Archives Center, National Museum of American History

George H. Clark Radioana Collection

Collection ID:
Clark, George Howard, 1881-1956
circa 1880-1950
Physical Description:
220 Cubic feet
534 boxes, 25 map-folders
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
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 169)
  • Series 209, Short Waves
  • Series 226, Radar
  • Series 233, Television Transmitter
    Lettered Series
  • 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
  • Series N, Federal Government Personnel Files
  • Series O, Addenda Materials

Biographical / Historical
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.

Robert Harding
Custodial History
The collection was transferred from the Division of Electricity (now the Division of Work and Industry), on June 27, 1983.
Custodial History
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.
George H. Clark assembled this collection over a fifty year period. He purchased books, newspapers, and periodicals, and spent, it seems, all his spare time pasting these onto sheets of paper. Occasionally he received donations, both large and small, from former wireless colleagues. From time to time, he also obtained large bodies of disparate material from other sources. These include business records, laboratory notes, correspondence, reminiscences, and other materials. Clark apparently kept no records of materials he received. See series 1 for additional information on Clark as a collector.
Listed below are some of the major sources of the collection.
US Army. Records of the U. S. Signal Corps
Donated by Captain Evans and Captain Guy Hill.
American Telephone and Telegraph Company
Clark received a large batch of material that John Stone Stone had stored with AT&T in 1912.
De Forest Companies
Clark obtained some material directly from the company, while some came from RCA.
Philip Farnsworth
Farnsworth was a radio industry lawyer (one of his clients was Wireless Specialty Apparatus Company (WSA)) from whom Clark purchased books and legal records, the latter containing a wealth of engineering material.
50 Volumes of material on radio litigation.
Set of US Patents.
Complete files of correspondence.
John Firth
engineering files.
Federal Government Personnel Files
These personnel files, the Official Personnel Folders (OPF), of federal employees of the Weather Bureau and some other agencies were obtained by Robert S. Harding from the U. S. Office of Personnel Management, Record Appraisal and Disposition Division (NIR), St. Louis, Missouri. General Records Schedule 1 provides that an OPF may be disposed of to a suitable institution if the individual is more than seventy-five years of age, and has been out of the Federal service more than five years.
Fessenden Materials
At the close of the National Electric Signaling Company's (NESCO) receivership, Clark received a large volume of NESCO's files, including photographs, books, and legal records. He also received Fessenden material from Massie, W. S. Fitzpatrick, Jack Duffy, WSA, and Dublier.
Dr. Alfred N. Goldsmith
First donations of material to be added to the Clark collection by someone other than Clark. When Dr. Goldsmith changed his vocation from teaching to inventing he turned over a large number of early works, including books and pamphlets.
Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company
Some very old material not of great bulk was obtained from Mr. Pillsbury, W.S. Fitzpatrick, and Jack Duffy. From Russell Hoffman some records of the Marconi Company were obtained that had been discarded from RCA files. On the dissolution of the firm of Sheffield and Betts, Clark bought some material, from chief clerk John Herr. This consisted mainly of large volumes of litigation, old exhibits, and some early data on Marconi.
Julius Martin
Martin was an electrical expert aide for the US Navy and a collector of wireless records with a similar collection to Clark's. Martin gave Clark his entire collection which contained data from all companies, especially many from the earlier periods of wireless, and also data on all U. S. Services.
Clark received a large volume of discarded legal files, from which engineering material was extracted for the collection.
US Navy
Julius Martin and George Clark collected material documenting early wireless work in the Navy from Navy sources. These records were duplicates of material in the files of the various Yards and at the Bureau of Steam Engineering in Washington, and in great part consisted of material used by these engineers during the progress of their daily work in Navy Service. Many of the records were written by these men, as specifications, instruction books, and so forth. As a story of the early transmitters and receivers of wireless these sheets may be of value particularly when accompanied by their explanations written in later years.
Radio Corporation of America
These items consist of Clark's log books and many general issue items, for example, press releases, annual reports, and complete files of RCA house organs issued to employees. This latter material was either issued to Clark as an employee or donated to him by others. Clark also collected some material culled from items which had been discarded from the file rooms and sent out for destruction. For example, Clark mentions at one point that he was attempting to save a complete file of the drawings of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America, which he hoped would form a complete record of the company's apparatus and installations.
Stone Telegraph and Telephone Company
Clark received a "cartload" of records after this company failed. Clark mentions that he was to receive some STTC records from Mr. E. R. Cram. Clark wrote a biography of Stone (Class 4, Box 26, Bound Volumes).
A small amount of data on this and other German concerns was donated to Clark by Mr. Boehme.
Roy A. Weagant
After his death Clark received some papers of his former colleague who had been chief engineer of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company. These consisted mostly of Weagant's work on static reduction. From these papers and his own Clark wrote a biography of Weagant (Class 4, Book 17, Box 29, Bound Volumes)
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was donated to the Smithsonian in 1959.
Processing Information
Processed by Robert S. Harding, archivist, 1990; revised by Robert S. Harding, archivist, 2001. Series 4 processed by Cathy Keen, May 2000.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use
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.
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research but a portion of the collection remains unprocessed and is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Contact the Archives Center for information at or 202-633-3270.
Gloves must be worn when handling unprotected photographs, negatives, and slides.
Preferred Citation
George H. Clark Radioana Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

More Information
Brief Company Histories From The Radio Industry, 1900-1930s
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.
Marconi Companies
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
Marconi experiments with Hertz's oscillator and Branley's coherer.
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.
In England Oliver Lodge files a complete specification covering inventions in wireless telegraphy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
De Forest procures a U. S. patent for an audion amplifier of pulsating or alternating current.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
De Forest Ultra-audion three-step (cascade) audio amplifier is announced and introduced into practice.
GE and the Western Electric Company develop the first experimental vacuum tube radiotelephone systems for the Navy.
First production of vacuum tubes in quantity, both coated filament and tungsten filament types, by Western Electric Company and GE.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dynamic loudspeakers introduced. Magnetic pick-up phonograph recording and reproduction developed. RCA opens radio circuit to Dutch East Indies. Direction-finders introduced on ships.
Fully self-contained AC radio receivers introduced.

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