Monthly Archives: January 2014

On The Air as W1AW/0

W1AW License

The license under which I was operating, signed by W1AW trustee Dave Sumner.

I had the privilege of being able to operate last night and today with the call sign W1AW/0.  In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the ARRL, the League is operating the Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station from all fifty states.  This week (and again in June), it is being operated in Minnesota and Texas.  This is all part of the ARRL Centennial QSO Party.

In Minnesota, the coordination is being done by the Minnesota Wireless Association and the Northern Lights Radio Society.

The Old Man, W1AW

The call 1AW was issued to Hiram Percy Maxim after Amateur Radio returned to the air after the First World War.  When national prefixes were issued in 1928, the call became W1AW, which he held until his death in 1936.  It later became the call of the headquarters station of the ARRL.

I’ve worked W1AW several times.  It’s often active in contests, so it’s not a particularly rare catch, but it’s always a thrill to get this historic call sign in the log.

I noticed that the VHF slot for yesterday hadn’t been assigned.  Even though I don’t have much in the way of a VHF station, I decided to at least get the call on the air on FM, rather than let it go unused for 24 hours.  I made an announcement on a couple of local repeaters, and then camped out on 146.55 MHz and handed out contacts.  N0AIS made a recording off the air, which you can find posted at this link.

I had a relatively leisurely time of it, and had a chance to “ragchew” with a few of the contacts.  This was in contrast to the pileup on 40 CW, where I had to exercise a great deal of patience to break through and make my own contact with W1AW/0.  I later scored another one on 80 CW.

A few of the contacts I made were with hams using handhelds.  Several of the calls looked like they had been only fairly recently issued.  I think the Old Man would be glad to know that they worked his old call.

The following calls made it into the Old Man’s log on my watch:  N0AIS, W0ERP, KB0LYL, KD0LQQ, KD0UIH, WD9IGX, K0SHF, KC0VFP, KD0TTG, KD0WBM, W0COE, K0TI, KG0SF, W0ZQ, KC0IYT, K0IKV, WX0Z, WB0EBG, W0GHZ, KC0OIA, K0LAV, K0GJX.

External Links


The Telegraph of 1797

Samuel F.B. Morse

Samuel F.B. Morse

When we think of the telegraph, we usually think of the version invented by Morse (and others).  But the word “telegraph” has been around a lot longer than that, and much thought was given to the problem of rapidly communicating over long distances.

This is made clear by the discussion of the telegraph in the 1797 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.  I’ve scanned that article and have it posted at my website at this link.

1797 Encylopaedia Britannica Telegraph


The figure shown here is a representation of one possible scheme using 1797 technology.  It’s also clear that the author anticipated the great developments that took place in the coming decades:

Were telegraphs brought to so great a degree of perfection, that they could convey information speedily and distinctly; were they so much simplified, that they could be constructed and maintained at little expence–the advantages which would result from their use are almost inconceivable. Not to speak of the speed with which information could be communicated and orders given in time of war, by means of which misfortunes might be prevented or instantly repaired, difficulties removed, and disputes precluded, and by means of which the whole kingdom could be prepared in an instant to oppose an invading enemy; it might be used by commercial men to convey a commission cheaper and speedier than an express can travel. The capitals of distant nations might be united by chains of posts, and the settling of those disputes which at present take up months or years might then be accomplished in as many hours. An establishment of telegraphs might then be made like that of the post; and instead of being an expense, it would produce a revenue. Until telegraphs are employed to convey information that occurs very frequently, the persons who are stationed to work them will never become expert, and consequently will neither be expeditious nor accurate, though, with practice, there is no doubt but they will attain both in a degree of perfection of which we can at yet have but little conception.

For more books about the history of the telegraph, you can visit my old radio books page.


Operating the VHF Contest with the Baofeng

Most people who buy inexpensive radios like the BaoFeng UV-5R are doing so to communicate through repeaters. A repeater is a station, usually located at a high location, which picks up weak signals and retransmits them over a much larger area. Therefore, with even a cheap radio, it’s trivially simple to communicate tens or even hundreds of miles. And if the repeater is linked to other repeaters with a system such as Echolink, then it’s possible to communicate worldwide.

