Gibson Girl Survival Radio – Archivist Bart Lee tells the story of the “Gibson Girl” emergency transmitter used in World War II, its history, description (with photos) and schematic
Sketch Books of D.H. Moore Vol 1 – The late D.H. Moore wrote the unique multivolume “Vintage Radio Identification Sketch-Books”. His first volume, which you can read here, covers long-forgotten figures and topics in 1920s radio and is truly one of a kind. Note: opinions expressed therein are solely those of author Moore and not those of CHRS or its members.
A New Self-Destruct Device – Archivist Bart Lee managed to find an actual self-destruct button used in WWII to prevent IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) gear from falling into enemy hands! Don’t you just want to press it?
Wootzie the Cat – Ship mascot Wootzie decided to tangle with a transmitter power supply. Ero Erickson, 21-P, sends this account, possibly from the Chicago Tribune.
S.S. America Radio Installation – In 1940 the S.S. America was the biggest and fastest passenger liner that the U.S. had ever built. Wonder what its radio installation was like? Complete with photos and description of the gear.
Dickow KHK – How Henry Dickow took charge of station KHK in Hawaii, and the tragic demise of one of its best operators.
Earhart Search – In July 1937, Greef Beckham 2614-P went searching for Amelia Earhart in a plane launched from the U.S.S. Colorado. Read his firsthand account.
Amelia Earhart’s Loop Antenna – Archivist Bart Lee describes the RDF loop aboard Amelia Earhart’s ill-fated Lockheed Electra, complete with photos.
Amelia Earhart’s Loop Antenna CODA – In Part 2, Bart shows photos and describes the receiver attached to the RDF loop.
Maddams Letter – From pounding out the letter “S” from the Marconi Poldhu station to wireless work at PH in San Francisco and HU in Hawaii, Sidney Maddams was one of the EARLIEST of wireless operators. He tells his fascinating story in this rare document, written at the request of Haraden Pratt.
Derksen Distress Story – Mutiny, mayhem, and arson on the high seas. Brian Derksen, 4603-M, has seen it all and tells about it here.
Alaska Bootleggers – Unlicensed “bootleg” stations once sent out spark signals throughout Alaska, some of which saved lives. What to do when ordered to shut them down?
WE 75th Anniversary Book – A rarely seen 50-page history of Western Electric prepared by the company in 1944 tells their story from the days of Elisha Gray down to WW II, with many photos. We’re happy to share this copy with you.
DeNeuf NORGE Story – Noted radioman, SoWP officer and prolific author Don de Neuf, 117-SGP tells the story of the NORGE, a hydrogen-filled dirigible that flew over the North Pole in 1926. Complete with a photo of its landing in Alaska.
Japanese VLF in the Pearl Harbor attack – The Imperial Japanese Navy used VLF to communicate with their strike force approaching Pearl Harbor in 1941. CHRS Archivist Bart Lee gives details, with color photos of the Telefunken alternators they used, which still exist!
Philippines Wireless – Who was the first amateur radio operator in the Philippines? Who loaded up the roof of General MacArthur’s Manila hotel with 2 kV worth of lead-acid batteries? Who was arrested as a spy and then sent to see the Pope? Henry Dickow chronicles the remarkable life of Fred Johnson Elser.
Alexanderson Alternator 2 – Some original Alexanderson alternators were used well into the 1950s, including one in occupied Poland the Nazis used to communicate with their U-boats. Thorn Mays, TA-1, explains.
South of the Border – When Pancho Villa had Mexican radio operators lined up and shot a call went out for replacements. Gordon Pascoe, 33-P, volunteered and ended up dodging a few bullets himself
Echoes of Prohibition – What was life like for a US Coast Guard radioman chasing rum runners during prohibition? RDF, codebreaking, and speakeasies? Hubert Allen, 578-P explains.
Rodent Revels – Could the senior pest exterminator from the Pied Piper’s town of Hamelin, Germany be key to ridding this British ship of rats? Find out in this tale of ingenuity and ecosystems by John Sykes, 2431-SGP
Radio Rex – What was your most embarrasing moment? Whatever it was “Radio Rex” aka Gilson V. Willets 22-SGP has got you beat. Read about this and much more in his colorful career.
