Frank Spencer was a historian of biological anthropology who began his career as a medical laboratory technician. His papers include correspondence, manuscripts, notes, research files, teaching materials, photographs, and audiotapes. Spencer's research on the Piltdown hoax as well as the Piltdown research of Ian Langham, whose work Spencer continued after his death in 1984, and Spencer's research on the life and career of Aleš Hrdlička for his dissertation are both represented in the collection.
Scope and Contents:
This collection documents the research and professional activities of anthropologist Frank Spencer through his correspondence, manuscripts, notes, research files, teaching materials, photographs, and audiotapes. As a historian of physical anthropology, Spencer did a great deal of archival research. Well-represented in the collection is Spencer's research on the Piltdown hoax as well as the Piltdown research of Ian Langham, whose work Spencer continued after Langham's death in 1984. Among the materials collected are negatives of Piltdown-related papers and negatives of Sir Arthur Keith's papers held at the Royal College of Surgeons. Spencer, who theorized that Keith was behind the Piltdown hoax, had organized his papers with a grant from Wenner-Gren. Also represented in the collection is Spencer's research on the life and career of Aleš Hrdlička for his dissertation. Although most of Hrdlička's papers and photos that Spencer collected are copies of materials held at the National Anthropological Archives (NAA), the collection does contain original correspondence between Hrdlička and his first wife, Marie Strickler; his childhood report card from 1869; and copies of family photos obtained from Lucy Miller, Hrdlička's niece. The collection also contains an audio recording of Hrdlička speaking at Wistar Institute. Spencer's 1975 taped interviews with Henry Collins, Harry Shapiro, Ashley Montagu, and Lucille St. Hoyme can also be found in the collection. Other projects represented in the collection include A History of Physical Anthropology: An Encyclopedia, The Origins of Modern Humans: A World Survey of the Fossil Evidence, and Fallen Idols, Spencer's unpublished book on the history of scientific attitudes towards human origins. In addition, the collection contains copies of Physical Anthropology News, which Spencer co-founded and edited. Photos in the collection include images of Frank Spencer as well as of the 1981 and 1988 annual meetings of the Association of American Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) and the 1980 symposium Spencer and Noel T. Boaz organized on the history of American physical anthropology.
Frank Spencer was born in Chatham, England, on May 1, 1941. Best known as a historian of biological anthropology and for his book Piltdown: A Scientific Forgery (1990), Spencer began his career as a medical laboratory technician, publishing two books on medical laboratory procedures in 1970 and 1972. He immigrated to Canada, where he earned his BA in anthropology at the University of Windsor in Ontario in 1973. The following year, he enrolled at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, with C. Loring Brace as his advisor. Spencer wrote his dissertation on the life and career of Aleš Hrdlička and was awarded his PhD in biological anthropology in 1979. That same year he joined the faculty of the Department of Anthropology at Queens College as an assistant professor and was soon promoted to department chair in 1984. Over the course of his career, he wrote and edited several books on the history of physical anthropology including A History of Physical Anthropology (1992), The Origins of Modern Humans: A World Survey of the Fossil Evidence (1984), Ecce Homo: An Annotated Bibliographic History of Physical Anthropology (1986), and History of Physical Anthropology: An Encyclopedia (1997). Spencer was also a co-founder and editor of the Physical Anthropology News bulletins. It was his book Piltdown: A Scientific Forgery, however, that garnered him the most attention. In this book, he theorized that the well-respected Sir Arthur Keith master-minded the Piltdown hoax. On May 30, 1999 Frank Spencer died of cancer at the age of 58.
1941 -- Born on May 1 in Chatham, Kent, England
1964 -- Obtained Associate diploma in Clinical Microbiology, [Britain], Institute of Medical Laboratory Sciences
1966 -- Fellowship diploma in Clinical Parasitology
1971 -- Advanced diploma in Clinical Biochemistry & Microbiology, Canadian Society of Medical Laboratory Technology
1973 -- BA (Anthropology) University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada
1974 -- MA (Biological Anthropology) University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
1976-1977 -- Adjunct Lecturer, Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Windsor
1979 -- PhD, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, "Biological Anthropology, Aleš Hrdlička, MD (1869-1943): A Chronicle of the Life and Work of an American Physical Anthropologist"
1979-1982 -- Hired as Assistant Professor, Dept. of Anthropology, Queens College
1982 -- Published A History of American Physical Anthropology, 1930-1980
1983 -- Associate Professor, Dept. of Anthropology, Queens College
1984 -- Published The Origins of Modern Humans: A World Survey of the Fossil Evidence
1986 -- Full professor, Dept. of Anthropology, Queens College Published Ecce Homo: An Annotated Bibliographic History of Physical Anthropology
1990 -- Published Piltdown: A Scientific Forgery Published The Piltdown Papers 1908-1955: The Correspondence and Other Documents Relating to the Forgery
1997 -- Published The History of Physical Anthropology: An Encyclopedia
1999 -- Passed away on May 30 of cancer
Aleš Hrdlička papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Donated in 2002 by Elena Peters-Spencer, wife of Frank Spencer.
To protect the privacy of individuals, some materials have been separated and access to them has been restricted.
Access to the Frank Spencer papers requires and appointment.
National Museum of Natural History (U.S.). Department of Anthropology Search this
Smithsonian Institution. Department of Anthropology Search this
Smithsonian Institution. United States National Museum. Department of Anthropology Search this
330.25 Linear feet (519 boxes)
Some materials are held off-site; this will be indicated at the series or sub-series level. Advanced notice must be given to view these portions of the collection.
The Department of Anthropology records contain administrative and research materials produced by the department and its members from the time of the Smithsonian Institution's foundation until today.
Scope and Contents:
The Department of Anthropology records contain correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, memoranda, invoices, meeting minutes, fiscal records, annual reports, grant applications, personnel records, receipts, and forms. The topics covered in the materials include collections, exhibits, staff, conservation, acquisitions, loans, storage and office space, administration, operations, research, budgets, security, office procedures, and funding. The materials were created by members of the Section of Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution, the Division of Anthropology of the United States National Museum, the Office of Anthropology of the National Museum of Natural History, and the Department of Anthropology of the National Museum of Natural History and range in date from before the founding of the Smithsonian Institution to today. The Department of Anthropology records also contain some materials related to the Bureau of American Ethnology, such as documents from the River Basin Surveys.
This collection is arranged in 28 series: (1) Correspondence, 1902-1908, 1961-1992; (2) Alpha-Subject File, 1828-1963; (3) Alpha-Subject File, 1961-1975; (4) Smithsonian Office of Anthropology Subject Files, 1967-1968; (5) River Basin Survey Files, 1965-1969; (6) Research Statements, Proposals, and Awards, 1961-1977 (bulk 1966-1973); (7) Publication File, 1960-1975; (8) Memoranda and Lists Concerning Condemnations, 1910-1965; (9) Notebook on Special Exhibits, 1951-1952 (10) Section on Animal Industry; (11) Administrative Records, 1891-1974; (12) Administrative Records, 1965-1994 (bulk 1975-1988); (13) Fiscal Records, 1904-1986; (14) Annual Reports, 1920-1983; (15) Chairman's Office Files, 1987-1993; (16) Division of Archaeology, 1828-1965; (17) Division of Ethnology, 1840s, 1860-1972, 1997; (18) Division of Physical Anthropology; (19) Division of Cultural Anthropology, 1920-1968; (20) Records of the Anthropological Laboratory/Anthropology Conservation and Restoration Laboratory, 1939-1973; (21) Collections Management, 1965-1985; (22) Photographs of Specimens and Other Subjects (Processing Laboratory Photographs), 1880s-1950s; (23) Exhibit Labels, Specimen Labels, Catalog Cards, and Miscellaneous Documents, circa 1870-1950; (24) Antiquities Act Permits, 1904-1986; (25) Ancient Technology Program, circa 1966-1981; (26) Urgent Anthropology; (27) Records of the Handbook of North American Indians; (28) Personnel; (29) Repatriation Office, 1991-1994
The Smithsonian Institution was founded in 1846. Although there was no department of anthropology until the creation of the Section of Ethnology in 1879, anthropological materials were part of the Smithsonian's collection from its foundation. The Section of Ethnology was created to care for the rapidly growing collection. In 1881, the United States National Museum was established. Soon thereafter, in 1883, it was broken up into divisions, including the Division of Anthropology. In 1904, Physical Anthropology was added to the Division.
The Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE) was created in 1879 as a research unit of the Smithsonian, separating research from collections care. However, during the 1950s, research became a higher priority for the Department of Anthropology and, in 1965, the BAE was merged with the Department of Anthropology to create the Office of Anthropology, and the BAE's archives became the National Anthropological Archives (NAA).
