Circuits in the Sea: The Men, the Ships, and the Atlantic Cable

By Chester G. Hearn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
OTHER SCHEMES AND
OTHER ROUTES

Much had happened in Great Britain during Field’s absence in America. Tal Shaffner, an electrical engineer who Field, Cooper, and Morse all regarded as a rogue freelancer, had laid hundreds of miles of landlines connecting the western states with the east. Knowing New York, Newfoundland, and London Telegraph Company’s plans to lay an Atlantic cable, Shaffner said, “I do not say that a galvanic or magnetic electrical current can never be sent from Newfoundland to Ireland: but I do say that, with the present discoveries of science, I do not believe it practical for telegraphic service.” That the 1858 cable worked, though only briefly, convinced Shaffner that the “present discoveries of science” showed signs of improved technological advancements.1

During the early 1850s Shaffner often communicated with Charles and John Bright. With their help he published The Telegraph Manual, which became a useful tool for telegraphers working his landlines. The manual also provided a comprehensive 844-page history of the development of telegraphy. A brief autobiographical note appearing in the back of his Manual read:

Early in 1854, Mr. Shaffner visited New York City, to aid in the reorganization of
the Newfoundland Telegraph Company, the secretaryship of which had been of-
fered to him with a salary of twelve thousand dollars per annum. The new company
was organized, having as proprietors some ten members, of whom Mr. Shaffner
was one. Not satisfied with the administration of the company’s affairs, he with-
drew from the company forever.2

Shaffner never made it clear whether the “Newfoundland Telegraph Company” mentioned in his autobiography was the one started by Fred-

-141-

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