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

TAT-1 Opening Ceremony, September 25, 1956

The opening of the first transatlantic telephone cable, TAT-1, on 25 September 1956, marked the beginning of the modern era of cable communications, and the three responsible parties made the ceremony a special event across three countries and two continents.

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. Marler, the Minister of Transport for Canada.

The inauguration of the first transatlantic telephone cable on September 25th, 1956. Mr. D.R. Bowie, President and General Manager of the Canadian Overseas Telecommunication Corporation, speaks at the three-nation hook-up which officially “opened” the cable service. The microphones are marked CFCF, CBC, and CFRA.
Photograph from The Story of S.T.C. 1883-1958

In London were Dr. Charles Hill, the Postmaster General; and Sir Gordon Radley, Director General of the Post Office.

250 other guests listened with individual earphones to the first conversation, and the event was recorded by television cameras.

The opening ceremony was broadcast by Canadian radio station CFCF of Montreal from the banquet hall of the Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa. The approximately 53-minute radio transmission was recorded on a set of three 12" transcription discs, two of which are in the archives of the Atlantic Cable website. The surviving discs contain sides 1 & 6 and sides 3 & 4 of the original set; the missing disc is sides 2 & 5. The two available discs include much of the three-way telephone conversation between London, Ottawa, and New York.

A seven-minute MP3 audio file of the three-way first telephone call over the new line, including the official statement in each country declaring the cable open, may be downloaded here. Below is a full transcript of all the surviving material from the broadcast.

Side 1 (10 minutes)

This is Earl Campbell speaking to you from the banquet hall of the Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa.  Today marks an auspicious date on the calendar of overseas communications service.  Gathered here in the banquet hall are high dignitaries and specially invited guests, who will witness the first official overseas telephone call made over the newly laid Transatlantic Cable.

In a moment I will be speaking with the Chief Engineer of the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation, who were directly concerned with the installation of the cable across the Atlantic.  First I would like to tell you who the distinguished gentlemen will be that you will hear during this inauguration.  Seated at the head table, and in order of their introduction to the guests and public are T.W. Edie, President of the Bell Telephone Company; the honourable Livingston T. Merchant, U.S. Ambassador to Canada; Mr. Neil Pritchard, the Deputy United Kingdom High Commissioner to Canada; and the honourable George C. Marler, the Minister of Transport for Canada.  Mr. D.F. Bowie, President of the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation will introduce the guests.

Before bringing you the main portion of today’s important happenings, we’ll take the liberty now of chatting with some of the other guests.

I’m speaking now to the Chief Engineer of the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation, Mr. R.G. Griffith. 

(Campbell)  Mr Griffith, how long is the cable?

(Griffith) Well, the actual telephone circuits from Montreal to London are well over 3,000 miles long, but the actual cable extends from Sydney Mines in Nova Scotia, to Newfoundland, from Clarenville to Oban in Scotland, and then to London.

(Campbell)  Well when was the actual laying completed?

(Griffith) The laying was completed on August the 14th of this year.

(Campbell)  What route would the cable, is the cable, taking?

(Griffith) Well the cable enters the Cabot Straits at Sydney Mines, and comes up at Newfoundland at Terrenceville on the west coast.  It passes across Newfoundland underground and enters the water at Clarenville, where it passes to Oban in Scotland.

(Campbell)  How long did it take to actually complete this circuit?

(Griffith) Well, it was for a period of two years the laying was undertaken, but only during the spring and the summer of those years, 1955 and 1956, was actual laying in progress.

(Campbell)  Now how is the voice carried over the cable.

(Griffith) Well the voice is carried over the cable – what do you mean, from the actual cable?

(Campbell)  On the cable itself; in other words, I know that a voice can only go over a wire so far, until it has to be boosted up.  How is that done on the cable; how is that overcome?

(Griffith) Well actually the voice is translated to the sub-audio frequency bandwidth at Montreal and it passes to St. John over the domestic network, where it is then translated up into microwave frequencies and it’s transmitted over the TD-2 system to Sydney Mines.  There it is translated into what we term as group frequencies –

(Campbell) Which is actually radio waves?

(Griffith) Well, it’s lower than radio waves, it’s within the 60 to 108 kilocycle bandwidth, and there combined, translated, into three groups which pass over the actual cable at those frequencies.  The frequency of the cable between Clarenville and Oban is in the neighbourhood of about 200KC - kilocycles that is.  But the section between Terrenceville and Sydney Mines, which is a two-directional cable, that is a single cable, the bandwidth provided on that cable is greater, being 500 kilocycles.

