October 2

The first international phone call.


On December 25 1900 John W. Atkins, was the manager of the Key West office of the International Ocean Telegraph Company. John attempted to use the telegraph wires from Key West to Havana to test if voice will be carried by these wires.

John recalled “For a long time there was no sound, except the roar heard at night sometimes, caused by electric light current,”. After a little while Cuba responded, ” I don’t understand you”

This event was recorded as the first international phone call ever made.

The Key west Cable hut
Cable Hut Key West
The Cable hut historical marker.
The Cable hut historical marker.

This Cable hut is designated has a Key West historical site, you can learn more about Key West history and its historical sites on the website of the Key West historical Marker tour.

Telegraph Cables from Key West to Havana.

On the 27th of June 1867 The times announced the beginning of the expedition to connect Cuba to Key West via a telegraphic cable:

The steamship Narva, chartered by the India-rubber Gutta-percha and Telegraph Works Company (Limited), leaves Greenhithe tomorrow for Havana, having on board 240 miles of submarine telegraph cable to be laid between Havana and Key West (Florida), and between Key West and Cape Romano (Coast of Florida), thereby placing the island of Cuba in telegraphic communication with England and the continent of Europe. 

Aboard the SS Nava a young engineer named John Philip Edwin Crookes (1846-1867). John was involved in the in the cable industry since he was 17 years old. Mr. Crookes wrote a series of letters during his trip to Cuba laying the telegraphic cable aboard the SS Narva. He died from yellow fever on this expedition.

This cable made from natural materials was a technological marvel of its time. Made of copper, tar, hemp, galvanized iron, jute and a special insulation harvested in Malaysia. The cable was made by the India-Rubber and Gutta Percha Telegraph Company of London.

 The Narva is located in the center of the drawing. The drawing appeared in the September 7, 1867 issue of Harper’s Weekly and was sketched by Dr. J. B. Holder

More on this interesting history of the telegraphic cable linking Key West and Cuba can be found here.

See Also: How to Call Cuba


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