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  • Writer's pictureDon Wilding

Charley Paine: Marconi's messenger

On Jan. 18, 1903, Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi made history on the bluff of South Wellfleet when the first wireless radio transmission was made across the Atlantic Ocean.

The 29-year-old Marconi anxiously awaited the response from King Edward VII of England to U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. When the transmission was received, South Wellfleet’s Charley Paine and his horse, “Diamond,” were ready and waiting to deliver the message to the telegraph office at the Wellfleet depot.

“For about four days Charley did nothing else, Diamond standing in harness waiting outside the transmitting building in the center of the four 210-foot masts,” The Cape Codder recalled on the transmission’s 50th anniversary in its Jan. 15, 1953 edition. “The story is that Marconi came running from the station like a mad man waving two envelopes. ‘Go like the wind,’ he is supposed to have yelled at Charlie. ‘Don’t spare your horse. I’ll pay for it.’ Charley is reported to have taken off on two wheels, headed for the Wellfleet station where the message could be sent via telegraph to Washington. And with typical Cape Cod independence he is reported to have slowed to a normal trot once out of sight of Marconi.”

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