In 1967, the United States National Museum was broken up into three separate museums: the Musuem of History and Technology (now the National Museum of American History), the National Museum of American Art, and the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). The Office of Anthropology was included in NMNH and was renamed the Department of Anthropology in 1968.
New divisions were added to the Department, including the Human Studies Film Archives (HSFA) in 1981, the Research Institute on Immigration and Ethnic Studies (RIIES) in 1982, and the Repatriation Office in 1993. In 1983, the Smithsonian opened the Museum Support Center (MSC) in Suitland, Maryland, as offsite housing for collections with specialized storage facilities and conservation labs.
The Department of Anthropology is currently the largest department within NMNH. It has three curatorial divisions (Ethnology, Archaeology, and Biological Anthropology) and its staff includes curators, research assistants, program staff, collections specialists, archivists, repatriation tribal liaisons, and administrative specialists. It has a number of outreach and research arms, including the Repatriation Office, Recovering Voices, Human Origins, and the Arctic Studies Center.
The Museum is home to one of the world's largest anthropology collections, with over three million specimens in archaeology, ethnology, and human skeletal biology. The NAA is the Smithsonian's oldest archival repository, with materials that reflect over 150 years of anthropological collecting and fieldwork. The HSFA is the only North American archive devoted exclusively to the collection and preservation of anthropological film and video.
National Museum of Natural History. "Department of Anthropology: About" Accessed April 13, 2020. https://naturalhistory.si.edu/research/anthropology/about
National Museum of Natural History. "History of Anthropology at the Smithsonian." Accessed April 13, 2020. https://naturalhistory.si.edu/sites/default/files/media/file/history-anthropology-si.pdf
National Museum of Natural History. "History of the Smithsonian Catalog." Accessed April 13, 2020 https://siris-sihistory.si.edu/ipac20/ipac.jsp?profile=sicall
1846 -- The Smithsonian Institution is founded
1879 -- George Catlin bequeaths his collection to the Smithsonian The Section of Ethnology is established to oversee ethnological and archaeological collections The Bureau of Ethnology is established by Congress as a research unit of the Smithsonian
1881 -- The U.S. National Museum (USNM) is established as a separate entity within the Smithsonian Institution
1883 -- The staff and collections of the USNM are reorganized into divisions, including a Division of Anthropology
1897 -- The United States National Museum is reorganized into three departments: Anthropology headed by W. H. Holmes; Biology with F. W. True as head; and Geology with G. P. Merrill in charge The Bureau of Ethnology is renamed the Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE) to emphasize the geographic limit of its interests
1903 -- The Division of Physical Anthropology established
1904 -- The Division of Physical Anthropology is incorporated into the Division of Anthropology
1910 -- The USNM moves into the new Natural History Building
1965 -- The Smithsonian Office of Anthropology is created on February 1 The BAE is eliminated and merged with the Office of Anthropology
1968 -- The Smithsonian Office of Anthropology (SOA) of the National Museum of Natural History is retitled the Department of Anthropology on October 29
1973 -- The Research Institute on Immigration and Ethnic Studies (RIIES) is established at the National Museum of Natural History's (NMNH) Center for the Study of Man (CSM) to study the waves of immigration to the United States and its overseas outposts that began in the 1960's
1975 -- The National Anthropological Film Center is established
1981 -- The National Anthropological Film Center is incorporated into the Department of Anthropology
1982 -- The RIIES, part of the CSM at the NMNH, is transferred to the Department of Anthropology
1991 -- NMNH establishes a Repatriation Office
1993 -- The Repatriation Office is incorporated into the Department of Anthropology
Head Curators and Department Chairs
1897-1902 -- William Henry Holmes
1902-1903 -- Otis T. Mason (acting)
1904-1908 -- Otis T. Mason
1908-1909 -- Walter Hough (acting)
1910-1920 -- William Henry Holmes
1920-1923 -- Walter Hough (acting)
1923-1935 -- Walter Hough
1935-1960 -- Frank M. Setzler
1960-1962 -- T. Dale Stewart
1963-1965 -- Waldo R. Wedel
1965-1967 -- Richard Woodbury
1967-1970 -- Saul H. Riesenberg
1970-1975 -- Clifford Evans
1975-1980 -- William W. Fitzhugh
1980-1985 -- Douglas H. Ubelaker
1985-1988 -- Adrienne L. Kaeppler
1988-1992 -- Donald J. Ortner
1992-1999 -- Dennis Stanford
1999-2002 -- Carolyn L. Rose
2002-2005 -- William W. Fitzhugh
2005-2010 -- J. Daniel Rogers
2010-2014 -- Mary Jo Arnoldi
2014-2018 -- Torbin Rick
2018- -- Igor Krupnik
The NAA holds collections of former head curators and department chairs, including the papers of Otis Tufton Mason, Walter Hough, T. Dale Stewart, Waldo Rudolph and Mildred Mott Wedel, Saul H. Riesenberg, Clifford Evans, and Donald J. Ortner; the photographs of Frank Maryl Setzler; and the Richard B. Woodbury collection of drawings of human and animal figures.
Other related collections at the NAA include the papers of Gordon D. Gibson, Eugene I. Knez, and Betty J. Meggers and Clifford Evans; and the records of the Bureau of American Ethnology, the Center for the Study of Man, and the River Basin Surveys.
This collection was transferred to the National Anthropological Archives (NAA) by the National Museum of Natural History's Department of Anthropology in multiple accessions.
Some materials are restricted.
Access to the Department of Anthropology records requires an appointment.
Electricity and Modern Physics, Division of, NMAH, SI. Search this
220 Cubic feet (700 boxes)
The collection forms a documentary record of over half a century of the history of radio, with the greatest emphasis on the period 1900-1935. The collection includes materials that span the entire history of the growth of the radio industry. It is useful for those historians and other researchers interested in technological development, economic history, and the impact of applications of technology on American life.
Scope and Contents:
The materials accumulated in this collection represent the overriding collecting passion of one individual, George H. Clark. The collection forms a documentary record of over half a century of the history of radio, with the greatest emphasis on the period 1900-1935.
The collection includes materials that span the entire history of the growth of the radio industry. It is useful for those historians and other researchers interested in technological development, economic history, and the impact of applications of technology on American life.
In particular, the collection is rich in biographical information on the men who developed the technical aspects of radio and the industry; information on the inception, growth, and activities of radio companies, most notably the National Electric Signaling Company and RCA; and in photographs of all aspects of Radioana.
While most materials document technical aspects of radio, there is much information (e.g. Series 109, 134) on broadcasting and on the early history of television.
The collection, housed in over 700 boxes (about 276 linear feet), was organized into 259 numbered "classes" or series by Clark. Sixty series numbers were never used or were eliminated by Clark and combined with other series. The unused numbers are scattered throughout the filing system. The collection also includes material from series that were eliminated. These materials were never reclassified and are included as an unprocessed series at the end of the series descriptions. The collection also contains material that was never assigned a "class" designation by Clark (Lettered Series: D, E, F, G, H).
The arrangement of the collection is Clark's own; his adaptation of the Navy filing system he helped devise in 1915. Clark periodically revised the filing system and reclassified items within it.
Clark assigned class numbers to types of equipment (e.g. broadcast receivers), systems (impulse-excited transmitters and systems), scientific theories (circuit theory), and topics (company history, biography). Box 1 contains descriptions of the classification system.
When Clark classified an item and filed it he also assigned a serial number. This classification begins with 1 (or 1A) for the first item in the class and continues with successive numbers as items were added. As a consequence, the order of individual items within a series reflects the order in which Clark filed them, not any logical relationship between the items. Clark created cross references for items dealing with more than one subject by making notations on blank sheets of paper placed in related series.
Clark made cross references between series when there was no logical relationship between them; that is, when a person using the collection would not normally look in the series. For example no cross reference would be made of an engineer from series 87 (portraits) to series 4 (biography), but one would be made from series 87 to series 142 (history of television) if the item showed the engineer, say, working on a television installation.
Clark created the insignia "SRM" as the sign on the bottom of all sheets of paper numbered by him for binding. SRM stood for Smithsonian Radio Museum. This replaced the earlier though not greatly used sign "CGM." For a time about 1930, the class number on each sheet was preceded by these: "C.G.M.", for Clark, Martin, and Goldsmith, the earliest contributors to what would become the Clark Radioana Collection. After about 1933-34 Clark used C.W.C. for Clark Wireless Collection.
There are many photographs located in most series throughout the collection. But there are also three exclusive photographic series. Lettered series A, B, C. See index; and also series descriptions under lettered series.
The collection is divided into 223 series.