(Campbell)  Now there’s been quite a lot of talk about these repeaters that have been put in the cable.  What would happen if, for instance, something went wrong with one of the repeaters, one of the tubes blew, or something like that.  Has provision been made for that?

(Griffith) Oh, yes, the repeaters have been very carefully designed and considerable research over many years has been put into their construction, and provision is made for component failure in the repeaters.  Some components can go faulty without degrading the performance of the repeater appreciably.  But of course if something catastrophic takes place then there’s no alternative but to go out and pick the cable up and replace the repeater.

(Campbell)  How far apart are the repeaters on the overseas, on the actual Atlantic, portion of the cable?

(Griffith) Well on that section there are two cables, one carrying the voice in one direction; well I should say the transmission in one direction, and the other in the opposite direction.  On this section the repeaters are 40 miles apart, approximately.

(Campbell)  And what about the portion between Sydney Mines and Newfoundland?

(Griffith) There, owing to the greater bandwidth required to be transmitted, the repeaters are twenty miles apart, approximately, and of course these repeaters are two-directional repeaters, they amplify simultaneously for the two-directional speech.

(Campbell)  Now on this telephone call that’s going to be made today, this three-way phone call between Ottawa, London and New York, just how will the call go over the cable? Could you give us an example say like starting here from Ottawa?

(Griffith) Yes, well the speech will enter the normal domestic telephone system and pass through Montreal where it will go to the COTC terminal, and there it will be translated into the required frequency bandwidth and passes again over the domestic system in the high-frequency form to St Johns, New Brunswick.  There it is translated again and passes over a microwave system to Sydney Mines which is the head of the cable.  It passes over the cable to Scotland, Oban, and there down through the United Kingdom domestic telephone system to London.

(Campbell)  Now what in your mind was the most difficult obstacle in setting up the cable besides the actual laying?

(Griffith) Well, in my opinion, and I’ve not had too much to do with the actual manufacture of the plant, I think the repeater – to be sure that it has been constructed, all the components have maximum life, that they are assembled in a manner that you’re not likely to run into unnecessary faults, and then finally to construct it all in a form that will stand the enormous pressure that it’s going to be subjected to at the depth of three miles undersea.

(Campbell)  That is the farthest it is going down, three miles?

(Griffith) Yes, that’s about the greatest depth.

(Campbell)  Do you anticipate any further laying of cables?

(Griffith) Well in my opinion, this of course is just the beginning, it’s the acorn.  And usually out of acorns, oak trees grow, and it goes without saying that the world will have quite a global network of this type of cable in not too many years to come.

(Campbell)  Just one other question that we would like to ask you.  Is there, or do they contemplate laying a cable on the Pacific side, or is there one there now?  Something similar to the one that we now have in the Atlantic ocean?

(Griffith) Oh, yes, yes, there’s one well under way between the United States and Alaska, and there’s another one projected out to, I think it is, Hawaii.

(Campbell)  Well, fine.  Well thank you very much, Mr. R.G. Griffith.  Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve just been talking to the Chief Engineer of the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation, Mr. R.G. Griffith, here in the banquet hall of the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa.

In just a moment we will take you to the head table here in the banquet hall of the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, and Mr. D[ouglas] F. Bowie, President of the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation.  The overseas phone conversation to be heard during this broadcast will be between Mr. Cleo F. Craig, the President of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company, in New York City; the Right Honourable Dr. Charles Hill, the Postmaster General of England, in London; and Canada’s Minister of Transport, the Honourable George Marler, here in Ottawa.  Here now is Mr. Bowie:

(Bowie) Mr. Minister, Your Excellency, honoured guests, and gentlemen.  In order to develop the proper atmosphere for this function, we will have the privilege of hearing from one or two other speakers.  Owing to the limited time at our disposal, it will be impossible for me to introduce each speaker at length, other than to tell you just who and what he is. I hope the speakers will forgive me for not enlarging upon their backgrounds to any extent.  After the official conversation has taken place and the programme concluded, we shall put four transatlantic telephone circuits at your disposal so that you may personally test the quality of these new circuits.  We cannot of course guarantee to whom you will be talking (laughter), but you will certainly get in touch with a guest at the ceremonies in London, and I’m sure that if their weather isn’t a suitable topic to start a conversation, the stuff we’ve been having here in Canada will be very suitable.

