History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
Cable Projectors - Tal Shaffner
|The winners write the history
books, so there is very little information about the other companies which
planned to girdle the earth with telegraph cables in the 1850s.
One of them was the Western Union Telegraph Company which proposed to connect San Francisco with Moscow by constructing a line overland from Vancouver, British Columbia, through Russian America (Alaska ), beneath the Bering Strait, then overland again through Russia and on into Moscow. John Casale has an interesting website with the story of Franklin Pope, a major figure in 19th century telegraphy, who worked on the Western Union project surveying the route from Vancouver to the Yukon River.
Another competitor was Colonel Taliaferro P(reston) Shaffner of Kentucky (1818 - 1881), an early telegraph promoter:
"By an act of the Missouri legislature
approved March 3, 1851, Tal P. Shaffner of Kentucky, Isaac M. Vietch,
and their associates, were granted letters of incorporation under the
name and style of the "St. Louis and Missouri River Telegraph Company"
for erecting and managing a telegraph line from St. Louis through Jefferson
City, Boonville, Lexington, Independence, and Weston, to St. Joseph, Missouri.
The stock was to be issued as fast as the line was completed, and was
to be non-taxable until a dividend was declared. Because of this, the
telegraph line was built through Franklin County along the St. Louis and
Jefferson City road the following season. However, few poles were used
as the wire was fastened on the trees, which were plentiful along the
entire road in those days. This line was used regularly until after the
Missouri Pacific Railroad was completed through the state."
Shaffner was the editor of the American Telegraphic Magazine, and produced Shaffner's Telegraph Companion; he also wrote "The Telegraph Manual" (1859) and other books such as "International Exhibition, 1862. The Illustrated Record of the International Exhibition of the Industrial Arts and Manufactures, and the Fine Arts, of All Nations, in 1862" and "History of the United States of America: from the earliest period to the present time".
Shaffner's Telegraph Manual, 1859
The Library of Congress describes Shaffner as "Inventor, associate in the introduction of the telegraph and north Atlantic cable; telegraph company official; author and historian" and has a daguerreotype of him created between 1844 and 1860.
Image credit: Daguerreotype Collection Library of Congress, Reproduction Number: LC-USZC4-4159. Taliaferro Preston Shaffner, full-length portrait, three-quarters to the right, head front, standing, holding a tall hat. On the left is a chair and on the right a small table covered with tablecloth.
|By 1857, Congress had approved
funding for Cyrus Field's Atlantic Telegraph Company. Shaffner, proposed
to run a cable from America to Europe via Greenland, Iceland, and the Faroe
Islands, and presented his case to the Senate in a 46 page memorial.
The Senate printed the document in the records of the 35th Congress, 1st
Session, as Mis. Doc No. 263; history, of course, tells us that Shaffner
was unsuccessful in his project.
The document makes interesting reading, outlining the shortcomings of the Atlantic Telegraph Company, its owners, investors, and engineering staff while promoting Shaffner's altruistic wish to create a telegraph line for the benefit of the "United States and the citizens thereof for all time".
TAL. P. SHAFFNER, OF KENTUCKY,
An amendment of the act
of Congress approved March 3, 1857,
See also Steve Roberts' story of Tal Shaffner and the Northern Line.
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Last revised: 6 November, 2007
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