Numbered Series 1-233:
Series 1, Library Operating System, 1915-1950
Series 2, Apparatus Type Numbers, 1916-1931
Series 3, Photographic Lists, 1925-1928
Series 4, Biographies of Radio Personages, Technical Index to Correspondents in Series 4
Series 5, History of Radio Companies, 1895-1950
De Forest Radio Company, 1905-1930s
Jenkins Televsion Corporation, 1924-1931
Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company, 1908-1929
National Electric Signaling Company, 1896-1941
Wireless Specialty Apparatus Company, 1906-1929
Radio Corporation of America, 1895-1950
Series 6, Shore Stations, 1900-1940
Series 7, Marine Stations, 1900-1930s
Series 8, Broadcasting Stations, 1910s-1940s
Series 9, Amateur Stations, 1910s-1940s
Series 10, Miscellaneous Information, 1911-1914
Series 11, Radio Antiques, 1921-1938
Series 13, Specifications of Radio Apparatus, 1910s-1930s
Series 14, General History, 1899-1950s
Series 15, Radio Companies Catalogues & Bound Advertisements, 1873-1941
Series 16, Log Books, 1902-1923
Series 17, Radio Companies' House Organs, 1896-1942
Series 18, Prime Movers, 1904-1911
Series 19, Batteries, 1898-1934
Series 20, Rectifiers, 1875-1935
Series 21, Motor Generators, 1898-1936
Series 22, Nameplates of Apparatus, 1928
Series 23, Switchboards and Switchboard Instruments, 1910-1935
Series 24, Radio Frequency Switches, 1905-1905-1933
Series 25, Transmitter Transformers, 1893-1949
Series 26, Operating Keys, 1843-1949
Series 27, Power Type Interrupters, 1902-1938
Series 28, Protective Devices, 1910-1925
Series 30, Message Blanks, 1908-1938
Series 31, Transmitter Condensers, 1849-1943
Series 32, Spark Gaps, 1905-1913
Series 33, Transmitter Inductances, 1907-1922
Series 34, Transmitter Wave Changers, 1907-1924
Series 37, ARC Transmitters, 1907-1940
Series 38, Vacuum Tube Type of Radio Transmitter, 1914-1947
Series 39, Radio Transmitter, Radio-Frequency, Alternator Type, 1894-1940
Series 41, Vacuum Tubes, Transmitting Type, 1905-1948
Series 43, Receiving Systems, 1904-1934
Series 45, Broadcast Receivers, 1907-1948
Series 46, Code Receivers, 1902-1948
Series 47, Receiving Inductances, 1898-1944
Series 48, Receiving Condensers, 1871-1946
Series 49, Audio Signal Devices, 1876-1947
Series 50, Detectors, 1878-1944
Series 51, Amplifiers, 1903-1949
Series 52, Receiving Vacuum Tubes, 1905-1949
Series 53, Television Receivers, 1928-1948
Series 54, Photo-Radio Apparatus, 1910-1947
Series 59, Radio Schools, 1902-1945
Series 60, Loudspeakers, 1896-1946
Series 61, Insulators, 1844-1943
Series 62, Wires, 1906-1945
Series 63, Microphones, 1911-1947
Series 64, Biography, 1925-1948
Series 66, Antennas, 1877-1949
Series 67, Telautomatics, 1912-1944
Series 69, Direction Finding Equipment, Radio Compasses, 1885-1948
Series 71, Aircraft Transmitters, 1908-1947
Series 72, Field or Portables Transmitters, 1901-1941
Series 73, Mobile Radio Systems, 1884-1946
Series 74, Radio Frequency Measuring Instruments, 1903-1946
Series 75, Laboratory Testing Methods and Systems, 1891-1945
Series 76, Aircraft Receivers, 1917-1941
Series 77, Field Portable Receivers, 1906-1922
Series 78, Spark Transmitter Assembly, 1909-1940
Series 79, Spark Transmitter System, 1900-1945
Series 82, Firsts in Radio, undated
Series 85: Distance Records and Tests, 1898-1940
Series 87, Photographs of Radio Executives, and Technical Types, 1857-1952
Series 90, Radio Terms, 1857-1939
Series 92, Static Patents and Static Reducing Systems, 1891-1946
Series 93, Low Frequency Indicating Devices, 1904-1946
Series 95, Articles on Radio Subjects, 1891-1945
Series 96, Radio in Education, 1922-1939
Series 98, Special Forms of Broadcasting, 1921-1943
Series 99, History of Lifesaving at Sea by Radio, 1902-1949
Series 100, History of Naval Radio, 1888-1948
Series 101, Military Radio, 1898-1946
Series 102, Transmitting & Receiving Systems, 1902-1935
Series 103, Receiving Methods, 1905-1935
Series 108, Codes and Ciphers, 1894-1947
Series 109, Schedules of Broadcasting & TV Stations, 1905-1940
Series 112, Radio Shows and Displays, 1922-1947
Series 114, Centralized Radio Systems, 1929-1935
Series 116, United States Government Activities in Radio, 1906-1949
Series 117, Technical Tables, 1903-1932
Series 120, Litigation on Radio Subjects, 1914-1947
Series 121, Legislation, 1914-1947
Series 122, History of Radio Clubs, 1907-1946
Series 123, Special Applications of Radio Frequency, 1924-1949
Series 124, Chronology, 1926-1937
Series 125, Radio Patents & Patent Practices, 1861-1949
Series 126, Phonographs, 1894-1949
Series 127, Piezo Electric Effect, 1914-1947
Series 128, ARC Transmitting & Reciving Systems, 1904-1922
Series 129, Spark Systems, 1898-1941
Series 130, Vacuum Tubes Systems, 1902-1939
Series 132, Radiophone Transmitting & Receiving System, 1906-1947
Series 133, Photo-Radio, 1899-1947
Series 134, History of Radio Broadcasting, 1908-
Series 135, History of Radiotelephony, Other Than Broadcasting
Series 136, History of Amateur Radio
Series 138, Transoceanic Communication
Series 139, Television Transmitting Stations
Series 140, Radio Theory
Series 142, History of Television
Series 143, Photographs
Series 144, Radio Publications
Series 145, Proceedings of Radio Societies
Series 146: Radio Museums
Series 147, Bibliography of Radio Subjects and Apparatus
Series 148, Aircraft Guidance Apparatus
Series 150, Audio Frequency Instruments
Series 151, History of Radio for Aircrafts
Series 152, Circuit Theory
Series 154, Static Elimination
Series 161, Radio in Medicine
Series 162, Lighting
Series 163, Police Radio
Series 169, Cartoons
Series 173, Communications, Exclusive of Radio (after 1895)
Series 174, Television Methods and Systems
Series 182, Military Portable Sets
Series 189, Humor in Radio (see
Series 209, Short Waves
Series 226, Radar
Series 233, Television Transmitter
Series A, Thomas Coke Knight RCA Photographs, circa 1902-1950
Series B, George H. Clark Collection of Photographs by ClassSeries C, Clark Unorganized and/or Duplicate Photographs
Series D, Miscellaneous
Series E, News Clippings Series F: Radio Publications
Series G, Patent Files of Darby and Darby, Attorneys, circa 1914-1935
Series H, Blank Telegram Forms from many Companies and Countries Throughout the World
Series I (eye), Miscellaneous Series
Series J, Research and Laboratory Notebooks
Series K, Index to Photographs of Radio Executives and Technical Types
Series L, Index to Bound Volumes of Photos in Various Series
Series M, Index to David Sarnoff Photographs
Biographical / Historical:
George Howard Clark, born February 15, 1881, at Alberton, Prince Edward Island, Canada, emigrated to the United States at the age of fourteen. He worked as a railroad telegraph operator for the Boston and Maine Railroad during high school and college. In his unpublished autobiography he wrote:
In 1888, when I was a lad of seven, I suddenly blossomed out as a scrapbook addict, and for years I gave up boyhood games for the pleasure of sitting in a lonely attic and 'pasting up' my books ... By 1897, in high school, I graduated to beautiful pictures, and made many large size scrapbooks ... Around that time, too, I became infatuated with things electrical, and spent many evenings copying in pen and ink the various electrical text books in the Everett, Mass., Public Library. Clark began collecting material pertaining to wireless or radio in 1902. In 1903 he graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. During his last year of college he specialized in radio work under the instruction of Professor John Stone Stone and after graduation went to work for Stone's radio company, the Stone Telegraph and Telephone Company, of Boston.
In 1908 Clark took a competitive examination open to all wireless engineers in the United States and entered the civilian service of the Navy. He was stationed at the Washington Navy Yard, with special additional duty at the Navy's Bureau of Steam Engineering and at the National Bureau of Standards.