Saving Lives at Sea in World War One IP-501 – The Wireless Specialty Apparatus IP-501 was a classic set used at naval station NDB to monitor for distress messages in the Atlantic in WW I. See the set now in the collection of CHRS and read about Lt. Fabbri and Station NDB in this article by Archivist Bart Lee.
Giese Arc – Wilmer Giese, 1569-P tells us more about arc transmitter operation, complete with some beautiful hand drawn diagrams.
Austin Autobiography – Recently discovered autobiography of Portland radio pioneer Charles Austin to 1928.
Monumental Fraud Take 2 – United Wireless was accused of committing MONUMENTAL FRAUD. But did the accuser do the same? Check out this interesting episode of old time wireless stock jobbing.
US Navy Invades Russian Siberia – Breaking News (in 1918)! US invades Siberia and Navy sets up NPH to aid American Expeditionary Force. Bart Lee reminds us of this long forgotten episode of military communications history.
Franklin Science 1902 – Preeminent scientists once predicted that wireless could never compete with cable communications. Guess Marconi should have given up?
Mateo Arc Article – Louis Mateo, 878-V tells you how to start up that arc converter and explains the different keying systems. Complete with rare photos of a Federal 2 kW arc converter.
Interference Machines – Which wireless company built special “interference machines” and ordered operators to use them so the competition couldn’t get a single message through? And what happened when they intentionally interfered with an SOS?
Extract from Jensen’s The Great Voice – Unscrupulous stock jobbers gave early wireless companies a bad name. But did they also do some good? See what Peter Jensen, co-founder of Magnavox, thought in this short extract from his book “The Great Voice”.
The Smugglers – Everything from alcohol to opium have been hidden in ship radio rooms, and one well-known SoWP member was even arrested in San Francisco for the latter before the real culprit was caught. Read Henry Dickow’s account here.
Breniman obit – In 2001 the founder and driving force behind the Society of Wireless Pioneers, Bill Breniman, passed away at the age of 100. His obituary gives a capsule summary of his life and times.
The Loner – A titanic vessel strikes an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sinks, with the loss of more than 1000 lives. The only wireless operator on the rescue ship works tirelessly through nights and days to keep the survivor list and vital information flowing but is rewarded only with criticism and demotion. Fiction by Ray Green. Or is it?
Who’s Who in Radio – You know Armstrong and Conrad, DeForest and Pupin, Sarnoff and Tesla and Kolster and Fessenden. But do you recall the other 1920s radiomen who enthrall? Alexanderson, Batsel, Bucher, Bullard, Chaffee, Clark, Cohen, Cummings, De Sousa, Dubilier, Eaton, Espenschied, Goldsmith, Hammond, Hanson, Hazeltine, Heising, Hogan, Hooper, Hull, Jones, Krumm, Langmuir, Miller, Nally, Payne, Pickard, Russell, Rypinski, Sadenwater, Squire, Stein, Stone, Taylor, Taylor, Taylor, Van Dyke, Weagant, and White. From The Complete Radio Book by Francis Yates & Louis Pacent, 1922.
The Boy’s Book of Inventions – In 1903, long before Ray Stannard Baker became President Woodrow Wilson’s press secretary he wrote stories of “the wonders of modern science” in The Boy’s Book of Inventions. We’ve included his chapter “Telegraphing Without Wires” which describes the exciting experiments of young Guglielmo Marconi in crossing the English Channel via ether waves (his signal, at least…)
Wireless Fiends – Seiler Electric – Who was Paul Seiler and why did he look for “Wireless Fiends” in San Francisco circa 1909? Archivist Bart Lee provides a fascinating glimpse int Seiler’s business, which included everything from quake (seismographs) to quack (medical devices).
Old Russian Radio – A QSL card from Siberia? In Esperanto? No, we’re not making this up. Archivist Bart Lee highlights some interesting old Russian radio ephemera with illustrations.
Fessenden Smithsonian Report 1908 – Reginald Fessenden summarized the history and state-of-the-art of wireless telephony for the Smithsonian Institution in 1908. Well written and illustrated, it’s probably the best single article explaining the incredible ingenuity that went into radio transmission, reception, and amplification before the advent of the triode.
