• Atlantic Ocean beach at Cape Cod National Seashore

    Cape Cod

    National Seashore Massachusetts

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    Sections of the boardwalk at the Red Maple Swamp Trail have been closed due to structural deterioration and safety concerns. Check at Salt Pond Visitor Center for the current status of this trail, and for your safety, remain out of closed areas.

French Transatlantic Cable

In the 1870's, several communication corporations were formed as speculative ventures. One such organization, the Compagnie Francaise du Telegraphe de Paris a New York, began in 1879 with the objective of laying a transatlantic cable. In Great Britain, the company was known as the P.Q. Company after its president, Monsieur Pouyer-Quertier. Shortly after its inception, the corporation settled on a route from Brest, France, to the island of St. Pierre in the Miquelon Island group and then to Cape Cod. Using a cable built in England by the Siemens Brothers and an American ship, the U.S.S. Faraday, the cable was laid in four months. It stretched 2,242 nautical miles across the Atlantic to St. Pierre and 827 nautical miles from there to Cape Cod.

At the North Eastham terminal on Cape Cod, the company constructed a large building that served as a cable station. Here the messages were received in international code and, in turn, transmitted via an overland telegraph line to New York. The station had offices, quarters for the staff, and space for social gatherings. Because the cable arrived approximately two weeks before the structure was completed, office space was provided during that period in the basement of the Nauset Light Beach lighthouse keeper's dwelling. When the station was completed, the cable was transferred from the dwelling to the station.

The married workers built homes near the cable station at Nauset Light Beach. These men, however, subsequently complained that the isolated location created a hardship on them and their families. The school that their children attended, churches, and stores were far from their homes.

Building the Cable Hut
Because of the workers' plight, the cable company decided to center its Cape Cod operation in Orleans, Massachusetts, and opened a new station house in March 1891. A cable from the old station at Nauset was laid across Nauset Marsh to the foot of Town Cove at Orleans and then to the new cable station house. Maintaining the large, old station merely as a connection point proved too costly, and, as a result, the Nauset station house was sold in 1893 to A. W. Reed. At the same time, a small hut that measured about ten by fifteen feet was constructed near the old station as a connecting point for the cable. That hut currently forms part of the structure known as the French Cable Hut. It was common practice to erect cable huts if the station house were set a distance back from the shore.

When the hut was constructed, it had shingle siding on the exterior and cedar shingles on the roof. The inside was not finished, with the studs visible. It was devoid of furniture. Only a connection box, fixed to the corner of the southwest wall above where the cable entered the structure, occupied the room.

The French Cable Company operated the cable until France surrendered to Germany in June 1940 during World War II. While that war continued and for several years thereafter, the cable hut stood vacant. In the spring of 1949, Alice Snow's husband, who worked for the company, went to the cable hut and found it padlocked. After making an inquiry, he found that the hut had been sold to Dorothy LePage in 1946 for nonpayment of property taxes, even though the cable company had never been notified of such action.
Undersea Communications in General
More than six hundred cables have been laid around the world. Between 1857 and 1928, 28 telegraph cables were placed across the North Atlantic between Europe and North America. After 1928, those cables which connected Europe and North America were designed for telephone use. The early cables ran between Great Britain and Newfoundland or Nova Scotia connecting overland to New York with two exceptions. An 1869 cable laid by the French Atlantic Telegraph Company connected Brest, France to Canada via St. Pierre Island and the Compagnie Francaise du Telegraphe de Paris a New York's 1879 cable connected Brest, France, to Cape Cod via St. Pierre Island. This was the first submarine cable to connect the United States to Europe. In 1897-98, the French Cable Company (Compagnie Francaise due Telegraphe de Paris a New York) laid the first cable directly between the United States and Europe. It ran 3,173 nautical miles from Brest, France, to Cape Cod. This second cable to Cape Cod did not pass through the cable hut. It went directly to the Orleans station. In 1899, a submarine cable was laid between the Orleans station and New York.

The 28 submarine cables laid between North America and Europe from 1857 to 1928 are listed below.

1857 - Atlantic Telegraph Company
1858 - Atlantic Telegraph Company
1865 - Atlantic Telegraph Company
1866 - Anglo-American Telegraph Company (England to Hearts Content, Newfoundland)
1869 - French Atlantic Telegraph Company (Brest, France to Canada via St. Pierre Island)
1873 - Anglo-American Telegraph Company
1874 - Anglo-American Telegraph Company
1874 - Direct United States Telegraph Company
1879 - Compagnie Francaise du Telegraphe de Paris a New York
1880 - Anglo-American Telegraph Company (renewal of the 1866 cable)
1881 - American Telegraph and Cable Company (Cornwall, England to Canso, Nova Scotia. Connected from Nova Scotia to New York in 1889)
1882 - American Telegraph and Cable Company (same route as its 1881 line)
1883 - Commercial Cable Company (LaHavre, France to New York via England, Ireland, and Dover Bay, Nova Scotia)
1884 - Commercial Cable Company (same route as its 1883 line)
1894 - Commercial Cable Company (same route as its two previous lines)
1894 - Anglo-American Telegraph Company
1897-1898 - Compagnie Francaise du Telegraphe de Paris a New York (First direct cable from Brest, France to the United States)
1900 - German Atlantic Telegraph Company (Europe to New York via the Azores)
1900 - Commercial Cable Company
1901 - Commercial Cable Company
1903-1904 - German Atlantic Telegraph Company
1905 - Commercial Cable Company
1910 - Anglo-American Telegraph Company
1923 - Commercial Cable Company (Europe to New York via the Azores)
1924 - Western Union (Europe to New York via the Azores)
1926 - Western Union (same route as 1924 cable)
1926 - German Atlantic Telegraph Company
1928 - Western Union (New York to Europe via Newfoundland and the Azores)

Did You Know?

The Province Lands, Provincetown, MA

The Province Lands area of the Cape Cod National Seashore in Provincetown is also known as the second-oldest “common lands” in the nation, second only to Boston Common. It was put aside in the 1600s by Plymouth Colony as a fisheries reserve.