Side 2 (missing)

Side 3 (10 minutes)

(Edie) The day is not too distant when telephone operators in Canada through dialing will without assistance reach directly telephones on the British Isles and it may well be further afield.  A new era on phones before our very eyes.  And so it is with a very strong sense of gratitude that the Trans-Canada Telephone System pays tribute to these organizations that together have planned and created this wonderful instrument of communication service.  Thank you very much.  (applause)

(Bowie) Thank you, Mr. Edie.  On this occasion of such international significance, it is an honour and a pleasure to have with us on the platform his excellency the honourable Livingston J. Merchant, ambassador of the United States to Canada, and I’m going to ask him now to express a few appropriate words on behalf of the United States.   The honourable Livingston J. Merchant. (applause)

(Merchant)  Mr Chairman, Mr Minister, distinguished guests, it is a real pleasure to me to be a witness of and a participant in as historic an occasion as this.  We are seeing today the fruits of an extraordinary operation in co-operation.  Co-operation between the three countries: Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  And a co-operation which represents the pooling not only of brains and material resources and capital, but I also think of imagination.  I can do no more than to add on behalf of the United States the congratulations which are due, as your chairman has so eloquently said, to all those who have played any part in this great achievement.  And having said that, I will demonstrate my own terminal facilities by sitting down.  (applause)

(Bowie)  Well, thank you very much, your excellency.  In London just about this time, the honourable Mr Norman Robertson, our high commissioner, is talking to the British audience, and it is now my pleasure to ask Mr Neil Pritchard, who is acting high commissioner for the United Kingdom, pending the arrival of xxx to speak to us.  Mr Pritchard. (applause)

(Pritchard)  Mr Bowie, your excellency, Mr Minister, gentlemen. I could have wished very much that my own high commissioner could have been here today on this historic occasion, and I know how much he’d have liked to be here, but ships and sailing dates have not permitted that, and I must myself do what I can worthily to represent the British government on this occasion.  There are special links and ties between Britain and Canada; we are members of the Commonwealth, we join in affection and loyalty to our queen.  Most of those links are intangible ones, and I can remember a much over-worked cliché of 25 or 30 years ago which used to describe them as “silken bonds”.  Well we now have today the thin thread of the transatlantic cable, which is a new and tangible link between our two countries, but it will play a big part in strengthening those other and intangible links of affections and friendship between us.  Canada and Britain have another special relationship, and that is with the United States, in what has come to be known sometimes as the transatlantic triangle, in which our three countries are joined together by history, by mutual interest, and by inclination.  We in Britain are especially proud to co-operate in such an enterprise as this with two such partners.  I believe indeed that whenever we three countries join together in one enterprise, it will always prove to be a thing worth doing and a thing well done, and that is certainly so of this cable which we shall be opening today.  (applause)

(Bowie) Now, Mr Marler, would you kindly say a few words to us?  (applause)

(Marler) Mr Chairman, your excellency, Mr Pritchard, Mr Edie, and gentlemen.  I should first like to thank Mr Bowie for the very kind words which he has just said with regard to the Department of Transport, and I am indeed glad that we have been able to be of assistance to his corporation, particularly in connection with the new transatlantic telephone cable.  As a representative of the Canadian government on this important occasion in the history of communications between the North American continent and Europe, I shall have in a few minutes the pleasure and honour of speaking the first words on behalf of Canada on this new transatlantic telephone cable.  And if we all may take pride in this opening ceremony, which will consist of a three-way conversation between Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, for it marks the completion of an undertaking in which one of Canada’s new found companies, Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation, has taken a most active part.  The Corporation,which is so ably headed by Mr Douglas Bowie, who is our Chairman today, is only six years old, but in that short time it has made a significant contribution to Canada’s business world and to the public at large by providing transatlantic and trans Pacific communications facilities of the highest quality.  Moreover the operations of the Corporation have shown increasing profits from year to year and the new telephone cable service will undoubtedly contribute to the company’s financial success.  Mr Bowie has just said in his remarks that he was reporting to the shareholders of the Corporation, namely to the people of Canada.  I am sure that in turn, the people of Canada will wish to join me in commending the management of the Corporation for their foresight in having recommended to the government of Canada that we should participate in the construction of this international communications facility.  By means of new electronic equipment, this new cable will provide Canada with transatlantic telephone communication of the highest quality, equal to that available on domestic circuits, of a clarity and dependability never made possible before.  In addition I’d like to join Mr Bowie in congratulating the engineers and all others concerned, in each of the three participating countries for their work in constructing this new cable.  As we see, their plans for the undertaking have been well made, and despite its magnitude the project has at all times been well ahead of schedule.  I should like also to mention the work of the cableship Monarch, which played such an important part in the technical operations of the landing in of the first two sections of the cable at Clarenville, Newfoundland, in 1955 and earlier this year.  I think that our appreciation should also be expressed to those leaders in the science of telecommunications who conceived the idea of the new type of cable and who now are justly entitled to the credit for its successful completion.  And now, Mr Chairman, on behalf of the government of Canada, may I ask you to extend to all concerned with the construction of this cable our sincere appreciation of the careful planning and fine technical work which has made the transatlantic telephone cable a reality today.  For them, as it is for us, this is indeed a most significant and memorable occasion.

