International Communications at the Start of the 20th Century [Geek History]

By Jason Fitzpatrick on June 15th, 2011

We take it for granted that the modern world is blanketed with wires, fiber optic lines, satellite uplinks, and all manner of communication networks. Back in 1901 things look a lot different. Take a peek at yesteryear’s communication networks.

The above image is a map of the Eastern Telegraph company’s worldwide network of telegraph cables circa 1901. Here’s a historical snapshot of the company courtesy of Wikipedia:

Cable and Wireless traces its history back to a number of British telegraph companies founded in the 1860s, and cites Sir John Pender as the founder. In 1869, Pender founded the Falmouth, Malta, Gibraltar Telegraph Company and the British Indian Submarine Telegraph Company, which connected the Anglo-Mediterranean cable (linking Malta to Alexandria using a cable manufactured by one of Pender’s companies) to Britain and India, respectively. The London to Bombay telegraph line was completed in 1870, and in 1872 the three companies were merged with the Marseilles, Algiers and Malta Telegraph Company to form the Eastern Telegraph Company, with Pender as chairman.

The Eastern Telegraph Company expanded the cable length from 8,860 miles on its founding to 22,400 miles just 15 years later. The Company steadily took over a number of companies founded to connect the West Indies and South America, leading to a name change to The Eastern and Associated Telegraph Companies.

22,400 miles of cable! That’s a mere 2,500 miles or so short of laying enough telegraph cable to circumnavigate the entire planet. Not an unimpressive feat given the technology of the the time and the difficult of laying trans-oceanic cable with simple steam ships and analog navigation. Here’s a closeup of the cables laid between Europe and North America:

For more information about the map and the Eastern Telegraph Company hit up the link below or visit the Wikipedia entry on the history of the telegraph for your vintage communications fix.

Eastern Telegraph Company [via BoingBoing]

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 06/15/11
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