“annihilation of time and space” — Liberty Head (Barber) Silver Ten-Cent Coin

Today, the Liberty Head (Barber) Silver Ten-Cent Coin remembers the electrical exposition in New York and the demonstration of messages sent around the world on May 16, 1896.

From the Pennsylvania School Journal of June 1896:


An Electrical Triumph.

An oration on the “Progress and Future – of Electricity” was delivered by Dr. Chauncey M. Depew to an audience of about 10,000 people, assembled in the hall of the National Electrical Exposition, in New York, Saturday evening, May 16th.

To demonstrate the promptness of modern telegraphic service, a message written by Dr. Depew and addressed to Mr. Edward D. Adams, President of the Cataract General Electric Company, was transmitted over the lines and connections of the Postal Telegraph Cable Company, from New York via Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Canso, to London and back, via Boston to New York.

Col. Albert D. Chandler, President and General Manager of the Postal Telegraph-Cable Company, acted as the sending operator in the north balcony and started the message on its long journey at 8:34 o’clock in the evening.

Mr. Thomas A. Edison, who in his younger days was also a telegraph operator, received the message in the South balcony when it came back, handing a copy in his own beautiful handwriting to Mr. Adams at 8:38 p.m., the time occupied in carrying the message over 15,000 miles of a part of the Postal Cable Company’s overland and cable system being exactly four minutes.

That portion of the circuit between New York and Buffalo was energized with electricity generated by Niagara Falls at the plant of the Cataract General Electric Company.

Mr. Depew’s message and Mr. Adams’ reply were as follows:

“No. 1, MAY 16, 1896.

“To Edward D. Adams, New York, via San Francisco, Vancouver, Montreal, Canso, London, Lisbon, Bombay and Tokio.

“God created, nature treasures, and science utilizes electrical power for the grandeur of nations and the peace of the world. Chauncey M. Depew.

“To Chauncey M. Depew, New York, via Tokio, Bombay, London, Canso, Montreal, Vancouver and San Francisco.

“Mighty Niagara, nature’s wonder, serving man through the world’s electric circuit, proclaims to all peoples science triumphant and the benevolent Creator. Edward D. Adams.”

When the message reached London a copy was handed to the Eastern Telegraph Company, and was forwarded by it over various lines and cables via Lisbon, Gibraltar, Malta, Alexandria, Suez, Aden, Bombay, Madras, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Nagasaki to Tokio, Japan, returning thence via London and reaching the Exposition at 9:24 p. m.

The Western Union Telegraph Company and connections also transmitted a copy of the message from New York through Mexico, down the west coast and up the east coast of South America, thence to Spain and back to New York, the time occupied being twenty-one minutes.

The arrangements for Mr. Depew’s oration and the demonstrations of what is possible in long distance electrical transmission were conceived and carried out by Mr. F. W. Hawley, Vice-President and General Manager of the Cataract General Electric Company, which company furnished the current for the initial circuit.

These demonstrations of the annihilation of time and space by means of modern telegraph facilities are the most extensive that have ever been under taken.

The invention of instruments and construction of the vast system of telegraph lines and cables, which make these remarkable feats possible, have all been the work of scarcely more than fifty years, and a large portion of it of the last dozen years.

No better illustration of the world’s progress during the latter half of the nineteenth century could possibly have been devised.

The very men who handled the message in the hall are older than the science of which they are the masters, and there are many present who remember the occasion of the sending of Morse’s world famous first message—“What hath God wrought!”

He had promised Miss Ellsworth, daughter of the Commissioner of Patents at Washington, that she should have the honor of writing the first dispatch over the line between Washington and Baltimore, and, when all was ready, she gave him these words of the old prophet, more appropriate and forcible now than ever before.


The Liberty Head (Barber) Silver Ten-Cent Coin shows with an image of Chauncey M. Depew, circa 1900.

Liberty Head (Barber) Silver Ten-Cent Coin