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    Trans-Atlantic telegraphic epic: failure, perseverance, poverty

    When I thought of all we had passed through, of the hopes thus far disappointed by our reverses, of the few that remained to sustain us, I felt a load at my heart, almost too heavy to bear, though my confidence was firm and my determination fixed.

    Cyrus Field (1819-92), U.S. financier, writing eight years before his efforts finally brought about the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable. Altogether, he persevered through 12 years and four failed attempts before communication could cross the ocean faster than by ship. He was a principal founder of the New York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph Company, and when that flopped, he organized a British firm, The Atlantic Telegraph Company, to undertake the work. Prone to seasickness, he nevertheless sailed across the Atlantic 50 times to see the job through.

    The first undersea cables broke. When a telegram finally clacked across the Atlantic, Field wrote: “I left the room. I went to my cabin, I locked the door, I could no longer restrain my tears — crying like a baby.”

    Field later became a railroad and New York newspaper owner, but he suffered heavy financial losses in his later years and died poor.

    Notes from John Steele Gordon, A Thread Across The Ocean (2003).

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