The Transatlantic Cable & New Hampshire

In order to speed up delivery of messages and news between Europe and the United States (normally it took weeks to deliver a message by ship), the Transatlantic, or Atlantic telegraph cable was built.  Over an eight year period three attempts (1858, 1865 and 1866) were made before a proper connection was made.

Postcard graciously provided by Bill Burns, of the U.S. Cable Station, Rye, N.H.

After 1866 eight more cables were laid. The original cables laid by Cyrus West Field had all landed at Heart’s Content, Newfoundland. The down side of that situation was that messages from Newfoundland to other places on America’s east coast had to travel from there via land telegraphy lines,causing some delays.


To remedy those problems, the Direct United States Cable Co. was created.  A ship called the “Faraday,” laid cable from Newfoundland to Rye, New Hampshire in July 1874. The eastern terminal was called Ballinskelligs Bay, Ireland.  During the winter of 1874-1875 a permanent cable house was built at Rye, New Hampshire (see postcard above). The company brought 16 experienced cable operators to Rye from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

The cable was kept in operation 24 hours a day. During the Russo-Japanese peace talks held at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in 1905, the cable was kept busy sending and receiving messages to/from the governments of Russia and Japan.  The biggest traffic day for the direct cable came on August 8, 1914, when 30,000 words were handled. This cable remained busy during World War I. The need for this cable decreased after WWI, with the cable house finally closing in 1921.

In 1970 NH Historical Marker #63, was placed on the east side of Route 1-A at Jenness Beach, to designate the spot of the old cable building (shown in the postcard above). The sign reads: “The receiving station for the first Atlantic Cable, laid in 1874, is located on Old Beach Road opposite this location. The remains of the Sunken Forest (remnants of the Ice Age) may be seen at low tide. Intermingled with these gnarled stumps is the original Atlantic Cable.”

Poem: For the Atlantic Cable Celebration.
-At Appledore Island, Isles of Shoals, Thursday, Aug 19, 1858
– By B.B. French, from “The Poets of New Hampshire”

The outside world is boiling o’er
 With all the joy it’s able,
Why should not we of Appledore
 Just celebrate “The Cable?”
And ladies dear, you’ll join, we know,
 This glorious celebration,
For, how the sparks will come and go
 From Nation unto Nation!

           Yankee doodle, keep it down,
           The cord beneath the deep, sir,
           Two worlds are joined. To bless th’ event
           Our revels we will keep, sir.

Time was when ghosts were sent to dwell
 In the bottom of the sea, sir,
By prayer and candle, book and bell,
 No further plague to be, sir.,
But now they’ve laid a spirit there–
 A might spirit, too, sir,
Whom neither book, nor bell, nor prayer
 Can silence or can do, sir.
            Yankee doodle, keep it down, etc.

And spirits oft of evil name,
 Have entered into man, sir,
Till “half seas over” he became
 Before his voyage began, sir–
But now they’ll whisper in his ear
 By lightning, without thunder–
And all the spirits he shall hear
 Shall come from whole seas under!
            Yankee doodle, etc.

No more the lagging ship we’ll greet–
 The fifteen, twenty miler–
We’ll have the news ere she can beat
 The water in her boiler!
When Vic sits down to take her tea,
 Or Jeemes sits down to dine, sir,
Ere they get up, beneath the sea
 They’ll hob nob o’er their wine, sir!
             Yankee doodle, etc.

John Bull can hardly damn his eyes,
 Or Jonathan say darn it,
Before, by tell-tale sprite advice,
 The other side shall larn it!
 As one, two nations shall increase,
 Though ocean roll between ’em–
The Cable–a bright bond of peace–
 From fighting e’er shall screen ’em
             Yankee doodle, etc.

Then bless the wire where now it lies,
 The ocean bed along, sir–
Earth’s greatest hope, the sea’s great prize–
 Bless it in prayer and song, sir!
Bless it, and pray it may grow old,
 For now ’tis in its youth, sir–
When years pass on, by centuries told,
 May it lie to tell the truth, sir!
              Yankee doodle, etc.

Now in old Father Neptune’s care,
 As well as we are able,
We place, with shouts of joy and prayer,
 The Atlantic Ocean Cable!
 And now three cheers for Appledore,
 Where ocean round us rolls, sir–
For the ladies fair, one Tiger more!
 God bless the Isles of Shoals, sir!
              Yankee doodle, etc.

BIO of the Author: BENJAMIN BROWN FRENCH (B.B. French) was born in Chester NH in 1800. He studied law with his father and was admitted to the bar in 1825, after which he practiced in Hooksett and in Sutton. He went to Newport NH in 1827, and became editor and a proprietor of the “New Hampshire Spectator” (newspaper) In 1834 he removed to the city of Washington. He was assistant clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1833, and clerk in 1845. He died Aug. 12, 1870


*Additional Reading*

Rye Reflections: Atlantic Cable

History of the Atlantic Cable

Cyrus West Field Genealogy

-VIDEO: Building The First Trans-Atlantic Cable

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