Of course, it’s also quite simple to communicate worldwide with your cell phone. In both cases, you’re relying upon equipment supplied by someone else. In the case of the cell phone, you can call Japan because you’re paying your local cellular provider, and they provide the infrastructure to route your call to the phone company in Japan. In the case of amateur radio, you are relying upon the owner of the repeater, and the volunteers who link it up into networks such as Echolink. It can be interesting chatting with someone around the world with your $30 radio, but there’s nothing particularly remarkable about it.

It’s more remarkable to know what your radio is capable of, relying on nothing other than your own station, the laws of physics, and the equipment owned by the one person with whom you want to talk. This is why, in my opinion, HF (high frequency, the part of the radio spectrum below 30 MHz) is a lot more interesting than VHF. On HF, it is indeed possible to send radio signals around the world using simple equipment, and not relying on anyone other than myself and the station I’m talking to.

If you have only a $30 VHF radio, I encourage you to try out things like repeaters and Echolink, because they can be fun parts of the hobby. But eventually, if you have any curiosity, you’ll want to know what your radio is capable of. What is it capable of doing without all of that equipment supplied by other people.  You may want to do this because it’s an enjoyable hobby.  People enjoy fishing as a hobby, even though you can buy fish at the supermarket.  And many people enjoy communicating by radio, even though you can buy the same services from your friendly cell phone provider.

Some people are interested in knowing the capabilities of radio communications because they are concerned about emergencies in which the friendly local cell phone provider might be unable to provide those services.  In any event, it can be helpful to know what the radio can do by itself.

This is why I decided to try it out in this weekend’s VHF contest. Many hams who engage in “contesting” take the activity very seriously. They spend countless hours and hundreds or thousands of dollars making the best possible station. They can routinely make contacts of hundreds of miles using the same frequencies used by your cheap handheld. Barring very unusual conditions, you will not be able to communicate hundreds of miles directly with your handheld. But you can experience some of the same magic.

I did learn that there’s a reason why some hams spend thousands of dollars. The thousand dollar stations actually work better than the $30 stations! It turns out the Achiles Heel of this radio is the receiver’s wide front end.

In fact, it turns out that there’s really no sense in using an external antenna with this radio, at least in a metropolitan area, since strong signals in the area are going to render the receiver unusable.

Hams have a saying that “if you can’t hear ’em, you can’t work ’em,” and this radio proves the truth of that adage. I can confirm that this $30 radio is able to get out over 40 miles on simplex, because I was heard by a station that far away. But despite his having a much better station than mine, I was unable to hear him.

I hooked the radio up to my outside vertical and put out some CQ’s. I later learned that one of the stations coming back to me was in Red Wing, Minnesota, which is about 41 miles away. He was copying my five watts just fine, but I never heard him when he came back to me. I didn’t even know he was there, until another station about a mile away told me that he was calling. I switched over to the Kenwood mobile rig in my shack, and I was able to work him with no difficulty. In fact, he had a very strong signal, due to the fact that he has a good beam antenna mounted up high.

This illustrates something that might be counter-intuitive to a lot of newbies: It’s quite easy to make a good radio transmitter, but it’s hard to make a good receiver. Almost invariably, the difference between a cheap transceiver and a good transceiver will be that the good one has a better receiver. There’s very little that one can do to make a transmitter work any better. Either it’s radiating RF or it’s not. There’s very little that you can do to make it more effective. When I worked the other station on my other rig, it really didn’t make much difference that I was using 25 watts instead of 5. I doubt if he was able to copy me any better. In fact, he probably didn’t even notice the difference.

The big difference was that I wasn’t able to copy his fairly strong signal. So the quality of the receiver makes a huge difference.

It’s not too surprising that the Baofeng’s receiver received so poorly. It covers a very wide range of frequencies. On VHF, it covers 136-175 MHz. It has very little filtering in the front end, and the filter is designed to let any frequency within that range through. And within that frequency range, there are a huge number of transmitters within the area. The receiver has to deal with those signals, and through a process called “desensing”, it deals with them by reducing the sensitivity to every other signal, including the one I want to listen to.

This isn’t really a defect in the Baofeng’s design. After all, it is a handheld radio, and it’s supplied with and designed to operate with an inefficient antenna. In normal operation, it’s not going to put out a very strong signal, because it’s only five watts going to an inefficient antenna. It’s a very reasonable assumption that the station on the other end is going to be more powerful, such as the output of a repeater.

Also, the receiver is relatively sensitive to start with, as long as it’s not overloaded with other strong signals. And when it’s used as intended–with the built-in antenna–those other signals aren’t particularly strong. That means that when it’s used with a cheap antenna, the receiver actually performs about as well as a good receiver would, if that other receiver were also used with a cheap antenna.