In 1915 Clark helped devise a classification system for Navy equipment, assigning a code number to each item. This system of classification for blueprints, photographs, reports, and general data, was prepared by Arthur Trogner, Guy Hill, and Clark, all civilian radio experts with the US Navy Department in Washington. In 1918 Clark adopted the 1915 Navy classification system for organizing the radio data he was accumulating. Clark created the term "Radioana" at this time. He began spending his evenings and weekends pasting up his collection and numbering pages. At this time he bound the accumulated material. It totaled 100 volumes.
In July 1919, after resigning from the Navy, Clark joined the engineering staff of the Marconi Telegraph Company of America, which became part of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) later the same year. His first work was at Belmar and Lakewood, New Jersey, assisting the chief engineer, Roy A. Weagant, in his development of circuits to reduce the interference caused by static (static reduction). Clark and his wife were assigned to the unheated Engineer's Cottage. His wife decided not to stay and left for Florida. Clark moved his trunks of wireless material to the heated RCA hotel at Belmar and spent most of the winter "pasting." As Clark mentions, "From that time on I was wedded to scraps."
After a year of work in New Jersey, Clark was assigned to the sales department in New York, where he devised the "type number system" used by RCA. This type number system, for example, gave the designation UV 201 to the company's first amplifier tube.
From 1922 to 1934 Clark was in charge of RCA's newly created Show Division, which held exhibits of new and old radio apparatus at state fairs, department stores, and radio shows. About 1928 Clark started an antique radio apparatus museum for RCA. RCA's board of directors announced:
Recognizing the importance of providing a Museum for the Radio Art to house the rapidly disappearing relics of earlier days, and the desirability of collecting for it without further delay examples of apparatus in use since the inception of radio, the Board of Directors of RCA has made an initial appropriation of $100,000, as the nucleus of a fund for the establishment of a National Radio Museum. A plan for ultimately placing the museum under the wing of the Smithsonian Institution was coupled with the goal of the Institution's gathering the largest possible library of wireless data.
Around 1933 the RCA traveling exhibition program ended and Clark started classifying his collected "radioana" material. The objects of the museum were eventually turned over for exhibit purposes to the Rosenwald Museum in Chicago and the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, when space was not forthcoming at the Smithsonian. A list of objects sent to the two museums (with tag and case numbers) is in Series 1, Box A. The "radioana" collection remained under Clark's care during the 1930s, and became of increasing use to RCA. Clark continued to add to the material.
Between 1934 and 1942 Clark was in court many times regarding patent infringements. Clark's wireless data was useful and he testified frequently, for example, in RCA's suit against the United States in the Court of Claims over the Marconi tuning patents and in the Westinghouse Company's suit against the United States over the heterodyne. Patent specifications and material regarding these and other radio industry suits are found throughout this collection.
In 1946 RCA retired George Clark and denied him space to house his "radioana" collection. Clark wished to remain in New York and house the collection somewhere in the city where it would be open at all times to the public and where it would be maintained. He hoped to continue cataloguing the collection and writing books from its information. He wanted to keep the collection under his control for as long as he was capable of using it.
George H. Clark died in 1956 and his collection was subsequently given to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1959 the collection was given to the Smithsonian's new Museum of History and Technology, where space was available to house it. The collection remained in the Division of Electricity until the spring of 1983 when it was transferred to the Archives Center.
Brief Company Histories From The Radio Industry, 1900-1930s:
At the end of the nineteenth century, when Guglielmo Marconi began his first wireless company, Western Union, Postal Telegraph, and the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) were the major enterprises in electrical communications. General Electric, Western Electric, and Westinghouse were the major producers of electrical equipment. All these earlier developments set the stage for the expansion of the radio industry.
General Electric, which dominated the lighting industry, was formed in 1892 as a merger of the Edison and Thomson-Houston companies. It was active in building central power station equipment; controlled nearly all the important early patents in electric railways; took a leading part in the introduction of trolley systems; and was the principal supplier of electric motors. Westinghouse promoted the alternating current system and installed the first AC central station in Buffalo, NY, during the winter of 1866-1867. After years of patent litigation, in 1896 GE and Westinghouse agreed to share their patents on electrical apparatus.
American Bell Telephone Company purchased Western Electric in 1881. Western Electric had a strong patent position in telephone equipment and in industrial power apparatus, such as arc lamps, generators, motors, and switchboard equipment.
Until RCA was formed in 1919, these established electrical companies played no active part in the early development of the American radio industry. They were in difficult financial positions, reorganizing, or concentrating their efforts and resources on improving their existing products.
The revolution in "wireless" technology, which began in earnest after 1900, centered in New York City, home of the Lee de Forest and American Marconi companies, and in Boston, headquarters of John Stone Stone and Reginald Fessenden.
Information in this section was compiled from the Clark Collection; the Invention and Innovation in the Radio Industry by W. Rupert Maclaurin, Macmillan Company, New York, 1949; and Radio Pioneers, Institute of Radio Engineers, Commemorating the Radio Pioneers Dinner, Hotel Commodore, New York, NY, November 8, 1945.
The De Forest Companies
Lee De Forest (1873-1961), inventor of the three-element vacuum tube or triode (1906) and the feedback circuit, was one of the first Americans to write a doctoral thesis on wireless telegraphy: "The Reflection of Short Hertzian Waves from the Ends of Parallel Wires," Yale University, 1899. The grid-controlled tube or audion of De Forest was first a radio detector, 1906-1907; in 1912 was adapted to an amplifier; and later to an oscillator. When it was perfected as a high vacuum tube, it became the great electronic instrument of electrical communications.
De Forest began work in the Dynamo Department at the Western Electric Company in 1899. Six months later he was promoted to the telephone laboratory. In 1900 De Forest went to work for the American Wireless Telegraph Company where he was able to carry out work on his "responder." However, after three months when De Forest refused to turn over the responder to the company, he was fired.
In the following year De Forest had a number of jobs, was active as an inventor, and created numerous firms to manufacture his inventions. In 1901 De Forest joined with Ed Smythe, a former Western Electric colleague and a collaborator in his research, to found the firm of De Forest, Smythe, and Freeman. Between 1902 and 1906 De Forest took out thirty-four patents on all phases of wireless telegraphy. The responder that he had been working on for so long never proved satisfactory.
The numerous De Forest companies, reflected his many interests and his inability to carry one project through to a conclusion. Unlike Marconi, but similar to Fessenden, De Forest had great inventive skill which resulted in a great number of companies; but none lasted long. The original partnership of 1901 led to the Wireless Telegraph Co. of America (1901), the De Forest Wireless Telegraph Company (Maine) (1902), and the American De Forest Wireless Telegraph Company (1903), to name a few.
The American De Forest Wireless Telegraph Company was incorporated after De Forest met a stock promoter, Abraham White. While many stations were built by this company, many never sent a message due to static interference. In 1907 two speculators from Denver with large holdings of company stock put the company out of business. The assets were sold to a new company that these speculators organized, the United Wireless Telephone Company. De Forest was forced to resign. He took the triode patents with him.
De Forest joined with one of White's stock salesmen, James Dunlop Smith, and together with De Forest's patent attorney, Samuel E. Darby, they formed a new corporation, the De Forest Radio Telephone Company in 1907. This company set out to develop wireless communication by means of the radio telephone.
In January 1910 De Forest staged the first opera broadcast, with Enrico Caruso singing. The Radio Telephone Company went bankrupt in 1911 following an aborted merger with North American Wireless Corporation. In 1913 he reorganized the company as the Radio Telephone and Telegraph Company and began producing the triode.
The Marconi Company brought a patent suit, claiming the triode infringed on the Fleming valve to which it had rights. In 1916 the court decided that Marconi had infringed the three element De Forest patent and that De Forest had infringed the two element Fleming valve. The result was that neither company could manufacture the triode.
In 1920 RCA acquired the De Forest triode rights through cross-licensing agreements with AT&T which had recently purchased the rights to it. De Forest's company was no match for GE, Westinghouse, and RCA. The De Forest Radio Company (1923) went bankrupt in 1928, was reorganized in 1930, and went into receivership in 1933. RCA eventually purchased its assets.
Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937) came from a wealthy and well connected Italian family. He was able to spend his time developing his inventions and following his own course of action. Marconi spent his entire life developing wireless communication into a "practical" reality. In 1905 Marconi invented a directional antenna. In 1909 he shared with Karl Ferdinand Braun the Nobel prize in physics. And in 1912 he invented the time spark system for the generation of continuous waves. The principal patents in his name were improved types of vertical antennas; improved coherer; magnetic detector for the detection of wireless signals; and improvements on methods of selective tuning. Two other inventions of great importance to the Marconi companies' patent structure were the Oliver Lodge tuning patent and the Ambrose Fleming valve.
