The Pacific Cable Company
The first Euro-American voyage to Midway that we know about was made by Captain N.C. Brooks, who sailed to Midway from Honolulu in 1859 on a sealing and exploring voyage. Congress named the atoll “Midway Islands” in 1869 and began using it for transpacific trade.
In 1899, President McKinley proposed building a telegraph cable across the Pacific to enhance trade in the Pacific Rim. After a flurry of congressional debate and intense competition between telegraph companies, the Commercial Pacific Cable Company (CPCC) was awarded the contract. They were authorized to lay and operate a submarine telegraph cable from California to the Philippine Islands by way of the Hawaiian Islands.
The CPCC staff arrived on the atoll in 1903, after the permanent buildings were completed. They had plumbing for water and got their electricity from an acetylene generator. They also had an ice-making plant, a cold storage house, and a windmill.
The small colony had to be almost entirely self-sufficient. Supplies were set up to arrive twice a year, but they weren’t reliable: ships carrying supplies were sometimes lost to storms. In spite of the challenges, the company stayed on through the early years of the 20th century.
The submarine telegraph cable was complete and working well for commercial communication by the time the Naval Air Base on Midway was approved by Congress in 1939.
View of the Commercial Pacific Cable Company station on Midway, about 1913.