I’m able to see this from the weather stations that I’m able to receive with the stock antenna. My other VHF handheld, a Yaesu VX-3R, is able to receive only one weather signal, the strongest local one on 162.55. The Baofeng, on the other hand, is able to receive three of them from some distance, as long as it’s using the cheap antenna. But when I hook the Baofeng to an external antenna, those weaker stations disappear. They are still there, and in fact they are much stronger now. But all of the other stations in the area on 136-175 MHz are also much stronger. And the combined effect of all of those other stations is that they completely prevent reception of the weaker signals.

It boils down to the fact that the adapter for the external antenna isn’t particularly useful. The receiver actually works better with the inefficient “rubber duck” antenna. There would be very few situations where the external antenna would improve reception.

There might be a handful of situations where an external antenna could be helpful. For example, if you’re using the radio in a rural area with very few transmitters nearby, the advantage of an outdoor antenna might outweigh the desensing effect. But in general, this radio is probably most useful with the cheap antenna that was supplied with it. The situations where an external antenna would be an advantage are probably pretty rare.

I started this experiment to determine whether or not a $30 radio would be useful for contesting. And lo and behold, the shocking conclusion is that spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on gear will probably do a better job than trying to get by with a $30 radio.

But as long as you understand the limitations, you can have some fun with a $30 radio in a VHF contest. My best DX seems to be about 10 miles. Again, I was getting out much further than that, but it wasn’t possible to make a 2-way QSO. I made some of those 10 mile QSO’s with the mobile antenna on the car. But it turns out that I also made some of them with just the rubber duck antenna. And I probably would have made more if I hadn’t worried about the external antenna. If you live in a mountainous area, you’ll probably do much better than 10 miles by “hilltopping”–bringing the radio with you to a very high location away from other sources of VHF radio signals.

If you do have one of these radios, I encourage you to try it out during the next VHF contest. Some of the popular upcoming contests that could be worked with a radio like the Baofeng are:

During any of these contests, if you get on the air (the frequencies 146.55 MHz and 446.000 MHz would probably be the best starting points) and call “CQ Contest” from a high location, you’ll probably make at least a few interesting contacts, and realize that even a cheap radio is capable of producing some fun contacts over a longer distance than you would have expected.

Many areas have a radio club that will promote activity and provide guidance to new hams wanting to try out contesting. You can find a list of local ham clubs on the ARRL website.

In Minnesota, the club that is focused on VHF contesting is the Northern Lights Radio Society.  If you’re located in Minnesota or the surrounding states, it’s a good idea to check in with them before the contest for some pointers and encouragement. Even if you can’t find a local club, it’s worthwhile getting on the air during a contest to see if anyone’s around. You’ll probably make a few contacts, learn the capabilities of your radio, and have some fun in the process.

For more information:


Getting the Baofeng Ready for a Contest

When I ordered the little BaoFeng UV-5R, one thing I neglected to get was a method of attaching an outside antenna. The “rubber duck” antenna that’s supplied with most handheld radios is typically extremely inefficient. More importantly, the single most important thing that can be done for VHF and UHF is to get the antenna up high, so being able to use an outside antenna is a must.

The reason why I wasn’t able to hook up an antenna is that the Baofeng has a “reverse” SMA connector for the antenna. Most radios (at least in the amateur world–the commercial world seems to be different) come with a “female” connector on the radio and a “male” connector on the antenna. The Baofeng is the other way around. And since most antennas use a “PL-259” connector, the best way to deal with the problem is to use an adapter of the type shown here. This adapter is available on Amazon, although I bought one similar to the one shown at the local ham radio shop, Radio City in Mounds View, Minnesota.  The advantage of this type of adapter is that it has a length of thin flexible coax, which is less likely to put a mechanical stress on the radio’s antenna connector.

I don’t operate two meters a great deal, and my only antenna at home is a vertical dipole.  It consists of nothing more than a piece of coaxial cable.  At the final 19 inches of the cable, I separated the center conductor from the outer braid so that one could run in one direction, and the other one in the other.  I have a PVC mast supporting my HF antennas, and I simply taped the antenna to the mast.   The center conductor goes up, and the outer braid goes down, all at the top of the mast.

