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By the middle of the 19th century, a network of telegraph poles strung across America had changed the way the country did business. Samuel Morse's invention made possible almost instantaneous communication between cities across the continent. Communicating with Europe was another matter. Messages to London were sent the old-fashioned way, aboard sailing ships that could take weeks to reach their destination. Though the need for a transatlantic cable was obvious, the physical challenges to laying one were enormous. The project would require the production of a 2,000 mile long cable that would have to be laid three miles beneath the Atlantic. Cyrus Field, an energetic, young New York paper manufacturer wasn't deterred. And once he started the endeavor, he wouldn't give up.
It took twelve years of cajoling and massaging investors, several abortive attempts to lay the cable, and millions of wasted dollars before Field and his team of engineers finally succeeded. On July 27, 1866, when the wire was finally in place, Field sent back the first message to Europe: "Thank God," he wrote, "the Cable is Laid." Since that day, almost 140 years ago, nothing has broken his communications link with Europe -- not storms, earthquakes or world wars.