World History 1857

About the history of the world in 1857, the first passenger elevator is installed, the Sepoy mutiny occurs, the Great Eastern ocean liner sets sail.

TWO CENTURIES OF WORLD HISTORY: 1778-1978

1857

* The Mexican War of the Reform began, splitting the country between the conservative government in Mexico City and Benito Juarez's liberal government in Veracruz. The U.S. recognized the Juarez government.

Mar. 23 Elisha Graves Otis installed the first passenger elevator. Haughwout and Co., a New York department store, paid Otis $300.

May 10 The Sepoy Mutiny began when native sepoy troops rioted in a brothel in Meerut near Calcutta, India.

Nov. 3 Speeches and celebrations marked the launching of the Great Eastern, the prototype of the modern ocean liner. But the world's largest ship proved to be jammed on the ways, and only after four months of work was it set afloat. What British author Duncan Haws in 1975 called "the most revolutionary single step in shipbuilding" was the brainchild of the English engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, whose father, also an engineer, had attempted to construct a combustion engine employing gunpowder.

Working with the theorem that increasing the length of a ship did not greatly increase the power needed to propel it, Brunel designed a ship five times as large as any then in existence. Brunel, who was known to his contemporaries as the "Little Giant," then sold his idea and constructed the Great Eastern. This ship had modern reinforced bulkheads and a double bottom. Displacing 18,914 tons of water and measuring 692 ft. in length, it was powered by two paddle-wheel engines along its sides, two screw engines at its stern, and six masts, which enabled it to sail at 14 1/2 knots per hour. Previous steamships had required frequent refueling stops, but the Eastern was able to carry enough coal in its holds to travel from England to Ceylon and back without refueling.

Intended for the Asian passenger and cargo trade, the ship's owners used it instead for the shorter Atlantic trade, which resulted in half-filled cargo holds and passenger cabins. A financial failure, it was sold to the Great Eastern Steamship Company, which refitted it as a cable-laying vessel. In July, 1865, Cyrus Field, who had failed with the first transatlantic telegraph cable (see 1858), loaded 2,500 mi. of cable into the Eastern. The expedition failed, however, when the cable broke only 660 mi. away from Newfoundland. The next year the Eastern, with the persistent Field in charge, laid the first permanently successful transatlantic cable.

In 1867 the Great Eastern steamed from Liverpool to New York to attract visitors to the Universal Exposition in Paris. One passenger, Jules Verne, was so captivated by the magnificent ocean liner that he wrote the book The Floating City.

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