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The French Dispatch

From the outside, the old French Cable Station in Orleans could be one of any old homes or buildings in the area. Driving past few might guess that inside, on a spring day in 1927, news arrived that Charles Lindbergh had safely completed a historical first–flying solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

A typewriter-like device that creates a paper tape with a message in Morse Code. Tape is then read and transmitted as telegram.
Photo provided by the French Cable Station

“A young boy working here overheard,” recounts Joe Manas, the station-turned-museum’s president. “He ran to the local baseball field to tell everyone. He was so excited. He forgot to send the message to the rest of the U.S.”

Manas chuckles as he tells the story. It’s one of many he shares during tours of the museum. Visitors come from all over the country and world to see the museum and hear about its history as both a station and now a historic landmark. This year marks the 50th anniversary the station has been a museum.

The building served as a cable station from 1891 until 1959, receiving messages from Europe through telegram cables from France, spreading those messages to the rest of the U.S. During WWI, General Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, used the station to contact the U.S. government while he was working with European allies to defeat the Central Powers. The cable proved a mighty advantage to the Allies, so much so that in 1918, the Germans tried to damage the cable by sinking four barges off the coast of Orleans. They were unsuccessful, but the mere idea points to the cable station’s huge impact on wartime communication. Still today, cable is considered one of the safest ways to communicate sensitive information because it is impervious to hacking. 

The new hot technology of communicating with cables first came to this country in 1844. The first, stretching from Baltimore to Washington D.C. in 1844, 40…

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