American Experience (1988– )
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The Great Transatlantic Cable 

The story of Cyrus Field and the creation of the transatlantic telegraph line.


Peter Jones


David Axlerod


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Linda Hunt ... Herself - Narrator (voice)
Daniel Czitrom Daniel Czitrom ... Himself - Historian
Gillian Cookson Gillian Cookson ... Herself - Historian
John Steele Gordon John Steele Gordon ... Himself - Author of "A Thread Across the Ocean"
Bernard Finn Bernard Finn ... Himself - Smithsonian Institute
Donard De Cogan Donard De Cogan ... Himself - Engineer
Colin Hempstead Colin Hempstead ... Himself - Engineer
John Mackay ... Cyrus Field
Michael McColl ... Voice of Cyrus Field (voice)
Alex Allen Alex Allen ... Re-enactor
Jonathan Beedell Jonathan Beedell ... Re-enactor
John Berry John Berry ... Re-enactor
Martyn Bill Martyn Bill ... Re-enactor
Amy Booth Amy Booth ... Re-enactor
Mark Bryan Mark Bryan ... Re-enactor


The story of Cyrus Field and the creation of the transatlantic telegraph line.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

telegraph | reenactment | See All (2) »



Official Sites:

PBS [United States]



Release Date:

11 April 2005 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Green Umbrella Ltd., WGBH See more »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

An amazing feat!
3 May 2012 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

Linda Hunt narrates this installment of "The American Experience". It's all about Cyrus Field and his drive to create a telegraph cable to connect North America with Europe. Considering this means laying a cable on the sea floor from Labrador to Ireland (about 2000 miles), this seems like an insanely impossible task. And, it turns out according to this show it was NOT easy and the task was fraught with problems. All in all, it's one of the more technically interesting shows from the series as even today it's hard to imagine such a difficult task. The show features narration, interviews and quite a few recreations with a guy who actually looked a lot like Field. Well done in all respects, this episode will probably appeal most to scientific types, such as engineers, but I enjoyed it as well for addressing a historical topic seldom mentioned otherwise. Very informative and well made.

By the way, it was never mentioned but I wondered if the original copper cable was able to be used for phone calls or just for telegraphs. I assume just telegraphs but no mention was made of this--but the show did say that several more transatlantic cables were later laid.

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