Please visit : The French Cable Station Museum website
We have been working on a database with a record - including photographs - of every artifact in the Museum collection. When complete, it will include all instruments, parts, documents and historical photographs. It is a work in progress and will be updated as time goes on. You can see the online version of the database here.
A personal introduction to The French Cable Station Museum
By David Hartford:
My relationship with The French Cable Station Museum is probably similar to many others living, working, or visiting on the Lower Cape. As a business owner in Orleans for over 22 years, I must have driven past it thousands of times, never taking the time to stop in and have a look. It was only a couple of years ago that I actually set foot inside. The reason I finally did so was to pick up my teenage daughter on the last day of her duty that summer as a greeter at the Museum. Just for fun, and mostly to see her in a capacity I’d never witnessed before, I asked her to give me a quick tour. She did a great job, and I was hooked! Now, as my family has become more involved with the Museum I ask people, “Have you ever been there?” More often than not the reply is, “No”. This simply should not be, and here is why:
Walk through the front door and you’ll suddenly, almost startingly, be taken back to a place in history that holds so much importance to our nation (and to France as well). It is a visceral experience, entering a time capsule into the early beginnings of modern communication technology beginning in the 1890s. All the intricate equipment in front of one’s eyes is the real stuff of what was not so long ago the “state of the art”. Even without understanding anything about the technology, it is obvious that the building and its contents are a testament to the incredible imagination and dedication of the innovators, engineers and operators who served there until 1959 when it was taken out of operation. We’ve come a long way from dots and dashes, but it was the work and innovation by those who occupied these rooms that helped set the fast pace toward the technology of today.
Hidden within the musty old file cabinets there are bits and pieces of the stories of the people from France, Canada, and the US who lived and worked in the station before, during, and after both WWI and WWII. They describe the events of the day and give a real sense of the dedication and hardships of many of the people affiliated with the station. Their work was extremely tedious and their performance was carefully monitored, with penalties for mistakes. There are hand written technical documents and instructions, electrical schematic drawings scrawled on fragile 100 year old paper, letters in English and French, some marked “secret” and “restricted”, there is even a letter from an FBI agent to the superintendent of the station at the outbreak of WWII warning staff to be on the lookout for potential spies. The US Army shut down the station in 1940 when the Germans took control of the French end of the cable, and most of the hardware was removed and shipped to NY until after the war. An interesting footnote is the fact that unbeknownst to the US or French, the English “borrowed” the cable in 1941, re-routing the Orleans end, hoping to create a direct link from the Canadian Maritimes to England. They were unable to “borrow” the French end due to German submarines patrolling the French coast. This came to light when the captains of two cable laying ships (English and French) had a conversation in 1949.
The equipment inside the various rooms is beautifully hand crafted from brass, wood and copper. Some instruments are extremely rare, and in remarkably good condition considering the climate and proximity to the sea. It is said to be mostly as it was during the operation of the station. Spare parts are strewn about, some labeled in both languages, tools still in their drawers. The desk, clock, electric fan, and telephone in the Superintendent's office are all original and sitting where they might have always been. Electrician (later Superintendent) Orlando Snow’s pipe is still on top of a bench in the repair room where he left it in prior to his death in 1950.
Our goal is to increase awareness of this hidden treasure, transforming it into a source of pride and action. The French Cable Station Museum is a “must see” destination for the local population and visitors to the Cape from all over the world. It is truly a national treasure worthy of preservation.