The Eastern Arctic Seas Encyclopedia

2016 Edition
| Editors: Igor S. Zonn, Andrey G. Kostianoy, Aleksandr V. Semenov

Collins Russian-American Telegraph Line (Collins Overland Line)

Reference work entry

Collins Russian-American Telegraph Line (Collins Overland Line) – the project of laying a telegraph link between the eastern and western hemispheres across the Bering Strait. The project was the development of the telegraph proposals put forward by an American businessman and politician L.M. Collins and provided for enhancing the trade links between the American states of California, Oregon and Washington, and Russian Siberia. Collins offers were supported by US President Franklin Pierce and Secretary of State William Marcy. The Russian government supported the proposal for the construction of Collins Russian-American telegraph line that would link the telegraph systems of both hemispheres across the Bering Strait. The idea by Collins found support not only in Russia and the USA but also in Europe, which faced with serious difficulties in trying to pave the intercontinental telegraph cable across the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. In Russia, the project and the future estimated cost for laying a telegraph line across the Bering Strait were prepared, and in the autumn of 1861, the construction of the line from Nikolaevsk-on-Amur began with the expectation that in 1864 it would reach Khabarovsk and in 1865 it had to be completed in one of the southern ports on the Sea of Japan.

The construction of the telegraph line was also started in the USA from a starting point in San Francisco. In the autumn of 1864, negotiations on the construction of the telegraph across the Bering Strait continued in St. Petersburg with the participation of L. Collins and President of the American Telegraph Company “Western Union” (Western Union Telegraph Company) H. Sibley, where the question of a possible sale of Russian America to the USA was raised. The telegraph construction was considered both in the USA and in Russia as a “great enterprise.” However, in February 1867 in St. Petersburg, it was reported on the termination of work by Americans due to the successful resolution of technical difficulties related to the transatlantic cable laying from Europe to America across the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Despite numerous Russia’s protests, the project participants from the USA were firm: a telegraph line across the Atlantic was much cheaper than communications over the Bering Strait.

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