History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
Memorabilia & Ephemera
|1956 TAT-1 Silver Commemorative Dish|
This commemorative of the 1956 TAT-1 (TransAtlantic Telephone) cable is a small sterling silver dish just 90mm in diameter. The dish was presented by Submarine Cables Limited to Frederick A. Kappel, and is inscribed:
The hallmarks indicate a London maker (un-named), a 1956 manufacturing date, and the material as 0.925 silver.
Submarine Cables Limited (SCL) of Erith, Kent, was the manufacturer of the TAT-1 main cable, and Kappel was President of American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T), one of three sponsors of the cable. The other sponsors were the British Post Office (GPO) and the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation (COTC).
In the centre of the dish is a small section of cable; oddly, this is not a piece of TAT-1.
The cable was inaugurated on 25 September 1956 with a three-way conversation over the cable between New York, Ottawa, and London. Many distinguished guests participated in this first official call over TAT-1.
In New York were Frederick Kappel, President of AT&T; Cleo F. Craig, Chairman of the Board of AT&T; Oliver Buckley, President of AT&T Bell Telephone Laboratories; and George McConnaughey, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
In Ottawa were Douglas F. Bowie, President of the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation; T.W. Edie, President of the Bell Telephone Company; Livingston T. Merchant, U.S. Ambassador to Canada; Mr. Neil Pritchard, the Deputy United Kingdom High Commissioner to Canada; and the honourable George C. Mahler, the Minister of Transport for Canada.
In London were Dr. Charles Hill, the Postmaster
General; and Sir Gordon
250 other guests listened with individual earphones to the first conversation, and the event was recorded by television cameras. This extract from a cable documentary shows the laying of TAT-1 and includes a snippet of the inaugural conversation between New York and London.
In January 1957 the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) broadcast a television interview with COTC's President, Douglas Bowie, who had participated in the TAT-1 opening ceremony just four months earlier. The interview included a demonstration of both telephone and telex calls on the new cable. Video of this interview may be viewed at the CBC archives website.
TAT-1 remained in service until 1978 without a single failure, and was withdrawn from service only because many higher-capacity cables had by then been installed across the Atlantic.
In 1956 the engineering achievement of TAT-1 was commemorated with the installation of a plaque in Clarenville, Newfoundland, the site of the Canadian landing of the cable. The photograph below, from Tom Wills of AT&T, shows the plaque before it was sent to Newfoundland.
Last revised: 11 September, 2011