In 1895 Marconi made the first successful transmission of long wave signals. The following year he met William Preece, engineer-in-chief of the British Post Office, who was interested in inductive wireless telegraphy. This meeting led to the formation in 1897 of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company Ltd. In 1898 he transmitted signals across the English Channel. In 1899 an American subsidiary was formed. The various Marconi companies were the dominant enterprises in both British and American wireless until 1919 when RCA was formed.
From a business standpoint, wireless did not become profitable until long distance communications were accomplished. On December 12, 1901 in St. John's, Newfoundland, Marconi received a telegraph signal in the form of repetitions of the Morse telegraphic letter "S" transmitted from the Marconi station at Poldhu, Cornwall, England. This success, however, was met by opposition from vested interests, particularly the Anglo-American Telegraph Company whose cables terminated in Newfoundland.
So as not to restrict his company's future to one front alone, Marconi decided to exploit the field of communication with ships at sea. In order to control this field he decided in 1900 to lease his apparatus rather than sell it outright. This strategy did not work. Competition developed in Germany (Telefunken Corporation) and the United States (American De Forest and its successor, United Wireless) and Marconi was forced to sell rather than lease apparatus to the navies of various countries. He nevertheless retained numerous restrictions. This led to further friction. At the height of this debacle English stations worldwide refused to communicate with ships without Marconi equipment. This absurd and dangerous situation had to change and coastal stations opened up to all senders in 1908.
Marconi's system was based on spark technology. He saw no need for voice transmission. He felt the Morse code adequate for communication between ships and across oceans. He, along with most others, did not foresee the development of the radio and the broadcasting industry. He was a pragmatist and uninterested in scientific inquiry in a field where commercial viability was unknown.
For these reasons Marconi left the early experimentation with the radio telephone to others, particularly Lee De Forest and Reginald Fessenden.
National Electric Signaling Company
Canadian-born Reginald Fessenden (1866-1932), one of the principal early radio inventors and the first important inventor to experiment with wireless, left the University of Pittsburgh in 1900 to work for the U.S. Weather Bureau. There he invented the liquid barretter, an early radio receiver, and attempted to work out a means for wireless transmission of weather forecasts. After a squabble over patent rights, Fessenden resigned in 1902.
The National Electric Signaling Company (NESCO), primarily intended to support Fessenden's work on wireless, telegraphy, and telephony, was formed by Fessenden and two Pittsburgh capitalists, Hay Walker, Jr. and Thomas H. Given. It began as an inventor's laboratory and never proved successful as a business venture.
Fessenden recognized that a continuous wave transmission was required for speech and he continued the work of Nikola Tesla, John Stone Stone, and Elihu Thomson on this subject. Fessenden felt he could also transmit and receive Morse code better by the continuous wave method than with a spark-apparatus as Marconi was using.
In 1903 Fessenden's first high-frequency alternator needed for continuous wave transmission was built to his specifications by Charles Steinmetz of GE. In 1906 Fessenden obtained a second alternator of greater power from GE and on Christmas Eve broadcast a program of speech and music. The work on this alternator was given to Ernst F. W. Alexanderson. It took years for Alexanderson to develop an alternator capable of transmitting regular voice transmissions over the Atlantic. But by 1916 the Fessenden-Alexanderson alternator was more reliable for transatlantic communication than the spark apparatus.
Fessenden also worked on continuous-wave reception. This work arose out of his desire for a more effective type of receiver than the coherer, a delicate device that was limited by its sensitivity on a rolling ship at sea. In 1903 he developed a new receiving mechanism - the electrolytic detector.
As his work progressed Fessenden evolved the heterodyne system. However, due to faulty construction and the fact that it was ahead of its time, heterodyne reception was not fully appreciated until the oscillating triode was devised, thus allowing a practical means of generating the local frequency.
Between 1905 and 1913 Fessenden developed a completely self-sustaining wireless system. However, constant quarrels between Fessenden, Walker, and Given culminated in Fessenden's forming the Fessenden Wireless Company of Canada. He felt a Canadian company could better compete with British Marconi. As a result, his backers dismissed Fessenden from NESCO in January of 1911. Fessenden brought suit, won, and was awarded damages. To conserve assets pending appeal, NESCO went into receivership in 1912, and Samuel Kintner was appointed general manager of the company.
In 1917 Given and Walker formed International Signal Company (ISC) and transferred NESCO's patent assets to the new company. Westinghouse obtained majority control of ISC through the purchase of $2,500,000 worth of stock. The company was then reincorporated as The International Radio Telegraph Company. The Westinghouse-RCA agreements were signed in 1921 and International's assets were transferred to RCA.
The development of the radio industry accelerated after 1912. This was due to several factors, the most important of which was the passage of legislation by the US government requiring ships at sea to carry wireless. This created a market incentive and spurred the growth of the industry. Also, with the outbreak of World War I, the larger electrical companies turned their manufacturing output to radio apparatus, supporting the war effort. Three firms were prominent in this industrial endeavor: AT&T, GE, and Westinghouse.
AT&T's early contributions to this effort centered on their improvements of De Forest's triode, particularly in the evolution of circuits, the redesign of the mechanical structure, and an increase in the plate design. The importation of the Gaede molecular pump from Germany created a very high vacuum. The resulting high-vacuum tube brought the practical aspects of the wireless telephone closer to reality. By August 1915 speech had been sent by land wire to Arlington, Va., automatically picked up there via a newly developed vacuum-tube transmitter, and subsequently received at Darien, Canal Zone. By 1920 AT&T had purchased the rights to the De Forest triode and feedback circuit, and had placed itself in a strong position in the evolution of radio technology.
GE centered its efforts on the alternator, assigning Ernst F. W. Alexanderson to its design, and on further development of vacuum tube equipment for continuous wave telegraph transmission. By 1915 Alexanderson, Irving Langmuir, William D. Coolidge, and others had developed a complete system of continuous wave transmission and reception for GE.
As can be seen, both AT&T and GE were diverting major time and expenditures on vacuum tube research. This inevitably led to patent interferences and consequently, to cross-licensing arrangements.
Westinghouse was not in the strategic position of GE and AT&T. Nevertheless, during the war it did manufacture large quantities of radio apparatus, motors, generators, and rectifiers for the European and American governments. Postwar moves led Westinghouse into full partnership with the other two companies.
By the end of the war, all three companies had committed significant resources to wireless. They were hampered internationally, however, by the Marconi Company's dominant status, and in the United States they were blocked by opposing interests with control of key patents.
The US government also was concerned with this lack of solidarity in the wireless industry and over the British domination of the field worldwide. This impasse set a fascinating and complicated stage for the formation of the RCA.
Owen D. Young, legal counselor for GE, was instrumental in breaking the impasse. Through an innovative and far-reaching organizational consolidation, Young was able to persuade British Marconi that persistence in monopoly was a fruitless exercise, because of the strong US government feelings. Marconi, realizing the harm of a potential American boycott, finally agreed to terms. GE purchased the controlling interest in American Marconi, and RCA was formed. Young was made chairman of the board of RCA, while Edwin J. Nally and David Sarnoff of the old American Marconi were appointed president and commercial manager respectively.
On July 1, 1920, RCA signed a cross-licensing agreement with AT&T. The telephone company purchased one half million shares of RCA common and preferred stock for several considerations -- the most important being that all current and future radio patents of the two companies were available to each other royalty-free for ten years. Many provisions of these agreements were ambiguous and led to later squabbles between the RCA partners.
In May 1920 Westinghouse, which had an efficient radio manufacturing organization, formed an alliance with the International Radio and Telegraph Company (NESCO's successor). Westinghouse's part ownership gave them control of Fessenden's patents, particularly continuous-wave transmission and heterodyne transmission. Westinghouse also wisely purchased in October of 1920 Armstrong's patents on the regenerative and superheterodyne circuits -- which also included some of Columbia University professor Michael Pupin's patents. This placed Westinghouse in a strong bargaining position vis-à-vis RCA and in their new consolidated corporation. Westinghouse joined the growing group of radio companies on June 30, 1921. With these mergers, RCA agreed to purchase forty percent of its radio apparatus from Westinghouse and sixty percent from GE.
Through these and other legal arrangements, RCA obtained the rights to over 2,000 patents. These amounted to practically all the patents of importance in the radio science of that day. As a result, other firms in the radio industry, for example, the United Fruit Company and the Wireless Specialty Apparatus Company, entered into cross-licensing arrangements with RCA.
RCA also made arrangements internationally with the three dominant companies in radio communication in their respective countries. British Marconi, Compagnie Generale de Telegraphie sans fil, and Telefunken. Each corporation was given exclusive rights to use the other companies' patents within their own territories.
