Commercial Pacific Cable Company
Commercial Pacific Cable Company was founded in 1901, and ceased operations in October, 1951. It provided the first direct telegraph route from America to the Philippines, China, and Japan.
The company was established as a joint venture of three companies: the Commercial Cable Company (25%), the Great Northern Telegraph Company (25%), and the Eastern Telegraph Company (50%). Though the Eastern (a British firm) was the majority shareholder, the CPCC was registered in the United States.
The company used cable ships to lay its undersea cable across the Pacific Ocean from America's west coast. The cables extended a length of 6,912 miles and the project cost approximately $12 million. Before this, messages had to travel across the Atlantic to the Far East via Cape Town and the Indian Ocean, or via London to Russia, then across the Russian landline to Vladivostok, then by submarine cable to Japan and the Philippines.
The first section of cable was laid in 1902 by the cableship Silvertown from Ocean Beach, adjacent to the famous Cliff House in San Francisco to Honolulu. It began operating on January 1, 1903. Later that year, cables were laid from Honolulu to Midway, then from Midway to Guam, and then from Guam to Manila. The cables carried the first message to ever travel around the globe from U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt on July 4, 1903. He wished "a happy Independence Day to the U.S., its territories and properties . . ." It took nine minutes for the message to travel worldwide.
During World War I the transpacific service slowed significantly from repeated faults and the general increase in war-related traffic. Despite repeated requests by U.S. businesses and the federal government, the company would not invest in improvements to increase traffic volume or speed. After the war conditions eased, but demand continued to be high and the company made repeated promises to invest in a second cable, but never did so. When World War Two broke out, the cable connection from Midway to the Philippines closed quickly after 7 December 1941, and did not reopen until the war was over.
By 1946, the cables were developing serious faults. Over one million dollars was spent on repairs, but the company was unable to maintain a viable service and stopped operating in 1951. It merged with American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Commercial Pacific Cable Company.|
- The Commercial Pacific Cable Company
- The Commercial Pacific Cable Company on Midway
- 1905 Magazine Article with photos
- Winkler, Jonathan Reed. Nexus: Strategic Communications and American Security in World War I (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008).