World History 1858

About the history of the world in 1858, France begins involvement in Vietnam, St. Bernadette sees things at Lourdes, the first transatlantic telegraph cable is completed.



* A French military expedition occupied Saigon, beginning France's involvement in Vietnam.

Feb. Sir Richard F. Burton and John H. Speke discovered Lake Tanganyika. When Burton became ill, Speke continued on to discover Lake Victoria, where he went hippopotamus hunting with the local king.

Feb. 11-July 16 Bernadette Soubirous (St. Bernadette of Lourdes) saw visions of the Virgin Mary, who introduced herself with "I am the Immaculate Conception." (See "Miracle Sites," Chap. 26.)

Aug. 12 The first transatlantic telegraph cable was completed, but within 27 days the line went dead. Cyrus W. Field, a retired American paper merchant, had dedicated his life and fortune to this project. In 1856 he raised $1 million and laid cable from New York to Newfoundland; then he raised $2 million in England for the cable from Ireland to Canada. During 1857 and the first half of 1858, he met with constant failure, until August, when the cable was finally completed and his company's stock rocketed from $300 to $1,000 a share.

A week after completion, Queen Victoria sent the first telegraph message across the Atlantic: "The Queen desires to congratulate the President upon the successful completion of the great international work, in which the Queen has taken the greatest interest." But the telegraph operators knew something was wrong when it took two hours of repetition to transmit the queen's single sentence. The citizens of New York City, on the other hand, were in a joyous mood. People paraded through the streets with banners and held banquets, and one enthusiast set fire to the city hall.

The transmission worsened until the line was completely silent. It was later discovered that the insulator had rotted away because careless workmen had left the coils of cable in the sun during its manufacture. The undefeatable Cyrus Field raised yet more money and, eight years later, achieved his goal.

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