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

CS Mackay-Bennett and Marconi, 1899

In 1899, cable and wireless intersected, perhaps one of the earliest such collaborations. These photographs show CS Mackay-Bennett working with Marconi to cover the America's Cup yacht race off Sandy Hook, New Jersey, not far from New York City.

A busy shipboard scene

Near the Sandy Hook lightship

A number of non-nautical characters on board

The lifebuoy identifies the ship as Mackay-Bennett, Glasgow

Images above are from the Bill Holly collection

October 1899

In September and October 1899 a series of yacht races, known as the America's Cup, took place between the British challenger Shamrock, owned by Sir Thomas Lipton, and the American yacht Columbia. The owner of the New York Herald and co-owner of the Commercial Cable Company arranged for Marconi to set up his wireless telegraph to report on the races.

T. Bowden

One set of equipment was put aboard CS Mackay-Bennett and was operated by T. Bowden, assistant telegraphist to Marconi. Another set was placed aboard the Puerto Rico Line vessel the Ponce, but part way through the series of races it had to be moved to the Grande Duchesse.

Marconi transmitted the signals to Bowden who in turn sent them to W.W. Bradfield who was in the New York Herald building. From here the reports were transmitted over the land telegraph and via Commercial's cables to the UK.


Photograph archive reference

See also CS Mackay-Bennett on the
Commercial Cable Company page
and this detailed article on the ship

Last revised: 30 September, 2011

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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.

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