McCarty Earthquake – Are earthquakes caused by disturbances in the Earth’s electrical field? This old, anonymous document notes that 17-year-old wireless genius Francis J. McCarty was working on this theory before his untimely death in 1906.
Pratt Reminiscences – As a boy, Haraden Pratt listened for wireless signals from Major Squiers’ tree wireless experiments. As a man, he advised Presidents Truman and Eisenhower. His “Sixty Years of Wireless and Radio Reminiscences” presented here is a unique, first person account of West Coast wireless history from the age of spark to the age of computers.
King Article on Houskeeper Tubes – How W.G. Houskeeper’s search at Bell Labs for cheaper little light bulbs led to the evolution of monster 100 kW, water-cooled vacuum tubes. From Pacific Telephone Magazine for November 1922, donated by Archivist Bart Lee.
Pacific-Radio-Vol-1-2 feb 1917 – Pacific Radio News for February 1917. Courtesy of worldradiohistory.com.
X-Ray Radios – Archivist Bart Lee shows just what went into these fantastic early 20th century sets. You’ll marvel at the intricate wiring and beautiful design.
Alexanderson Alternator Rediscovered – Alexanderson alternators, once anticipated to be the preferred method of long distance radio communications, are now rare as hens’ teeth. A small one, however, exists in the collection of the Antique Wireless Association, and it was meant to be used for a surprising purpose. Archivist Bart Lee tells the story, with photos and original documentation.
Leo J Meyberg – In the early 1920s the Leo J. Meyberg Co. sold radio parts and broadcast from experimental station 6XG at the Fairmont Hotel in SF with a whopping 10 watts. Archivist Bart Lee documents the history of this pioneering shop, complete with photos and a catalog.
The Old Chief Speaks RN V5N7 Jan 1925 – 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 ignorant and offensive language
Navy Radio 1908 Dunklee – Floyd E. Dunklee, USN, documents the early days of Navy wireless on the West Coast. And when we say “early” we’re talking experiments with kites! Historical document preserved thanks to our Archivist, Bart Lee.
Barger Radio History with Lee Notes – From winding coils on an oatmeal box in Iowa to intercepting enemy communications during WW II to listening in as part of the CIA, Conan Barger, 2941-P, had a long and eventful career in radio. Thanks to the efforts of Archivist Bart Lee, you can read about it here.
WILLIAM J. CLARKE AND THE FIRST AMERICAN RADIO COMPANY – 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.
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) please let us know.
The Radios of Pan American Airways – 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 about it and the new PBS documentary Across the Pacific here.
The Lovejoy Hanalei Saga – In 1914 the Hanalei wrecked on a reef within sight of the Marconi Bolinas station. Multiple rescue attempts failed and 23 people died. Read how SoWP member Loren Lovejoy, the ship’s RO, helped save many more as told by Lovejoy himself as well as Haraden Pratt, who watched from shore.
Henry J Poy Story – 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.
Wireless_Specialty_Crystal_Detector – CHRS Member John Staples writes about a Wire 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!
Lee re Staples re Silicon detector – 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.
They Tried to Kill Me – A fascinating pictorial history of the wild and wooly early days of radio communications in San Francisco, including an attempt on the life of Arthur A. Isbell as presented at Pacificon 2011 by SoWP Archivist and CHRS Fellow Bart Lee, K6VK.
1913 Wireless T&T Biographical Notices – Short bios of wireless pioneers of the time from a book published for the Marconi Press Agency. Is it at all surprising that Dr. DeForest rates 2 1/2 lines while even Guglielmo’s brother Al gets 4?
I Walk the Waterfront – Before WW I, Henry Dickow, 3-SGP, walked the length of the San Francisco waterfront armed with a ring of keys and a jug of distilled water as Marconi Wireless Inspector. Read about his adventures here.
SOS on the Yangtze – Bob Shrader, W6BNB, 157-P tells the story of a forgotten incident in which he (the ‘Sparks’) and the US passenger ship President Hoover were mistakenly bombed by the Chinese in 1936, and later were protected by a Japanese warship! Yes, it really happened. From Sparks Journal for Summer, 1977.