The rise of amateur radio in the 1920s and, to a greater extent, the demand for new products by the general public contributed to the rise of the broadcasting industry. This put a strain on the earlier agreements between the major radio corporations and between 1921 and 1928 there was a struggle over patents for control of the evolving medium.
An initial attempt by AT&T to control the broadcasting industry -- using its earlier cross-licensing agreements to manufacture radio telephone transmitting equipment -- began with AT&T's disposal of RCA stock holdings in 1922-1923. It ended in 1926 with a new cross-licensing agreement which gave AT&T exclusive patent rights in the field of public service telephony and gave GE, RCA, and Westinghouse exclusive patent rights in the areas covered by wireless telegraphy, entertainment broadcasting, and the manufacture of radio sets and receiving tubes for public sale.
In 1926 after the agreements were finalized, RCA, GE, and Westinghouse joined forces and established the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). Fifty percent of the stock went to RCA, thirty percent to GE, and twenty percent to Westinghouse. The new company was divided into three divisions: the Red, Blue, and Pacific Networks. Independent, competing networks soon emerged. William S. Paley and his family formed the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) in 1927. The Mutual Broadcasting System was formed in 1934.
By 1928 RCA had strong patent positions in all major areas of the radio industry, including the research, development and manufacture of vacuum tubes and speakers. Most small companies entering the industry in the 1920s produced their products based on prior research by others and on expired patents. An RCA license, therefore, was essential for the manufacture of any modern radio set or vacuum tube.
In the late 1920s new developments in the reproduction of sound, produced significant changes in the phonograph industry. Among those new developments were the introduction of the electronic record, and the marketing of the Radiola 104 Loudspeaker in 1926. In 1929 RCA purchased the Victor Talking Machine Company. This changed not only the quality but the sales of the phonograph and the phonograph record. A new entertainment industry was born and an ever-expanding market for consumer products was created with cultural implications that continue today.
German industrialists were eager to break the Marconi Company's monopoly. Although Marconi had patents on his inventions in Germany, the Germans developed a rival system through the Telefunken Corporation, incorporated in 1903, based on the inventions of Professor Ferdinand Braun, Dr. Rudolf Slaby, and Count George von Arco.
Before 1903 the Braun-Siemens and Halske system had been developed by Gesellschaft fur Drahtlose Telegraphie (GFDT). The Slaby-Arco system had been developed by Allgemeine Electrizitats-Gesellschaft. After litigation over patents, the German court handed down a decision in favor of the GFDT. The Kaiser, with national interests in mind, ordered that the rivalry cease. The two systems were amalgamated under GFDT, and became known as the Telefunken.
Chronology of Some Significant Events In The History of The Radio Industry
1895 -- Marconi experiments with Hertz's oscillator and Branley's coherer.
1897 -- In March Marconi demonstrates his wireless system on Salisbury Plain, near London, and files a complete patent specification. In May trials of Marconi's system are made over water between Lavernock and Flatholm, a distance of three miles. On May 13, communication is established between Lavernock Point and Brean Down, a distance of eight miles. German scientist Professor Slaby is present. The first Marconi station is erected at the Needles, Isle of Wight. A distance of fourteen and one-half miles is bridged by wireless. In December the Marconi station at the Needles communicates with a ship eighteen miles at sea.
1898 -- In England Oliver Lodge files a complete specification covering inventions in wireless telegraphy.
1899 -- The New York Herald uses Marconi's wireless telegraphy to report the progress of the International Yacht races between the Columbia and the Shamrock off New York harbor in September. US. Navy vessels make trials of Marconi's wireless telegraph system. The cruiser New York and the battleship Massachusetts are equipped with apparatus. Fessenden develops improvements in methods of wireless telegraph signaling.
1900 -- The Marconi International Marine Communication Company is organized on April 25th in London. Reginald Aubrey Fessenden begins work at the United States Weather Bureau. Over the next two years he invents the liquid barretter, an improved radio receiver.
1901 -- In February on board the SS Philadelphia, Marconi receives wireless signals over a distance of 1,551 miles. In March Marconi wireless telegraph service begins between islands of the Hawaiian group. On December 12, Marconi receives transatlantic signal at St. John's, Newfoundland from Poldhu, Cornwall, England. The Canadian government orders two Marconi telegraph sets for use at coastal points along the Strait of Belle Isle.
1901 -- Fessenden procures US patent no. 706737 for a system of radio signaling employing long waves (low frequency). De Forest develops a system of wireless telegraphy in Chicago. 1903-06 10,000 to 50,000 cycle machines, 1 kW, are developed by Steinmetz and by Alexanderson of GE for Fessenden. 1905 Marconi procures patent number 14788 in England, covering the invention of the horizontal directional antenna.
1906 -- At Brant Rock, Massachusetts, Fessenden employs a generator of one-half kW capacity, operating at 75,000 cycles, for radio purposes. He succeeds in telephoning a distance of eleven miles by means of wireless telephone apparatus.
1907 -- De Forest procures a U. S. patent for an audion amplifier of pulsating or alternating current.
1908 -- Marconi stations in Canada and England are opened for radio telegraph service across the Atlantic. Fessenden constructs a 70,000-cycle alternator with an output of 2.5 kW. at 225 volts, for radio signaling purposes. He reports successful radio telephone tests between Brant Rock and Washington, DC, a distance of 600 miles.
1909 -- US House of Representatives passes the Burke Bill for the compulsory use of radio telegraphy on certain classes of vessels. The United Wireless Telegraph Company and the Radio Telephone Company of New York (De Forest and Stone systems) begin the erection of radio stations in the Central and Western states. Marconi shares with Ferdinand Braun of Germany the Nobel prize in recognition of contributions in wireless telegraphy.
1910 -- An act of the US government requires radio equipment and operators on certain types of passenger ships. The Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Marconi station is opened in September. This station communicates with Clifden, Ireland. The transatlantic tariff is seventeen cents a word.
1911 -- A radio section is organized by the US Department of Commerce to enforce the provisions of national radio legislation. Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company acquires the Lodge-Muirhead patents.
1912 -- Rotary gap is used with Fessenden 100 kW 500 cycle spark set at NAA, the Navy's first high-power station at Arlington, Virginia. Marconi Wireless of America acquires property of the United Wireless Telegraph Company. British Marconi secures the important radio patents of Bellini and Tosi, Italian inventors. Wreck of the SS Titanic on April 15th. The act of 1910 is extended on July 23 to cover cargo vessels. requires an auxiliary source of power on ships and two or more skilled radio apparatus operators on certain types of passenger ships. On August 13, an act provides for licensing radio operators and transmitting stations.
1912-1913 -- High vacuum amplifying tubes (an improvement on De Forest's), using the findings of pure science, are produced almost simultaneously in two great industrial laboratories, by Dr. H. D. Arnold of AT&T and Irving Langmuir of GE.
1915 -- De Forest Ultra-audion three-step (cascade) audio amplifier is announced and introduced into practice.
1916 -- GE and the Western Electric Company develop the first experimental vacuum tube radiotelephone systems for the Navy.
1917-1918 -- First production of vacuum tubes in quantity, both coated filament and tungsten filament types, by Western Electric Company and GE.
1918 -- Lloyd Espenschied procures US patent number 1,256,889 for the invention of a duplex radio telegraph system. (See Lloyd Espenschied Papers, Archives Center, NMAH, Collection #13.) The House of Representatives passes a resolution on July 5, authorizing the President to take over management of telegraph and telephone systems due to war conditions.
1919 -- Bills are introduced in Congress for permanent government control of radio stations. The widespread resentment of amateurs has more to do with the defeat of these bills than the objections of commercial companies. Roy Alexander Weagant, New York, reports having developed means of reducing disturbances to radio reception caused by atmospherics or static. This is the first successful static-reducing system. GE purchases the holdings of the British Marconi Company in the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America, the name of the latter company being changed to Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in October. Edward J. Nally is elected president of the new company.
1920 -- E. F. W. Alexanderson is appointed Chief Engineer of RCA. RCA begins the installation of 200-kW Alexanderson alternators at Bolinas, California, and Marion, Massachusetts. The Tropical Radio Telegraph Company, a subsidiary of the United Fruit Company, New York, operates ten long-distance radio stations at points in Central and South Americirca RCA purchases 6,000 acres at Rocky Point, Long Island, New York, and begins erection of a Radio Central station, comprising a number of operating units for communication with European stations and stations in South Americirca On May 15, RCA inaugurates radio telegraph services between installations at Chatham and Marion, Massachusetts, and stations at Stavanger and Jaerobe, Norway. Westinghouse Company's radio station KDKA, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, broadcasts returns of the national elections, November 2. Development, design, and manufacture by GE of the early receiving and transmitting tubes made available to the public by RCA (UV-200,201,202). Radio telegraph stations and properties taken over by the government under war time powers are returned to their owners at midnight, February 29. The government calls for bids for the sale of large quantities of surplus radio and telegraph and telephone apparatus purchased for war needs and not used.