This isn’t an ideal antenna, because the coax is also taped to the mast, just a couple of inches away from the bottom half of the antenna.  Ideally, in a dipole, the feed line should run perpendicularly away from the antenna.  This undoubtedly messes up the antenna’s pattern somewhat.

But perfect is the enemy of good enough, and this antenna is good enough for the little bit of FM operating I do.  The antenna has been in place for ten years now, and it performs its job adequately.

As I noted above, the single most important factor for a VHF antenna is its height.  VHF radio waves travel in a line of sight, approximately as far as the eye can see.  Therefore, the higher the antenna, the better.  A poor antenna at a high location will outperform a good antenna at a lower height.   I have a poor antenna up as far as I can get it, and it performs relatively well.

This afternoon, I decided to give it a try, and scanned the 2 meter band for any activity.  I hear the end of the HandiHam net on the 145.45 MHz N0BVE repeater in Minnetonka.  I believe the repeater is about 17 miles away from me, and I seemed to be getting into it just fine.  Of course, the other stations on the net were considerably further away.  I would have had little hope of working a repeater that far away with just the rubber duck antenna, so even my crude outdoor antenna made a world of difference.

There are interesting people to be talked to on local repeaters, and in the 1970’s, two meter FM was known as the “Fun Mode” because of the availability of repeaters.  But today, there is often little activity on many repeaters.  And if using repeaters was the only thing I could use a radio for, I’m not sure that the little Baofeng would be worth the $35 I paid for it.  Amateur Radio can be a very interesting hobby, and I want to demonstrate some of the other interesting things that one can do with even a cheap radio.

The reason I bought the antenna adapter now is because one of those fun activities is coming up, namely, the ARRL January VHF Contest.  The reason why Amateur Radio is a fun hobby is not because one can talk to other people.  Certainly, that’s part of it.  But the main draw is that it’s a technical hobby.  Some fairly amazing things can be done with extremely simple equipment.  The most fun is operating HF, where it’s possible to bounce signals off a giant mirror in the sky, known as the ionosphere.  I often bounce those signals off the mirror in the sky while camping, using a battery powered radio.  HF (the frequencies below 30 MHz is still the most fun part of Ham Radio.  But there are also interesting things that can be done on VHF.

For a contest, the general object is to contact as many stations as possible during the contest period.  VHF contests are generally more laid back than their HF counterparts, but the idea is still the same–contact as many stations as possible.  Normally, that entails use of slightly more sophisticated equipment and antennas.  And normally, that entails use of modes such as SSB and CW, of which a handheld radio like the Baofeng is incapable.  But it’s possible to make contacts of a non-trivial distance with a cheap radio, which is why I plan to make a few contacts this weekend using just the Baofeng.  Yes, I’m limiting my capabilities quite a bit.  But I want to show what’s possible with even a cheap radio like this.

I’m convinced that even this cheap radio is good for more than just talking to a handful of people on a handful of repeaters (in other words, be the equivalent of a primitive cell phone).  It’s possible to have some fun with it, which is what I’ll try to do this weekend.  The fact that it’s primitive is actually the thing that makes it fun.

In the future, I’ll show some other things that a cheap radio like this can be used for, such as making contacts directly through a satellite.  If you want to get involved in Ham Radio, you’ll eventually want something more than just a handheld.  In fact, if you’re just starting out, I would recommend starting with something more.  But even if your resources are limited to a handheld, there’s still quite a bit that you can do with it.

Check back in a couple of days, and I’ll let you know how I did in the contest.


Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, 1890

Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, 1890

Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, 1890

This interesting old public domain picture shows Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis as of 1890.  I don’t know the exact location, but I get the idea that it’s looking south.

It can be found in a pamphlet entitled Minneapolis: An Art Study of the City and Its Surroundings published by the Minneapolis Realty Company in 1891.  The little book extols the virtues of the city and explains “good, honest, business-like reasons why parties having surplus capital for investment will find it for their advantage to make such investment” there.

The book is available for free download at Google Books.

A Golden Age of Journalism and Politics?

It is often supposed that there was a “Golden Age” in which journalism, politics, and the law were marked with civility. The problem with this theory, however, is identifying exactly when this supposed Golden Age exited. We can safely rule out 1851, as evidenced by an incident involving James Goodhue, the editor of the Minnesota Pioneer, Minnesota’s first newspaper, which still exists in the form of the
Pioneer Press.