Archivist’s Comment on the Joe Hallock story – CHRS Archivist Bart Lee’s commentary on the Joe Hallock story, our August 2019 feature, which includes a great article on Hallock & Watson by NWVRS member Art Redman.
Collins Wireless Telegraphy 1905 – A. Frederick Collins summarizes the state of the art in 1905. Physical properties of the electromagnetic ether, theories of propagation, rare photos, schematics, and explanation of the following systems: Marconi, Lodge Syntonic, Slaby-Arco, Braun-Siemens, Fessenden, DeForest, Branley-Popp, Lodge-Muirhead, even the Bull electromechanical system!
Massie and Underhill, Wireless Popularly Explained – One of the earliest (1909) guides to wireless for the non-scientist, written by an author who founded his own wireless company (Massie) and the man who taught young Edwin Howard Armstrong radio (Underhill). See the last chapter by Nikola Tesla, who predicts his Long Island station will provide a sort of worldwide GPS system, among other things…
Farnsworth by Dickow – Henry Dickow’s account of the life and career of Philo T. Farnsworth, one of the inventors of television, from Tales of the Wireless Pioneers
Bart Molinari by Bart Lee – Bartholomew Molinari, 6AWT, was Chief Engineer at Farnsworth’s San Francisco laboratories and early radio amateur par excellence. Another Bart, our Chief Archivist Bart Lee, shares more about his life and contributions to communications here.
Nikola Tesla’s The Transmission of Electric Energy Without Wires – Could his system “send telegraphic messages to any distance without wires… impress upon the entire globe the faint modulations of the human voice,” and “transmit power, in unlimited amounts, to any terrestrial distance and almost without any loss”?
United Wireless Brief History – Wireless historian Thorn Mayes summarized the history of United Wireless for an Antique Wireless Association publication. We reprint it here by their kind permission.
Pannill RCA Sparks – Biography of Charles J Pannill, who worked for Prof. Fessenden and became President of the Radiomarine Corporation of America. He did not, however, have the first Certificate of Skill (eg, see Ben Beckerman’s) and probably didn’t have the first commercial Radiotelegraphy license (likely Elmo Pickerill did) as stated in the article.
Anna Nevins Story – Short biography of the first female radiotelegrapher. From the Veteran Wireless Operators Association 1932 Yearbook, by permission
Michelsen SOS Article – Are “girls” not able to handle SOS situations as efficiently as members of the other sex? See what Miss Lena Michelsen says. From the Veteran Wireless Operators Association 1932 Yearbook, by permission
1932 VWOA Life Members – Short biographies and photos of Frederick Kolster, David Sarnoff, C.J. Panill, Elmer Bucher, and others from the early days of radio. From the Veteran Wireless Operators Association 1932 Yearbook, by permission
Gernsback Radio Club Talk – Hugo Gernsback on the Evolution of Radio, from Electro Importing Company and Modern Electrics history to millimeter waves and radio on the moon, courtesy of the Proceedings of the Radio Club of America
Masons Honor Beckerman – Newspaper account of honorifics to veteran radio operator Ben Beckerman for his decades of service and many lives saved
SS Madison Nx Articles 1933 – Two newspaper accounts of the hurricane-tossed SS Madison and its radio operator, Ben Beckerman, as beer barrels broke free, destroying all in their path. Two lives were lost.
Breniman Autobiography – Autobiography of Society of Wireless Pioneers founder, 1-SSGP, William A. Breniman
For the Kings Cup– It’s radio operator versus radio operator as they use every trick in the book and then some to give their yachts any slight advantage in the race across the Atlantic for the 1928 King’s Cup. True story by Kenneth Upton, 512-P.
“Hero” by Mario Spagna – Adventure and romance in the days when the way to a girl’s heart was through the wireless set. Original, well-written fiction by SoWP member Mario Spagna, 67-SGP.
Carl Kinsley Obituary – Obituary of early wireless pioneer and inventor Carl Kinsley. Newspaper and date unknown.
