Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Guide to the Cyrus W. Field Papers


Collection ID:
Field, Cyrus
1835 - 1897
Collection is in
. Some materials in
Physical Description:
3.5 Cubic feet
11 boxes, 15 oversize folders
The collection documents Cyrus W. Field's efforts to lay the transatlantic cable from Ireland to Newfoundland in 1866. The materials include photographs, correspondence, resolutions, maps, charts, and printed publications about Field and the transatlantic Cable.

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents
The collection contains materials documenting Cyrus W. Field's efforts to lay the Trans-Atlantic cable from Ireland to Newfoundland. The collection consists primarily of correspondence, publications, and maps and charts about the Trans-Atlantic cable.


The collection is arranged into five series.
Series 1: Personal/Biographical Materials, 1854-1896
Series 2: Photographs, 1840, 1865, 1871, 1893
Series 3: Correspondence, 1835-1893
Series 4: Publications, 1854-1893
Series 5: Miscellaneous, 1856-1897

Biographical / Historical

Biographical / Historical
Cyrus Field (1819-1892) was born into a large family in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. At age fifteen an older brother helped him find a job in a New York City dry goods store. In 1840, he became junior partner in a paper company. When the firm failed a year later, he took it as a personal duty to repay all creditors. He then formed his own paper company, which succeeded due to his integrity, salesmanship, and entrepreneurial skills. By 1852, he had amassed a modest fortune and retired. Early in 1854, a contact made by another brother led Field to take over a bankrupt project to build a telegraph line across Newfoundland. Field had a bigger idea: extend the line to Britain.
Field gained fame for organizing the effort to successfully lay an underwater telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to North America. Success in 1866 came after a decade's worth of effort and several earlier failures. To complete the cable Field marshalled financial, political and technical support on both sides of the Atlantic. He helped create companies to undertake the project and found investors willing to gamble on the new technologies involved. He negotiated with the British and American governments for material support in the form of ships and equipment, and for commitments to use the cable when it was finished. He obtained the assistance of leading scientists and engineers. In all this, the entrepreneurial skills and integrity he had demonstrated as a successful businessman, combined with his boundless enthusiasm, stood him in good stead. The resulting cable was the first means of fast transatlantic communication and one of the foundations of today's telecommunications network.
Field married Mary Bryan Stone on December 2, 1840, and they had seven children.


Alison Oswald
Custodial History
Collection transferred to the Archives Center from the Division of Work and Industry, June 2016.
Processing Information
Collection processed by Alison Oswald, archivist, 2016.
Separated Materials
Artifacts related to Cyrus W. Field are in the Division of Work Industry. They include medals, paintings and cable samples. See accessions: EM*007199; EM*007200; EM*007205; EM*007207; EM*007208; EM*007210.01-.04; EM*007211.1; EM*007211.2; EM*007212; and EM*007213.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was loaned by Isabella Field Judson, daughter of Cyrus W. Field, to the United States National Museum in 1897. The loan converted to a gift in 1931.
Custodial History
The collection was transferred to the Archives Center from the Division of Work and Industry in July 2016.

Using the Collection

Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.

Materials at the Archives Center

Materials at the Archives Center
Warshaw Collection of Business Americana (AC0060), Series: Telegraphs
Anglo-American Telegraph Company Records, 1866-1973 (AC0073)
Western Union Telegraph Company Records (AC0205), Series 6: Cyrus W. Field Papers, 1840-1892
Materials consist of drawings and illustrations, specifically the Great Eastern, illustrated magazines, publications, and newspaper clippings.
Materials at Other Organizations
New York Public Library
Cyrus W. Field papers, 1831-1905 (bulk 1880-1890)
11 linear feet (20 boxes)
Collection contains correspondence, legal and financial documents, estate papers, inventories, notes, maps, photographs, and printed materials that document Field's business activities and estate. General correpondence, 1846-1892 (mostly incoming letters), concerns business matters. Business papers, 1858-1891, consist of correspondence and legal and financial documents relating to Field's involvement with various telegraph, railroad, and newspaper companies. Land papers, 1831-1895, pertain to properties in New York State (with information about the Croton Aqueduct), New York City and Massachusetts. Field's estate papers, 1851-1905, include wills, insurance policies, stock, correspondence, legal papers, and claims against Field's estate. Financial papers, 1843-1892, contain account books, accounts, receipts, and cancelled checks. Also, inventories of Field's estate, notes on the Field family, papers regarding Major John AndreĢ monument and James Garfield memorial, maps, photographs, printed matter, and miscellaneous papers.

Archives Center, National Museum of American History
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