Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts | Licence: CC0 1.0
Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts | Licence: CC0 1.0

The Forge on Deck, Night of August 9th: Preparing the Iron Plating for Capstan

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From the Collection


One of the 19th century's great technological achievements was to lay a telegraphic cable beneath the Atlantic, allowing messages to speed back and forth between North America and Europe in minutes, rather than ten or twelve days by steamer. An initially successful attempt in 1858, led by Cyrus W. Field and financed by the Atlantic Telegraph Company, failed after three weeks. Two working cables were finally laid in July and September 1866, the result of repeated efforts by the indefatigable Field, a cadre of engineers, technicians, and sailors, two groups of financial backers, and significant help from the British and United States navies. This watercolor by Dudley shows repairs being made to lifting gear on the deck of the Great Eastern. After successfully reaching Newfoundland with a working cable on July 28, 1866, the ship steamed back six hundred miles east then, after a month, finally raised the cable lost a year before. Once tested and spliced, it too was then laid on to Canada. Part of a series documenting the long, arduous process, this image was reproduced as a color lithograph in William H. Russell's 1866 book "The Atlantic Telegraph" (92.10.100 and 61.536.5). In 1892 Field donated art works by Dudley, a copy of Russell's book, commemorative medals, memorabilia, and specimens of cable to the Museum. Medium: watercolor over graphite with touches of gouache.
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Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts

From the Watercolour World


Atlantic Ocean