THE SOCIETY OF WIRELESS PIONEERS ARCHIVES
Ellis Henry Smellie, 2650-SSGP
Born into poverty in rural 19th century Australia, Ellis Smellie (above) learned railroad- and later wireless telegraphy, eventually manning 35 stations Downunder. He reminisces about landline versus wireless Morse code, decrypting a German code and identifying German ship operators by their “fists” in World War I, and his role in no fewer than 6 SOS incidents that ranged from comic to tragic. “An Early Australian Radio Telegrapher Rembembers”
In 1914, the schooner Hanalei wrecked on a reef within sight of the Bolinas Marconi station. Attempts to reach the boat failed as did attempts to shoot a line to the boat as it was smashed to pieces by the relentless waves. Two SoWP members were there, Loren Lovejoy, the ship’s RO, and Haraden Pratt at the Marconi station. Read their exciting accounts here.
Ridiculous hours, outrageous responsibilities, miserable pay, bleak employment outlook. Yet radio schools were churning out graduates with promises of lucrative careers! Editor M.R. Rathburne Jr. (later a target of the House Un-American Activities Committee) urged radiomen to organize in the commercial radioman’s magazine CQ for April 1931.
Before they had radar, US Navy cruisers used onboard biplanes as their eyes in the sky. The aerial radioman had much more to mind than just the radio. Radioman 2nd Class (later Captain) Almon A. Gray, 810-P, pictured above, tells what it was like to catapult off the ship at 100 MPH, the hazardous maneuvers required to get picked up again, and much more in “Radio Operating the Hard Way”
Want to order a new Paragon RA 10? Interested in clearing your traffic through a 5 kW arc station? These ads from the April 1921 issue of “The Radio Telegrapher” are for you.
The DeForest Pioneers included luminaries of communication technologies (Ellery Stone, Lloyd Espenschied, Arthur Lynch) and SoWP members such as E.J. Quinby, Ed Raser, and Dexter Bartlett. See their 25th Anniversary dinner program here.
FREQUENCY CHANGE FOR SoWP Net: Now at 14.044 MHz +/- 1 kHz. Read more about it from Dick Singer/K6KSG, SoWP 662.
Archivist Bart Lee has compiled accounts of the “sparks” days of the late SoWP member Henry J. Poy (2351-SGP), the first Chinese-American radioman in the U.S. Navy. Henry relates his adventures with the Navy in Asia in the aftermath of the devastating 1923 Tokyo earthquake. Wonder what the next big one could feel like here? This might give you some ideas.
CHRS Member John Staples writes about a Wireless Specialty Apparatus (WSA) crystal detector from the early years of the 20th century that was made for the Ship Owners Radio Service and now resides in the CHRS collection. After more than a century, it still works, and John shows the Tektronix curves to prove it!
CHRS Archivist Bart Lee provides some historical perspective on Greenleaf Pickard and his contributions to detector technology, specifically the “cat’s whisker detector” like the WSA one above. How many felines suffered as a result? We’ll never know.
Legendary pioneer Arthur A. Isbell’s scrapbook on engineering the Marconi Station at Juneau, Alaska, including color postcards, is now available here.
As a commentary on Isbell’s story, including the tale of his attempted murder during the Wild West days of San Francisco radio, read “They Tried to Kill Me” by SoWP Archivist and CHRS Fellow Bart Lee.
Read short biographies of important wireless figures from the 1913 Handbook of Wireless Telegraphy & Telephony, published for the Marconi Press Agency. Is it any wonder that Dr. DeForest gets 2 1/2 lines while Marconi has over 4 pages and even Guglielmo’s brother Al gets more coverage than him?
Henry Dickow, 3-SGP walked the waterfront in San Francisco before WW I as Marconi Wireless Inspector, searching ships’ radio shacks for “bootleg” apparatus, illegal crystals, and illegal operators. Read about it here.
Society members were a talented bunch, and often the camera seemed to go along with the radio. Check out some incredible photos by Max Kearns, 1468-SGP of the Alaskan natives he visited on the US Coast Guard Cutter Northland back in 1934.
Why was Lewis Clement, the “Sparks” (radio operator) on the SS Spokane told NOT to send an SOS as the ship began to sink in cold northern waters? Read his letter to Frank Giesel and find out.
Want to know what goes on in a man’s head between the time he hears a bomber pass overhead and seconds (or an eternity) later when the bombs explode? Robert L. Shrader, W6BNB, 157-P explains in relating a nearly forgotten episode in which the Chinese mistakenly bombed the US passenger vessel President Hoover on the Yangtze River in 1936, and a Japanese warship (!) came to their aid. Read his article “SOS on the Yangtze”
Charles L. Austin of Portland Oregon was an early amateur, “sparks”, broadcaster, and radio manufacturer (Norco). We recently stumbled on cache of photos and newsclippings about his pioneering life, which you can read at this link.
Here’s the latest… SoWP member “Spud” Roscoe (VE1BC, 2301-M) has now made his book Maritime Memories available for free download in many electronic formats at this link. We highly recommend this account of maritime radio history, which D.J. Ring, Jr. (N1EA, 3709-M) described as “an excellent read, well written by a master storyteller”.
Hot off the presses: The Joe Hallock Story. Courtesy of the Jack Binns’ Chapter of SOWP. Pioneer operator, engineer, and entrepreneur Hallock, 148-SGP, of Hallock & Watson fame, relates his wireless experiences in Oregon, France, China, and the Seven Seas. Want to know how to raise up the second-largest radio tower in the world using only “gobs” and a bunch of jacks? Or who actually constructed the million watt US Army Lafayette station in France? Read it.
Read more about Joe Hallock here, including many photos and an article by Northwest Vintage Radio Society member Art Redman. Courtesy of Bart Lee and NWVRS.
Ever wonder about the physical properties of the electromagnetic ether? Want to know how the Bull Electromechanical Transmitter worked? A. Frederick Collins summarizes the state of the art for wireless telegraphy in 1905 here.
The butcher, the baker, the image dissector maker? Son of a baker, Bart Molinari, 6AWT, was Chief Engineer at Philo Farnsworth’s San Francisco lab, and an award-winning, innovative early radio amateur. Chief Archivist Bart Lee shares more about his life and times here.
The beautiful North Shore of the Hawaiian island of Oahu played a historical role in the development of the wireless communication between North America and Asia via a Marconi high-power spark station built at Kahuku in 1913-1914, which later became a key site for RCA and operated until 1978. The site is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and buildings are scheduled for restoration. See “then and now” photos of this historic place. (“Now” photos to still to come.)
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Contact Bob Rydzewski or Bart Lee