The Kinsley Report – “Upon the Installation of Wireless Telegraph Stations in San Francisco Harbor” in 1900 by Carl Kinsley
Henry Poy Sparks J – Henry J. Poy, reprinted from Sparks Journal Vol. 4, No. 4
Henry Poy Memoirs – Henry and the US Navy rush to the aid of victims of the 1923 Japan earthquake
Do You Know Any of Them – How a call for volunteers brought San Francisco radiomen to the US Navy Radio School at Harvard in World War I
Dick Singer, Tales of a Wireless Pioneer – SoWP, the CIA, and a career in radio including operations aboard Howard Hughes’s Glomar Explorer “mining” the deep blue sea
Dickow 1st Operator – The very first full-time wireless operator, from Henry Dickow’s “Tales of the Wireless Pioneers”
Dickow Early License – The first amateur and commercial radio operator licenses in the USA from DIckow’s “Tales of the Wireless Pioneers”
deNeuf on Kata Kana Code – Ever wonder how Japanese radiotelegraphers communicated in Morse code? Don deNeuf explains
Dickow Revolt Transcript – “Revolt of the Wireless Operators” by Henry Dickow: Strikes, fights, fire-eaters, Reds, Pinks, Whites, and Grays along the road to a living wage for radio operators
The McCarty Wireless Telephone – The story of Francis and Ignatius McCarty and the first wireless telephone in Western North America, as told by Henry Dickow
McCarty Outline– Notes on the life of Francis J. McCarty by his brother Ignatius written in 1908. Probably intended as an outline for a biography.
McCarty Article 1 – Part 1 of a newspaper article on McCarty and his wireless telephone, probably written in 1950
McCarty Article 2 – Last part of the McCarty wireless telephone history newspaper article
SoWP History Outline – A short history of the Society of Wireless Pioneers, from 1968 to 1998
Zenith Radio Log – Short history of RHG Mathews and the founding of Zenith, from Zenith Radio Log for November, 1945
RHG Mathew’s British Who’s Who Entry – Listing for Mathews to be entered into “The International Year Book and Statesmen’s Who’s Who”, 1974 edition
Old Timers Nite Program – Program from April 19, 1958, includes biography of RHG Mathews
Mathews FBM Bio – RHG Mathews informal biography from Ford, Browne, and Mathews
Mathews Biography – A short biography of Mathews, likely written by himself
RHG Mathews Newspaper Article – “Pioneer’s Call Letters Become Trademark”(9ZN to Zenith)
RHG Mathews Newspaper Article 2 – From the Indianapolis Star, November 23, 1941 with Cmdr. Mathews in charge of Naval Radio School recruiting
RHG Mathews Newspaper Articles 3 – More Mathews Naval School recruiting plus an article on his position at Magnavox
RHG Mathews Newspaper Article 4 – Newspaper clipping about Mathews and the Reserve Officers Association
Magnavox HiFi Demonstration – Invitation to high fidelity audio demonstration by Magnavox with lecture by RHG Mathews
Mathews Magazine Articles – Articles on RHG Mathews at Magnavox and at Zenith
Now It Can Be Told – Story by Ray Bowers, 1369-V, about the early days of aviation with the CAA
Poulsen Arc, Mackay, ITT History by Dickow – NEW! – “Chronology of the Poulsen Arc and the founding of Federal Telegraph, Mackay and I.T.T.” by San Francisco pioneer Henry Dickow
Radiotelegraphy of the 1924 Hamilton Rice Expedition – Articles on the hydroplane and radio equipment used in the 1924-5 Hamilton Rice expedition to South America
United Wireless Rule Book – Rule book for UWT employees from 1909: Don’t drink, don’t rent out deck chairs, and learn how to hook up your apparatus
United Wireless Misc – Two pages of reprints on UW from ‘Pacific Aerogram’ plus anonymous page on their shady stock practices
Sci Am Leviathan Article – Leviathan sets new ship DX record and photo of Elmo Pickerill
Evening News Leviathan Article – “Broadcast from a Liner” (Leviathan), telephone on 317 meters, BBC refuses to re-broadcast
Evening Mail Leviathan Article – Leviathan breaking records for traffic handling and DX; photo of Elmo Pickerill
Tel & Tel Age Leviathan Article – Short bios of Elmo Pickerill, assistants Jack Irvin, Anthony Tamburino, Raymond J. Green
Unknown Paper Leviathan Article – You can’t dodge your business responsibilities aboard the Leviathan: they can call you at sea by telephone!