One of the 19th century's great technological achievements was to lay a telegraphic cable beneath the Atlantic, allowing messages to speed back and forth between North America and Europe in minutes, rather than ten or twelve days by steamer. An initially successful attempt in 1858, led by Cyrus W. Field and financed by the Atlantic Telegraph Company, failed after three weeks. Two working cables were finally laid in July and September 1866, the result of repeated efforts by the indefatigable Field, a cadre of engineers, technicians, and sailors, two groups of financial backers, and significant help from the British and United States navies. Dudley documented the process in a series of watercolors and oils, this example showing the H.M.S. Agamemnon preparing to leave Ireland in 1858. On July 29th it met the U.S.S. Niagara in the middle of the Atlantic. Cables laid from east and west were spliced to establish a working connection that lasted only three weeks. In 1892 Field donated art works by Dudley, commemorative medals, memorabilia, and specimens of cable to the Museum.
Cyrus W. Field; Donor: Cyrus W. Field
Josephine C. Dobkin "Metropolitan Museum Journal" The Laying of the Atlantic Cable: Paintings, Watercolors, and Commemorative Objects Given to the Metropolitan Museum by Cyrus W. Field. 41, 2006, pp. 155-71.