Side 4 (10 minutes)

(Bowie)  Thank you very much, Mr Marler, and it will indeed be a pleasure to convey that message from the government of Canada to our associates and our own colleagues in this venture.  I am happy to see that we still have a few minutes to spare before the transatlantic proceedings start.  I shall therefore describe briefly what is scheduled to take place.  The first conversations will be between London and New York, with Dr Charles Hill, the Postmaster General in the United Kingdom, conversing with Mr Cleo Craig, Chairman of the Board of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company, and with Mr McConnaughey, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Right after that, Mr Marler will speak with the Postmaster General and then with Mr Craig and Mr McConnaughey.  Subsequently Sir Gordon Radley, Director General of the Post Office in the United Kingdom; Mr Kappel, the newly appointed President of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company; and I myself, will have a few brief moments of conversation.  Before the conversations actually start, you will all observe that you have a telephone in front of you; and before we get on to the cable we would like that you pick up your handsets and have them ready in your hand – I should warn you that they’re not wired for speech, and so there’s no danger of anything going over (laughter).  We hope that as a result of this wholesale, shall we say, demonstration of the use of the telephone, that you will be able to get a very clear appreciation of the quality of this new medium of voice transmission.  When the bell rings the conversations will start, and I will give you a warning, if you don’t mind waiting patiently for about a minute and a half, we’ll give you the warning signal at that time.


(Bowie) May I have your attention, please.  I think it would be desirable now if you would all pick up your handsets and be prepared for the conversations.

(background voice) We’re in to London.

(Craig) This is Cleo Craig in New York calling Dr Hill in London.  Good afternoon.

Participating in inaugural ceremonies at the American Telephone & Telegraph Company headquarters in New York are Mr. George C. McConnaughey, Chairman of FCC, Cleo F. Craig, newly elected Chairman of the Board of Directors, AT&T, and Frederick K. Kappel, President of AT&T.

(Hill) Hello.

(Craig) Hello, Dr Hill.

(Hill) Hello, Mr Craig, this is Dr Hill in London.  Is that you, Mr Craig?

(Craig) This is Mr Craig.

(Hill) Well, it’s very good to hear your voice, and to join with you and our friends in Canada in inaugurating this, the first transatlantic telephone cable service.  Well, Mr Craig, it’s been a great day for those who for years have dreamt and waited for this thing.  Into it, as well you know, has gone the best from each country, and only the best was good enough.  But it’s not too sentimental, I hope, to say that as the people of our three countries use this cable more and more, the ties of friendship and understanding between us will grow the stronger.

The Postmaster-General the Rt. Hon. Dr. Charles Hill, MP. (centre) officiating at the opening ceremony in London with left, Mr. Norman Robertson (High Commissioner for Canada) and right, Mr. Winthrop Aldrich, the United States Ambassador.
This and the following two photographs are from the STC publicity book for TAT-1, “The First Transatlantic Telephone System,” published in 1957.

(Craig) We certainly share your feelings, Dr Hill.  And it seems to me that the building of the cable, all the planning and all the work of construction, these things in themselves are another fine example of the good spirits and the cooperation which exists between our two countries.  Now Mr McConnaughey, Chairman of our Federal Communications Commission is here, and would like to exchange a word with you, so goodbye for the moment.

