HMS Agamemnon and friends

As part of my recent work on the BPMA lantern slide collection, I have been looking further into some of the slides to help make an informed decision as to whether they should be formally accepted into the collections.

In many cases, it is possible to draw on the knowledge and expertise of my colleagues to provide a starting point, in addition to our online catalogue or Archive holdings. In others, additional expertise is required, such as in the case of several lantern slides of ships. Although lovely images in themselves, it was difficult to determine the slides’ relevance to the collection without any further information to go on, so I approached the National Maritime Museum (NMM) for help with identification.

HMS Agamemnon shown embarking on the English portion of the Atlantic telegraph cable (2012-0172/01)

HMS Agamemnon shown embarking on the English portion of the Atlantic telegraph cable (2012-0172/01)

The curatorial staff at the NMM were very helpful, providing several identifications of vessels and other points of interest. For example, HMS Agamemnon (shown above) was involved in the first attempt by the Atlantic Telegraph Company to lay a transatlantic telegraph cable in 1857. The initial attempt failed, but HMS Agamemnon and its counterpart, USS Niagara were successful in laying the cable the following year. One of the slides shows the two ships embarking cable, in an image that originally appeared in the Illustrated London News in May 1858.

USS Niagra, which participated with HMS Agamemnon in the 1857 and 1858 attempts to lay the Atlantic telegraph cable (2012-0172/02)

USS Niagra, which participated with HMS Agamemnon in the 1857 and 1858 attempts to lay the Atlantic telegraph cable (2012-0172/02)

The positive identification of several of these ships and their involvement in the laying of early telegraph cables has meant that our curators have been able to make an informed decision about the slides’ place within our collections. The slides – along with many others – have now been catalogued and scanned and will be appearing in our online catalogue soon, so do keep an eye open for them!

Sarah Jenkins – Assistant Cataloguer

Visit our Flickr site to see a selection of lantern slides showing transatlantic cable ships.

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