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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

Simplex Wire & Cable Company
by Bill Glover

Introduction: This page gives an overview of the company with details of its more recent activities. See also this 1938 article, published in the house magazine at the time, which recounts more of the early history of Simplex.

—Bill Burns

The Simplex Wire & Cable Company had its beginnings in 1865 with the formation of a partnership between Charles A. Morss, who had his own wire making firm in Boston, and Oliver Whyte, to manufacture wire products. They made their first insulated wire in 1885 as an experiment. Following a fire in 1888 the company moved to new premises in Cambridge, Mass.

In 1890 Morss and Whyte took over the Simplex Electric Company who had been acting as selling agents for them. They merged the two firms in 1895 under the Simplex name. This company was to concentrate on the manufacture of insulated wire and cable.

One of the first submarine cables the company made was a five mile telephone cable, which was laid across the Straits of Mackinac in Lake Michigan; another, one mile in length, was laid across Boston Harbour. Both were laid in 1900.

Problems in obtaining gutta percha for insulation forced the company to use rubber insulation, which only lasted for a few years due to proteins in the rubber absorbing moisture. To get over this Simplex used lead sheathing on some cables. But by 1926 they had developed a protein free rubber which they used for power and telephone cables.

From a 1931 product advertisement

The first submarine cable using the new product was made in 1931 for the US Coast Guard and was laid by USCG CS Pequot from Miami to Key Biscayne and on to the Fowey Rocks Lighthouse. The success of this cable led to many similar contracts. During World War II they produced over 3000 miles of cable for the US Army Signals Corps Alaskan Communication System as well as cable for harbour and coastal defence work.

1943 Letterhead

Bell Telephone Laboratories restarted their research on telephone cables after the end of World War II and Simplex was invited to join in on cable and repeater housing development. In 1948 Simplex manufactured 20 nm of coaxial cable which with six repeaters was laid by CS Lord Kelvin in the Bahamas. The first commercial system using the new cable was laid between Key West and Havana in 1950 using twin "go" and "return" cables. Twin cables were also used on the Atlantic Missile Range System installed in 1953 by HMTS Monarch (4); repeaters for this cable were installed on land.

On the 26th November 1953 the company opened a new factory on the banks of the Piscataqua River at Newington, New Hampshire solely for the manufacture of cables, both power and telephone.

Some other cables manufactured by the Company:

1952-4 Florida - Puerto Rico. For the USAF
1956 Port Angeles - Ketchikan 1250 nm of cable and 36 repeater housings
1956 TAT 1 350 nm shore end cable and 58 repeater repeater housings
1957 HAW 1 2380 nm of cable and 98 repeater housings.
1957 Cape Dyer - Thule 1450 nm of cable and 30 repeater housings. For the USAF
1959 TAT-2 600 nm of cable and 114 repeater housings.
1960 Florida - Puerto Rico 1200 nm of cable and 38 repeater housings.
1961 Cape Dyer - White Bay 2050 nm of cable and 45 repeater housings. For the USAF
1962 Creole Petroleum - Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela 22 nm of 35 kV single phase power cable.
1963 Puerto Rico - Viques Island 10 nm of 35 kV 3 phase power cable.
1964 Wet Wash A: Philippines - Vietnam 696 nm of cable.
1966 Wet Wash C: Hawaii - Johnston Island 769 nm of cable.
1966 Gulf Coast Telephone Co 150 nm of cable.
1967 Vietnam coastal system 961 nm of cable. For the USAF
1967 Vietnam - Thailand 607 nm of cable. For the USAF
1967 Chugach Electric - Cook Inlet, Alaska 14 nm of 138 kV power cable.
1968 Union Oil - Santa Barbara Channel, California 66 nm of power and signal cable.
1968 Bonneville Power - Puget Sound, Washington 69 nm of power cable.
1971 Taiwan - Okinawa 363 nm of cable.
1973. Mt. Dessert Island - Swans Island, Maine 5¼ nm of power cable.
1976. TAT 6 shore ends.
1993 HAW 5 San Luis Obispo, California - Keawaula, Hawaii. With AT&T SSI

Many cables were also produced for United States defence systems, including work for the United States Naval Electronic Systems Command. In addition many submarine power cables have been manufactured by the company.

1962 Postmark

1968 Logo

In 1974 the company was taken over by Tyco.

 
Simplex Cable Recovered at Cape Cod, Massachusetts

The cable shown to the left was recovered from the ocean at Barrier Beach in Chatham, Massachusetts, by Richard Sandstrom.

Marked "Simplex" and "Bunass", the cable is 1⅜" diameter with a black polyethylene outer coating, 21 steel armoring wires, and four seven-strand copper conductors.

Possibly used for telephone communication, it's believed that the cable ran from a lifesaving station named Old Harbor Station, back North up the peninsula and built in 1898, to a lifesaving station in the town of Orleans. The date is unknown, but the design of the cable suggests the end of the 1950s or later.

If any site visitor has further information on this connection, please email me.

Recovering cable, October 2009

 

Sample Simplex Cable Specification

SIMPLEX .128"/.460" TELEPHONE CABLE

Simplex telephone cable, 1968

The cable is intended for use as a communications circuit for underseas operation. It is made up of the following components.

Central Conductor: One 0.128"-diameter solid, uncoated, soft copper wire of high quality and purity, not tinned.

Insulation: High-quality and -purity polyethylene extruded to a diameter of 0.460".

Return Circuit: Six 0.015"-thick x 0.238"-wide uncoated, soft copper tapes of high quality and purity, not tinned, spirally applied. The diameter over the tapes is approximately 0.49".

Shielding: One 1¼"-wide x 0.004"-thick, uncoated, soft copper tape of high quality and purity. Diameter over the tape is approximately 0.50".

Binder Tape: One 1¼"-wide x 0.015"-thick coated cotton tape. The diameter over the tape is approximately 0.53".

Armor Bedding: One serve of 60-lb. treated jute roving. The diameter over the jute is approximately 0.66".

Armor Wires for Deep-Sea Cable: Twenty-four 0.086"-diameter galvanized extra-high-strength-steel wires, each coated with a tar preservative. The diameter over the wires is approximately 0.80".

Outer Covering: Two serves of treated 17/3 plied jute yarn with a flooding of tar preservative compound under, between and over each serve. The diameter over the finished cable is approximately 1.04". For shore ends and unusual bottom conditions, special armoring may be required. Consult factory for specific recommendations.

CALCULATED CABLE DATA
Over-all Diameter 1.04"
Weight in Air 5,320 lbs/NM
Weight in Sea Water 3,490 lbs/NM
Minimum Breaking Strength 30,000 lbs.
Cable Modulus
(Breaking Strength/1-NM Weight in Sea Water)
8.6 NM
Specific Gravity 3.06

Last revised: 3 January, 2016

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The Atlantic Cable website is non-commercial, and its mission is to make available on line as much information as possible.

You can help - if you have cable material, old or new, please contact me. Cable samples, instruments, documents, brochures, souvenir books, photographs, family stories, all are valuable to researchers and historians.

If you have any cable-related items that you could photograph, copy, scan, loan, or sell, please email me: billb@ftldesign.com

—Bill Burns, publisher and webmaster: Atlantic-Cable.com