(McConnaughey) Hello, Dr Hill, this is Mr. McConnaughey.

(Hill) Well how do you do, sir?  It’s no exaggeration to say that you sound as if you’re speaking from somewhere in London. Yet you’re four thousand miles away as the circuit flies, or swims.  Well, it’s very exciting to me, as I’m sure it is to you.

(McConnaughey)  It is indeed, sir.  I’ve been looking forward to this event with the greatest of energy.  You know, we expect great things of the people who provide communication services, and I think they’re today delivering great things, and I know you agree.  We at the Federal Communications Commission feel that this cable is a major step forward in telephone progress, and I congratulate all who had a part in bringing it about.

(Hill) Yes, and I agree.  May I mention one name?  We have here as everyone knows, a real triumph of patient research and engineering skill, and on behalf of all of us here in London I would like to pay tribute to Dr Buckley and all those in the United States, who, long before this became a project, had made it possible by their research and experiment.

(McConnaughey)  Thank you, Dr Hill, and now I will put Mr Craig on, as I know he would like to speak at this point.

(Craig)  Yes, Dr Hill, I just want to thank you for your splendid tribute to our people, and to say on our part how much we’ve enjoyed working with Sir Gordon Radley and his team.  It’s been a real pleasure.

(Hill)  Thank you very much, Mr Craig.  And now I’d like to speak direct to Mr Marler in Ottawa.  Are you there, Mr Marler?

(Marler)  Yes, good morning, Dr Hill, for it’s still only a little past eleven o’clock in the morning here in Ottawa, while the afternoon is ending with you in London.  This time difference emphasizes the great difference which separates us and the greatness of this achievement which makes our conversation so easy and so clear.  We in Canada are proud to be an associate in this great pioneer venture, and we join wholeheartedly in the praise which has been given to those whose research made it possible, those who so skilfully engineered it, and all who have cooperated in so many ways to win through to this success.

Mr. G.C. Marler, Canadian Minister of Transport, speaking over the cable from Montreal* to London and New York. With him are D.R. Bowie, President and General Manager, Canadian Overseas Telecommunication Corporation (left), and Thomas W. Eadie, President, Bell Telephone Company of Canada.
[*Note: While the photo caption gives the location as Montreal, from the dialogue of the call the Canadian officials are quite clearly in Ottawa. The opening ceremony program above also has Ottawa.

(Hill) Well, fine sentiments, Mr Marler, with which we warmly agree.  Although we are separated by the depths of the Atlantic, our cable brings your voice to me as clearly as if you were here in Britain.  And through you, Mr Marler, I want to send greetings and good wishes from the British team to those in Canada with whom they worked in such great harmony.  And may I say how pleased I am to speak to you, Mr Marler, through this great new medium.

(Marler)  Thank you, Dr Hill.  And now I would like to speak to Mr Craig in New York.  Hello, Mr Craig.

(Craig)  Good morning, sir, it’s a  great pleasure to talk with you.  And we’ve been listening with interest to your conversation with London.

(Marler)  It has been indeed a wonderful experience, and I believe that this is an event that none of us is ever likely to forget.

(Craig)  That’s right.  I’d like particularly to say to you, sir, how much we of the Bell System appreciate the fine contribution made by the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation and the government of Canada to this whole undertaking.

(Marler)  Thank you, Mr Craig.  We in Canada have been glad to do our part in producing these happy results.

(Craig)  Won’t you have a few words now with Mr. McConnaughey; I’m sure he’d like to talk with you.

(Marler)   With pleasure.  Goodbye, Mr Craig.

(Craig)  Goodbye, Mr Marler.

(McConnaughey)  Hello, Mr Marler, this is McConnaughey.  I just wanted to greet you and sent your Ministry kindest regards, both personally and also officially from the Federal Communications Commission.

(Marler) Well, it’s very good to talk to you this morning, Mr McConnaughey, and we appreciate your greeting and I return it most cordially to you and to all of your associates on the Commission.

(McConnaughey)  Thank you and goodbye, sir.

(Craig)  Dr Hill, are you with us again?  This is Craig.

(Hill)  Yes, Mr Craig, and Mr Marler, I’ve been listening to you with great pleasure.  Now I believe the moment has come when we declare the first transatlantic telephone cable open for service.