1921 -- RCA develops Vacuum tubes UV-200(detector) and UV-201(amplifier) -- both triodes with brass shells known as the UV base, and incorporating a filament that required 1 ampere at 5 volts for operation -- for storage battery operation; and at the same time also released to the public the WD-11 for dry cell operation, which employed an oxide-coated tungsten filament. RCA station at Rocky Point, Long Island, opens on November 5. WJZ station established by the Westinghouse Company in Newark, NJ. RCA broadcast station at Roselle Park, NJ (WDY) opens on December 15. It continues operation until February 15, 1922, when its operation is transferred to WJZ, Newark, previously owned by Westinghouse. RCA installs 200-kW alternator at Tuckerton, NJ.
1922 -- First use of tube transmitters by RCA for service from the United States to England and Germany. RCA begins substitution of tube transmitters on ships to replace spark sets. RCA begins replacement of crystal receivers by tube receivers on ships.
1923 -- Broadcast stations WJZ and WJY opened in New York in May by RCA. WRC opens in Washington on August 1. The UV-201A, receiving tubes developed by GE and consuming only 1/4 of an ampere are introduced by RCA. Tungsten filaments coated and impregnated with thorium were employed.
1924 -- Edwin H. Armstrong, demonstrates the superheterodyne receiver on March 6th. In November RCA experiments with radio photographs across the Atlantic. RCA markets the superheterodyne receivers for broadcast reception.
1925-26 -- Dynamic loudspeakers introduced. Magnetic pick-up phonograph recording and reproduction developed. RCA opens radio circuit to Dutch East Indies. Direction-finders introduced on ships.
1927 -- Fully self-contained AC radio receivers introduced.
The collection was donated to the Smithsonian in 1959.
The collection is open for research use.
Gloves must be worn when handling unprotected photographs, negatives, and slides.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Smithsonian Education Volunteers Advisory Board Search this
1 cu. ft. (1 record storage box)
This accession consists of records documenting the activities and meetings of the Smithsonian Education Volunteers Advisory Board (SEVAB). SEVAB was established to
manage and fund the volunteer docent programs at the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of History and Technology (later the National Museum of American History),
and the National Museum of Natural History. Other Smithsonian Institution museums were invited to participate later, but the three museums remained the core of the Board.
Materials include meeting materials, by-laws, notes, financial reports, brochures for education programs, volunteer rosters, and related materials. Also included is "A Brief
History of SEVAB," compiled in 1978, which also serves as an early history of docent programs, beginning in 1954, at the Smithsonian Institution.
The collection documents in photographs, scrapbooks, notebooks, correspondence, stock ledgers, annual reports, and financial records, the evolution of the telegraph, the development of the Western Union Telegraph Company, and the beginning of the communications revolution. The collection materials describe both the history of the company and of the telegraph industry in general, particularly its importance to the development of the technology in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The collection is useful for researchers interested in the development of technology, economic history, and the impact of technology on American social and cultural life.
Scope and Contents:
The collection is divided into twenty-six (26) series and consists of approximately 400 cubic feet. The collection documents in photographs, scrapbooks, notebooks, correspondence, stock ledgers, annual reports, and financial records, the evolution of the telegraph, the development of the Western Union Telegraph Company, and the beginning of the communications revolution. The collection materials describe both the history of the company and of the telegraph industry in general, particularly its importance to the development of the technology in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The collection is useful for researchers interested in the development of technology, economic history, and the impact of technology on American social and cultural life.
The collection is divided into twenty-six series.
Series 1: Historical and Background Information, 1851-1994
Series 2: Subsidiaries of Western Union, 1844-1986
Series 3: Executive Records, 1848-1987
Series 4: Presidential Letterbooks and Writings, 1865-1911
Series 5: Correspondence, 1837-1985
Series 6: Cyrus W. Field Papers, 1840-1892
Series 7: Secretary's Files, 1844-1987
Series 8: Financial Records, 1859-1995
Series 9: Legal Records, 1867-1968
Series 10: Railroad Records, 1854-1945
Series 11: Law Department Records, 1868-1979
Series 12: Patent Materials, 1840-1970
Series 13: Operating Records, 1868-1970s
Series 14: Westar VI-S, 1974, 1983-1986
Series 15: Engineering Department Records, 1874-1970
Series 16: Plant Department Records, 1867-1937, 1963
Series 17: Superintendent of Supplies Records, 1888-1948
Series 18: Employee/Personnel Records 1852-1985
Series 19: Public Relations Department Records, 1858-1980
Series 20: Western Union Museum, 1913-1971
Series 21: Maps, 1820-1964
Series 22: Telegrams, 1852-1960s
Series 23: Photographs, circa 1870-1980
Series 24: Scrapbooks, 1835-1956
Series 25: Notebooks, 1880-1942
Series 26: Audio Visual Materials, 1925-1994
Series 27: Materials for Interfile (Series 1; Series 3; Series 13; Series 15-23; Series 25-26)
Biographical / Historical:
In 1832 Samuel F. B. Morse, assisted by Alfred Vail, conceived of the idea for an electromechanical telegraph, which he called the "Recording Telegraph." This commercial application of electricity was made tangible by their construction of a crude working model in 1835-36. This instrument probably was never used outside of Professor Morse's rooms where it was, however, operated in a number of demonstrations. This original telegraph instrument was in the hands of the Western Union Telegraph Company and had been kept carefully over the years in a glass case. It was moved several times in New York as the Western Union headquarters building changed location over the years. The company presented it to the Smithsonian Institution in 1950.
The telegraph was further refined by Morse, Vail, and a colleague, Leonard Gale, into working mechanical form in 1837. In this year Morse filed a caveat for it at the U.S. Patent Office. Electricity, provided by Joseph Henry's 1836 "intensity batteries", was sent over a wire. The flow of electricity through the wire was interrupted for shorter or longer periods by holding down the key of the device. The resulting dots or dashes were recorded on a printer or could be interpreted orally. In 1838 Morse perfected his sending and receiving code and organized a corporation, making Vail and Gale his partners.
In 1843 Morse received funds from Congress to set-up a demonstration line between Washington and Baltimore. Unfortunately, Morse was not an astute businessman and had no practical plan for constructing a line. After an unsuccessful attempt at laying underground cables with Ezra Cornell, the inventor of a trench digger, Morse switched to the erection of telegraph poles and was more successful. On May 24, 1844, Morse, in the U.S. Supreme Court Chambers in Washington, sent by telegraph the oft-quoted message to his colleague Vail in Baltimore, "What hath God wrought!"
In 1845 Morse hired Andrew Jackson's former postmaster general, Amos Kendall, as his agent in locating potential buyers of the telegraph. Kendall realized the value of the device, and had little trouble convincing others of its potential for profit. By the spring he had attracted a small group of investors. They subscribed $15,000 and formed the Magnetic Telegraph Company. Many new telegraph companies were formed as Morse sold licenses wherever he could.
The first commercial telegraph line was completed between Washington, D.C., and New York City in the spring of 1846 by the Magnetic Telegraph Company. Shortly thereafter, F. O. J. Smith, one of the patent owners, built a line between New York City and Boston. Most of these early companies were licensed by owners of Samuel Morse patents. The Morse messages were sent and received in a code of dots and dashes.
At this time other telegraph systems based on rival technologies were being built. Some companies used the printing telegraph, a device invented by a Vermonter, Royal E. House, whose messages were printed on paper or tape in Roman letters. In 1848 a Scotch scientist, Alexander Bain, received his patents on a telegraph. These were but two of many competing and incompatible technologies that had developed. The result was confusion, inefficiency, and a rash of suits and counter suits.
By 1851 there were over fifty separate telegraph companies operating in the United States. This corporate cornucopia developed because the owners of the telegraph patents had been unsuccessful in convincing the United States and other governments of the invention's potential usefulness. In the private sector, the owners had difficulty convincing capitalists of the commercial value of the invention. This led to the owners' willingness to sell licenses to many purchasers who organized separate companies and then built independent telegraph lines in various sections of the country.
Hiram Sibley moved to Rochester, New York, in 1838 to pursue banking and real estate. Later he was elected sheriff of Monroe County. In Rochester he was introduced to Judge Samuel L. Selden who held the House Telegraph patent rights. In 1849 Selden and Sibley organized the New York State Printing Telegraph Company, but they found it hard to compete with the existing New York, Albany, and Buffalo Telegraph Company.
