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Cyrus West Field


Born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Married Mary Stone in 1840. They had seven children. He began a paper business, Cyrus W. Field and Company. He retired after ten years. He organized the New York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph Company about 1854.

He was responsible for laying the Transatlantic Cable. The first cable was laid across the Atlantic in August 1858 but failed to work within a month. A second attempt failed in 1865. The third attempt was successful in 1866. He bought control of the New York Elevated Railway Company and served as president 1877 to 1880. He died in New York City.

Congress honored Field with a gold medal by resolution March 2, 1867, "For his foresight, faith, and persistency, in establishing telegraphic communication, by means of the Atlantic telegraph connecting the old with the new world." The 103 mm mint medal (Julian PE-10) was designed by Joseph Goldsborough Bruff and engraved by William Barber. A modern copy (USM 625) was produced at the reduced size of 3 inches.

The gold medal was issued twice. The first was struck in May 1868. On May 15, 1868, it was received by Secretary of the Treasury McCulloch. It was put in a Treasury Department safe and forgotten. When it could not be found, a second was produced and presented to Field. In 1874 the first medal turned up and it was returned to Philadelphia to be melted. Field asked to have the second medal and was able to purchase it for the gold value, $553.90.

An article published in London in April 1879 expressed an opinion about the Field medal. "Mr. Field's head is flying like a bomb at a considerable height above the ocean, and smoke is issuing from the lower part of the neck where the fuse appears to be located. Below him a terrestrial globe is cut in two halves, like a chain shot, and we have actually the chain connecting them." The article called this "the funniest of the funny medals."

bio: ApCAB; DAB; Drake; EAB; Loubat; NCAB 6; TCBDA; WAB; WWWA-H

Source credit: Pete Smith, American Numismatic Biographies


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