(Craig)  Yes, Dr Hill.  On behalf of the ATT and the Bell Telephone System, I wish to thank all of the men and women who by their efforts have created this new cable, and will maintain and operate it for public use.  I now declare the cable open for service between the United States and the United Kingdom.

(Marler)  On behalf of the COTC and the government, we in Canada also desire to join in thanking all who contributed to this splendid cable, and I declare it open for service between Canada and the United Kingdom.

(Hill)  We in the British Post Office join with you, Mr Craig, and with you, Mr Marler, in your expression of thanks to all concerned in this fine job, and I’ve great pleasure in declaring the cable open for service between the United Kingdom and the United States, and between the United Kingdom and Canada. 

(Craig)  This is Craig again.  Just last week Mr Fred Kappel was elected President of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company.  He’s here with me and would like to talk with Sir Gordon Radley, Director General of the Post Office in London, and Mr Bowie, President of the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporationin Ottawa.  Mr Kappel, would you take the telephone.

Side 5 (missing)

Side 6 (2:44 minutes)

(Bowie)   And that, I think, is the concluding pleasant item of a very pleasant morning.  Thank you very much.

(Campbell)  I have with me here Mr T.W. Edie, the President of the Bell Telephone Company.  Mr Edie, now that we have this cable installed, will there be a reduction in the price of overseas calls?

(Edie)  No, it is not anticipated that there would be a reduction in the price of overseas calls.  We’re looking for a tremendous pickup in service, but with the cost of the project it will not be feasible at this time to reduce the price of a call to the old land.

(Campbell)  Now long distance dialling is gradually coming into the world.  Will it be feasible on the cable.

(Edie)  We’re assuming that it will be possible before too long for our operators to directly dial telephone numbers in the British Isles, and we hope even further afield, which of course will be a further improvement in communications service and put us on the same basis as we have for our calls within Canada at the present time.

(Campbell)  And one other question.  What is the most significant aspect in the cable as far as the Bell Telephone is concerned?

(Edie)  The tremendous improvement in service is to us the significant aspect of this project, and also the fact that that’s going to rebound to the benefit of all of the subscribers of the seven major telephone systems across Canada and the subscribers of the other eight thousand telephone systems who operate in this country.

(Campbell)  And personally speaking, sir, what do you think of the quality of the phone conversations that we’ve heard here today.

(Edie)  Just remarkable. Other than for the room noise, which must be expected, it was an absolutely quiet circuit and the transmission is perfect.

(Campbell)  Well thank you very much, sir.

(Edie)  It’s been a pleasure.

(Campbell)  That was Mr T.W. Edie, the President of the Bell Telephone Company, who was one of the guest speakers at today’s inauguration of the overseas cable service here in the banquet hall of the Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa.

CFCF has brought to its listeners as a public service the ceremonies and actual conversations on the first trans-ocean phone call made on the newly installed Atlantic cable.  The guest speaker on the Ottawa portion of the call was the honourable George C. Marler, Minister of Transport.

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.

Mr. Bowie noted that just one of the 36 telephone circuits could be used to provide 22 telegraph/Telex channels; this was the beginning of the end for transatlantic telegraph cables, all of which were withdrawn from service by the mid 1960s.

Shortly after the conclusion of the ceremony, the cable was opened for public service. The New York Times reported that the first call was between a woolen merchant in Manhattan and a textile manufacturer in Yorkshire. The caller in New York had booked a radiotelephone call and expected to wait hours for his connection; he was surprised when the call was put through within ten minutes. [New York Times 26 September 1956]

The cost of a three-minute call between the USA and Britain was $12 during business hours, $9 on evenings and weekends. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator shows that $12 in 1956 would be the equivalent of $100 today.

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 2006 the engineering achievement of TAT-1 was commemorated with the installation of a plaque at the Transatlantic Cable Monument site 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.

Tom Wills writes:

AT&T, BT and Teleglobe had a bronze plaque made to commemorate the the 50th anniversary of the landing of TAT-1. Before we sent it off, we had a team photo taken with the plaque in front of “Golden Boy” at AT&T’s Global Network Operations Center in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Thanks to Jerry Hayes for the photograph and the note from Tom Wills.

After spending almost a hundred years in Manhattan and New Jersey, in 2009 the “Golden Boy” statue (more formally, “Spirit of Communication”) was moved to AT&T’s new headquarters in Dallas, following the company’s takeover by SBC.

Last revised: 2 October, 2022

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