James Goodhue

James Goodhue

This incident began with the publication of an editorial in the January 16, 1851, of the Pioneer. In that editorial, editor James Goodhue was highly critical of U.S. Marshal Alexander Mitchell, and Supreme Court Justice David Cooper.  Of Cooper, the editorial stated:

He is not only a miserable drunkard, who habitually gets so drunk as to feel upward for the ground, but he also spends days and nights and Sunday, playing cards in groceries. He is lost to all sense of decency and self respect. Off the Bench he is a beast, and on the Bench he is an ass, stuffed with arrogance, self conceit and a ridiculous affectation of dignity. . . .  On his passage up the Minnesota river last summer, paying such attentions to a certain California widow on board, as a sot well could pay, he not only kept drunk, but when the boat returned to Fort Snelling, and the news there met him, of the death of his wife in Pennsylvania, he was so shamefully inebriated, that the awful intelligence scarely aroused him.

Justice David Cooper

Supreme Court Justice David Cooper

An advance copy of the paper found its way to on January 15 to Joseph Cooper, the younger brother of the judge. He confronted Goodhue on the street with his fists, and both men drew guns. The Sheriff of Ramsey County, along with some bystanders, managed to initially break up the fight. The younger Cooper, however, managed to charge Goodhue with a knife and stab him in the stomach. Goodhue also managed to break free and shot Cooper in the groin.

No charges were pursued by either man, and Goodhue recovered from his wounds after being confined to his bed for several weeks. Joseph Cooper, on the other hand, was said to have died some two or three months later, “his death being hastened by the pistol wound he had received”.

Justice Cooper’s term expired in 1853. He remained in Minnesota practicing law until 1864, when he moved to Nevada Territory. He is said to have died “in darkness” in an inebriate asylum in Salt Lake City.


Holcombe, et al, Minnesota in Three Centuries, Vol. 2, pp. 449-50 (1908).

Memoir of Judge David Cooper

Hage, Newspapers on the Minnesota Frontier, pp. 35-38 (1967).

Marray, Recollections of Early Territorial Days and Legislation, Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society Vol. 12, p. 103, 113 (1908)

Elliott, The Supreme Court of Minnesota, The Green Bag, Vol. 4, pp. 113, 118 (1892).

1920 Ad for Maxim Silencer

On my way to looking up something else, I found the following advertisement for the Maxim Silencer in a 1920 issue of Popular Science.

1920 Ad for the Maxim Silencer

1920 Ad for the Maxim Silencer


To Amateur Radio Operators, Hiram Percy Maxim is best known as the founder of the ARRL.  But he was also the inventor of the first commercially viable silencer for firearms, and the same techniques were adapted to automobile mufflers.  In fact, Maxim Silencers, Inc., is still in business producing silencers for industrial equipment.

The following links may be of interest:


Expedient Winter Shoes from Newspaper

Even if you’re not contemplating a nuclear war, the book Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson H. Kearney is chock full of interesting information.  This book is freely available at various sites, including the Google Books link above.  It is based on research done by the author while employed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratories, and was published and placed in the public domain after his retirement.

One of the items that I’ve always found intriguing is the description of homemade winter boots found in Chapter 15.  Here are Kearney’s instructions for making boots from newspaper:


Cold-weather footwear that is warmer than all but the best-insulated winter boots can be improvised readily. The trick is learning how to tie the several insulating layers securely in place, so that you could hike for miles in the snow if necessary.

For use in dry snow, first tie a porous insulating layer—such as two bath towels or 10 big sheets of newspaper -over each shoe. If you have no lowheeled shoes, make a paper sole by folding 3 large newspaper sheets to make a sole that has 72 thicknesses of paper. Then proceed in the following manner:

1. Place your foot and the sole on 10 newspaper sheets, as pictured in Fig. 15.5.


Fig. 15.5. Insulating a foot with a folded newspaper sole and 10 sheets of newspaper.

2. Fold all the sheets over the top of your foot while keeping the sole in the proper place, as indicated in Fig. 15.5.

3. Use a strip of cloth about 3 inches wide and 5 feet long to tie the papers in front of your ankle with a single overhand knot (half of a square knot). With the same strip, tie another single overhand knot over the tendon behind the ankle. Finally, tie a bow knot in front of the ankle.

4. Cover the insulating layer with a tough fabric, such as canvas or burlap sack material; secure with a second strip of cloth and tie as described above.

