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Cyrus West Field

Field, Cyrus West, 1819–92, American merchant, promoter of the first Atlantic cable, b. Stockbridge, Mass.; brother of David Dudley Field and Stephen J. Field. As head of a paper business, he accumulated a modest fortune, and in 1853 he retired. In 1854 he conceived the idea of the cable. He secured a charter, organized the English and American companies, and obtained the British and American naval ships Agamemnon and Niagara to lay the cable. Five attempts were made in 1857–58 and the first message came over Aug. 16, 1858, but the cable ceased working three weeks later. It was necessary for Field to raise new funds and make new arrangements. The Great Eastern succeeded in laying a cable in 1866. Field was the object of much admiration and praise on both sides of the Atlantic for his persistence in accomplishing what many thought to be an absurd undertaking. He promoted other oceanic cables, notably that via Hawaii to Asia and Australia. In 1877 he resuscitated the New York City elevated system.

See biography by S. Carter (1968); J. S. Steele, A Thread across the Ocean (2002).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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