THE SOCIETY OF WIRELESS PIONEERS ARCHIVES
Old-time Sparks O.R. Anderson (47-SGP) and Charlie Maas (580-P)
Leo J. Meyberg sold radio parts and broadcast from the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco with a whopping 10-Watt signal back around 1921. Archivist Bart Lee tells his story complete with photos and parts catalog right here.
In 1920 radio engineer Robert Gowen, who worked for Lee DeForest, set new distance records for radio telephony from station 2XX in Ossining, New York. Read how DeForest compared this with Marconi accomplishments in his letter to New York newspapers on “An American Invention Which Marconi is Using” from the files of the Ossining Historical Society Museum.
Bernard Linden was among the earliest radio amateurs and professionals on the West Coast, with a station in Oakland in 1909 and a radio store on Market Street in SF. He received his Certificate of Skill in 1912, was appointed head of the Sixth Radio district, and nearly became the president of the Federal Radio Commission. Read his historical document ON THE PACIFIC COAST, view his photo with other District 6 “radio police,” and discover the story of his life as given in his member application.
A mutiny, a knife fight, firing at whales, radio operators lined up and shot, a junkie ship officer in need of a fix… Gordon Pascoe, 33-P, tells all in this fascinating account of his early adventures.
SoWP member Marlo Abernathy, 1610-P, put together a list of Marconi wireless operators in 1914-5, their ships or shore stations, and where more information can be found.
Need to buy a telegraph key, spark gap, motor, X-ray tube, or model railroad? Want to explore the effect of Fuld currents on the body with a variety of interesting electrodes? This 1915 catalog from VoltAmp of Baltimore is just what the doctor ordered. (You can read more about VoltAmp founder Manes Fuld on this external model railroad website.)
See and hear legendary wireless pioneer Elmo Pickerill discuss his career on land, at sea, and in the air in conversation with AWA co-founder Bruce Kelley in this historic YouTube video. If you’re SoWP afficianado, you’ll find it a treat! And you can find more about Pickerill right here on our site.
Even in 1925 old-timers were bemoaning the modern young “Romeo” ship radio operators who couldn’t be bothered to send and receive messages and who had never been taught how to handle traffic in radio school. Normally we don’t reprint Radio News articles, but this one, The Old Chief Speaks, by Howard Pyle, 50-P, is particularly relevant to SoWP. WARNING – Contains offensive language
What was the first US Navy West Coast radio installation in 1908 like? See and read about it here thanks to our Archivist, Bart Lee.
From winding coils on an oatmeal box in Iowa to intercepting enemy communications in WW II to listening in as part of the CIA, Conan Barger, 2941-P had a long and eventful radio career. Thanks to Archivist Bart Lee, you can read about it here.
More historic photos of the High Power Kuhuku, Hawaii station from 1927 including parts of the Alexanderson alternator, shortwave tube set KIE, KET and JAA. Are they really magnetic amplifier tanks, or moonshine stills?
He promised to blow up a ship anchored off the coast of New Jersey from his safe location in New York, and almost assassinated inventor Thomas Edison. Who was he? An anarchist? A terrorist? No, he was William J Clarke, who experimented with wireless before Marconi and founded USESCO, the first U.S. radio manufacturer. H.L. Chadbourne, 5309-TA tells the story of this long-forgotten figure in American wireless history, with notes by Archivist Bart Lee.
The Marconi wireless set above was state-of-the-art according to the 1915 Year Book of Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony. A copy from SK Paul Nesbit’s collection was recently donated to the Society by his granddaughter. We’ve begun scanning and posting some fascinating articles from this, which you can find here.
He first worked the airwaves in 1906 and managed Marconi station MCY/WCY Cape May, NJ. Read about wireless history by a man who helped pioneer it, William H. Shaw, 371-SGP.
Capt. Hedley Morris, 195-P, preserved some World War I humor in his General Orders for the Mess Line.
Thanks to Doug Crompton WA3DSP for providing scans of negatives that came from the collection of federal radio inspector Edwin W. Lovejoy. Just now we’ve started posting more of his photos of early radio stations, equipment, and people, as well as historic West Coast photos. Check ’em out!
In “Once Upon a Time There was a Seaport” Old-timer Herbert J. Scott, later an EE Professor at UC Berkeley, reminisces on the ships that used to sail into the port of San Francisco. If anyone can identify “Mr. Uno Who” (the person responsible for the demise of SF as a port – we don’t know who) please let us know.
Want to buy a locally produced three dialer? See “Something New In Radio” to view the Coburn Baby Grand, made in San Leandro, California.
West Coast “Sparks” and later electronics magazine writer Howard S. Pyle, SoWP member 50-P, lists his ships, clubs, and service here.
Flying long distances without radio direction finding (RDF) capabilities was a risky undertaking in early aviation. After being injured in just this kind of crash, ex-RCA engineer Hugo Leuteritz came up with the first reliable RDF system that enabled Pan Am to become the first international American carrier and set standards for aerial navigation and safety ever since. Read Bart Lee’s fascinating story about this and the new PBS documentary Across the Pacific here.
Born into poverty in rural 19th century Australia, Ellis Smellie 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”.
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