More line breaks created difficulties, including one after the two ends were joined. By early August, repairs were made and the final lines were run. Over 2,130 miles of cable were laid across the Atlantic Ocean.
The first message took 17 hours to transmit across the Atlantic. It said, “Glory to God in the highest; on earth, peace and good will towards men.” Then Queen Victoria of England and President James Buchanan of the United States exchanged congratulations.
By 1866, the speed had vastly improved to approximately eight words per minute.