KearneyFig156If the snow is wet, place a piece of strong plastic film or coated fabric outside the insulating layer, after securing it with the first strip of cloth. The outer protective covering should be tied over the waterproofing, with the second strip of cloth securing both it and the waterproofing. (When resting or sleeping in a dry place, remove any moistureproof layer in the foot coverings, to let your feet dry.) Figure 15.6 shows a test subject’s waterproofed expedient footcovering, held in place as described above, after a 2-mile hike in wet snow. His feet were warm, and he had not stopped to tighten or adjust the cloth strips.

20140105_144109Since the temperature this afternoon was about -10 degrees Fahrenheit, it seemed like an ideal day to test this expedient footwear.  Since I was using it for only a short test close to home, I didn’t bother using the full ten sheets of newspaper called for by Kearney’s design.  Instead, I started with a sole

20140105_144144made of corrugated cardboard, and used only about three sheets of newspaper.  I then tied these as indicated in Kearney’s instructions.  I finished by covering them with a plastic grocery bag.


The completed shoes.

The completed shoes were surprisingly comfortable, and they also kept me surprisingly warm and dry as I walked around for a few minutes outside.  I was able to walk quite comfortably through a snowbank.

With the very thin insulating layer, I’m sure that my feet would have gotten cold eventually.  But the concept obviously works, and with more insulation, I think I could have stayed outside indefinitely.

Also, in a true survival situation, I would want to have the waterproof layer by considerably more durable than the thin grocery bags I used.  Eventually, the thin plastic would have torn, my feet would have gotten wet, and I would be in a lot of trouble.  But for my short venture outside, these proved perfectly adequate.

Of course, after seeing me test these, my kids wanted to give it a try themselves, and they both made themselves a set of emergency winter boots.  So yes, I allowed my kids to go outside without shoes with the temperature of ten below zero.

For more interesting emergency preparedness books, see my listing of free e-books.

The Bomb Shell of Fort Ripley, Minnesota

Bomb Shell Newspaper, 1854

The Bomb Shell, an almost forgotten piece of journalism history.

If you’ve looked at my hectograph page, you might have guessed that I’ve always been intrigued by primitive printing methods.  As that page shows, you can whip up a little printing press in the kitchen.  According to Wikipedia (unfortunately, no sources are cited for the assertion), a hectograph was used by allied prisoners of war in World War 2 to make documents for a planned escape attempt.

A more laborious method was employed by three soldiers at Fort Ripley, Minnesota Territory, in the summer of 1854, when they published their newspaper the Bomb Shell.  According to its masthead, the Bomb Shell is the handiwork of R. Pollock, the “Bombardier”, H. Nugent, the “Gunner”, and C. Herman, the “Powder Monkey”.  It bears the motto, “the Earth’s a shell, thrown from old nature’s mortar.”  The prospectus issue indicates a subscription rate of 50 cents per year, but there’s no indication that any issues other than the first, dated July 28, 1854, were ever dispatched from that mortar.

This newspaper is unique in that it was produced with hand-carved type.  These early proto-bloggers didn’t let the lack of technology stand in their way.  With a pocket knife, they carved out the type, set it by hand, and printed their own newspaper.  According to its first issue, “the appearance of the BOMB-SHELL before the public may be as unexpected and to some as unwelcome as its prototype.”  It goes on to say, however, that the new paper “shall be as harmless as the egg of the turtle dove and except in defense of the innocent, will never be charged with explosive matter.”

The editor of another Minnesota newspaper described it thus:

Its contents are lively, and entertaining but it is not on that account only, we desire to see “Bomb Shell” succeed. To the eyes, it is an uncouth, ill-printed, muddy-looking sheet, and every letter in it is larger than those in a child’s Primer–but all these drawbacks are more than compensated for, by the knowledge that all the letters and furniture used in setting up the paper, were made by one of the soldiers in the Fort, his principal tool to work with, being a small pocket knife. Those who know how necessary it is to accurately square and level types, to make them serviceable at all, will readily agree with us that this is a wonderful exercise of skill, patience, and ingenuity.

Minnesota Democrat, August 23, 1854, reprinted in Douglas C. McMurtrie, “The Printing Press Moves Westward,” Minnesota History, Vol. 15, No. 1, p. 24 (Mar. 1934) (available online).

I know there is one copy of the Bomb Shell in the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, but it’s unfortunately not available online. In addition to the article cited above, the Bomb Shell is also referenced in Newspapers on the Minnesota Frontier by George Hage.