After this experience Selden suggested that instead of creating a new line, the two should try to acquire all the companies west of Buffalo and unite them into a single unified system. Selden secured an agency for the extension throughout the United States of the House system. In an effort to expand this line west, Judge Selden called on friends and the people in Rochester. This led, in April 1851, to the organization of a company and the filing in Albany of the Articles of Association for the "New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company" (NYMVPTC), a company which later evolved into the Western Union Telegraph Company.
In 1854 there were two rival systems of the NYMVPTC in the West. These two systems consisted of thirteen separate companies. All the companies were using Morse patents in the five states north of the Ohio River. This created a struggle between three separate entities, leading to an unreliable and inefficient telegraph service. The owners of these rival companies eventually decided to invest their money elsewhere and arrangements were made for the NYMVPTC to purchase their interests.
Hiram Sibley recapitalized the company in 1854 under the same name and began a program of construction and acquisition. The most important takeover was carried out by Sibley when he negotiated the purchase of the Morse patent rights for the Midwest for $50,000 from Jeptha H. Wade and John J. Speed, without the knowledge of Ezra Cornell, their partner in the Erie and Michigan Telegraph Company (EMTC). With this acquisition Sibley proceeded to switch to the superior Morse system. He also hired Wade, a very capable manager, who became his protege and later his successor. After a bitter struggle Morse and Wade obtained the EMTC from Cornell in 1855, thus assuring dominance by the NYMVPTC in the Midwest. In 1856 the company name was changed to the "Western Union Telegraph Company," indicating the union of the Western lines into one compact system. In December, 1857, the Company paid stockholders their first dividend.
Between 1857 and 1861 similar consolidations of telegraph companies took place in other areas of the country so that most of the telegraph interests of the United States had merged into six systems. These were the American Telegraph Company (covering the Atlantic and some Gulf states), The Western Union Telegraph Company (covering states North of the Ohio River and parts of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Minnesota), the New York Albany and Buffalo Electro-Magnetic Telegraph Company (covering New York State), the Atlantic and Ohio Telegraph Company (covering Pennsylvania), the Illinois & Mississippi Telegraph Company (covering sections of Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois), and the New Orleans & Ohio Telegraph Company (covering the southern Mississippi Valley and the Southwest). All these companies worked together in a mutually friendly alliance, and other small companies cooperated with the six systems, particularly some on the West Coast.
By the time of the Civil War, there was a strong commercial incentive to construct a telegraph line across the western plains to link the two coasts of America. Many companies, however, believed the line would be impossible to build and maintain.
In 1860 Congress passed, and President James Buchanan signed, the Pacific Telegraph Act, which authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to seek bids for a project to construct a transcontinental line. When two bidders dropped out, Hiram Sibley, representing Western Union, was the only bidder left. By default Sibley won the contract. The Pacific Telegraph Company was organized for the purpose of building the eastern section of the line. Sibley sent Wade to California, where he consolidated the small local companies into the California State Telegraph Company. This entity then organized the Overland Telegraph Company, which handled construction eastward from Carson City, Nevada, joining the existing California lines, to Salt Lake City, Utah. Sibley's Pacific Telegraph Company built westward from Omaha, Nebraska. Sibley put most of his resources into the venture. The line was completed in October, 1861. Both companies were soon merged into Western Union. This accomplishment made Hiram Sibley leader of the telegraph industry.
Further consolidations took place over the next several years. Many companies merged into the American Telegraph Company. With the expiration of the Morse patents, several organizations were combined in 1864 under the name of "The U.S. Telegraph Company." In 1866 the final consolidation took place, with Western Union exchanging stock for the stock of the other two organizations. The general office of Western Union moved at this time from Rochester to 145 Broadway, New York City. In 1875 the main office moved to 195 Broadway, where it remained until 1930 when it relocated to 60 Hudson Street.
In 1873 Western Union purchased a majority of shares in the International Ocean Telegraph Company. This was an important move because it marked Western Union's entry into the foreign telegraph market. Having previously worked with foreign companies, Western Union now began competing for overseas business.
In the late 1870s Western Union, led by William H. Vanderbilt, attempted to wrest control of the major telephone patents, and the new telephone industry, away from the Bell Telephone Company. But due to new Bell leadership and a subsequent hostile takeover attempt of Western Union by Jay Gould, Western Union discontinued its fight and Bell Telephone prevailed.
Despite these corporate calisthenics, Western Union remained in the public eye. The sight of a uniformed Western Union messenger boy was familiar in small towns and big cities all over the country for many years. Some of Western Union's top officials in fact began their careers as messenger boys.
Throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century the telegraph became one of the most important factors in the development of social and commercial life of America. In spite of improvements to the telegraph, however, two new inventions--the telephone (nineteenth century) and the radio (twentieth century)--eventually replaced the telegraph as the leaders of the communication revolution for most Americans.
At the turn of the century, Bell abandoned its struggles to maintain a monopoly through patent suits, and entered into direct competition with the many independent telephone companies. Around this time, the company adopted its new name, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T).
In 1908 AT&T gained control of Western Union. This proved beneficial to Western Union, because the companies were able to share lines when needed, and it became possible to order telegrams by telephone. However, it was only possible to order Western Union telegrams, and this hurt the business of Western Union's main competitor, the Postal Telegraph Company. In 1913, however, as part of a move to prevent the government from invoking antitrust laws, AT&T completely separated itself from Western Union.
Western Union continued to prosper and it received commendations from the U.S. armed forces for service during both world wars. In 1945 Western Union finally merged with its longtime rival, the Postal Telegraph Company. As part of that merger, Western Union agreed to separate domestic and foreign business. In 1963 Western Union International Incorporated, a private company completely separate from the Western Union Telegraph Company, was formed and an agreement with the Postal Telegraph Company was completed. In 1994, Western Union Financial Services, Inc. was acquired by First Financial Management Corporation. In 1995, First Financial Management Corporation merged with First Data Corporation making Western Union a First Data subsidiary.
Many technological advancements followed the telegraph's development. The following are among the more important:
The first advancement of the telegraph occurred around 1850 when operators realized that the clicks of the recording instrument portrayed a sound pattern, understandable by the operators as dots and dashes. This allowed the operator to hear the message by ear and simultaneously write it down. This ability transformed the telegraph into a versatile and speedy system.
Duplex Telegraphy, 1871-72, was invented by the president of the Franklin Telegraph Company. Unable to sell his invention to his own company, he found a willing buyer in Western Union. Utilizing this invention, two messages were sent over the wire simultaneously, one in each direction.
As business blossomed and demand surged, new devices appeared. Thomas Edison's Quadruplex allowed four messages to be sent over the same wire simultaneously, two in one direction and two in the other.
An English automatic signaling arrangement, Wheatstone's Automatic Telegraph, 1883, allowed larger numbers of words to be transmitted over a wire at once. It could only be used advantageously, however, on circuits where there was a heavy volume of business.
Buckingham's Machine Telegraph was an improvement on the House system. It printed received messages in plain Roman letters quickly and legibly on a message blank, ready for delivery.
Vibroplex, c. 1890, a semi-automatic key sometimes called a "bug key," made the dots automatically. This relieved the operator of much physical strain.
Materials in the Archives Center
Additional moving image about Western Union Telegraph Company can be found in the Industry on Parade Collection (AC0507). This includes Cable to Cuba! by Bell Laboratory, AT & T, featuring the cable ship, the C.S. Lord Kelvin, and Communications Centennial! by the Western Union Company.
Materials at Other Organizations
Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, Delaware.
Western Union International Records form part of the MCI International, Inc. Records at the First Data Corporation, Greenwood Village, Colorado.
Records of First Data Corporation and its predecessors, including Western Union, First Financial Management Corporation (Atlanta) and First Data Resources (Omaha). Western Union collection supports research of telegraphy and related technologies, and includes company records, annual reports, photographs, print and broadcast advertising, telegraph equipment, and messenger uniforms.
Smithsonian Institution Archives
Western Union Telegraph Expedition, 1865-1867
This collection includes correspondence, mostly to Spencer F. Baird, from members of the Scientific Corps of the Western Union Telegraph Expedition, including Kennicott, Dall, Bannister, and Elliott; copies of reports submitted to divisional chiefs from expedition staff members; newspaper clippings concerning the expedition; copies of notes on natural history taken by Robert Kennicott; and a journal containing meteorological data recorded by Henry M. Bannister from March to August, 1866.
Artifacts (apparatus and equipment) were donated to the Division of Information Technology and Society, now known as the Division of Work & Industry, National Museum of American History.
The collection was donated by Western Union in September of 1971.
Collection is open for research.
Gloves must be worn when handling unprotected photographs and negatives. Special arrangements must be made to view some of the audio visual materials. Contact the Archives Center at 202-633-3270.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.