Monthly Archives: June 2015

1925 Radio Up On the Roof


Ninety years ago, Hortense Unger took the radio up to the roof to escape the heat. She’s shown here consulting the latest issue of Radio World for the most refreshing program. This picture appeared in that magazine’s June 27, 1925 issue.

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More CONELRAD Crystal Sets

1956 Boys' Life Conelrad Receiver.

1956 Boys’ Life Conelrad Receiver.

We’ve had a number of posts about the use of crystal sets for reception of CONELRAD signals.   For example, a 1956 Boys’ Life article contained instructions for building a one-transistor set for use in receiving CONELRAD during an attack.  A later 1965 article pared down the set to a simple crystal set.

Boy Scout and Civil Defense leaders in Spokane apparently thought it was a good idea, as reported in the November 24, 1958 issue of the Spokane Daily Chronicle.

Chester L. Brown, the civil defense communications chief, prepared a special bulletin on Conelrad crystal radio receivers, which were distributed by Boy Scouts of the Inland Empire Council.

According to the article, the idea was suggested by a scout mother who had been active in civil defense. She had read a newspaper article in which an Atomic Energy Commission official had proposed that all households should be equipped with a receiver capable of operating without commercial power.

The CD pamphlet contained a diagram for a set, and noted that the parts could be purchased in kit form for as little as $1.25.


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1924 Portable


Miss Claire Patton is shown here in the April 1924 issue of Radio Age
showing off one of the latest portables. This exceptionally compact set featured six tubes and a loop aerial contained within the small case. The set could pick up stations 800 miles away with headphones.

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1915 Military Mobile Wireless

1915MCA hundred years ago, the setup shown here was the state of the art in mobile military communication. The illustration, which appeared in the June 1915 issue of Popular Mechanics, is a combination radiotelegraph and radiotelephone station which was carried in a motorcycle sidecar. It was powered by a DC dynamo run by a separate motorcycle engine mounted in the sidecar. It contained two transmitters, one for radiotelegraph, and one for radiotelephone. The transmitting range was stated as being approximately 100 miles for telegraphy and half that distance for telephony.

The outfit included a telescoping steel mast, which was transported strapped securely to the side of the machine.

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Margaret Donahue, Wireless Pioneer


Shown here in this 1917 press photo is Miss Margaret M.A. Donahue of Boston. According to the Tombstone (Ariz.) Epitaph of May 6, 1917, and other newspapers carrying the feature, she was believed to be the first woman in the United States to get a first class commercial radio operator’s license. With war declared only weeks earlier, in a letter to the federal radio inspector, she said that she would be willing to accept active duty in any branch of the service.

1922 Beaver Baby Grand Crystal Set


In an earlier post, we showed the Beaver Baby Grand crystal set
manufactured by the Beaver Machine & Tool Company of Newark, N.J. The company appeared to be primarily involved in manufacturing electrical switches, which are shown around the margin above. The crystal set was a sideline. In 1924, the set was selling for $3.40, and was being marketed as a gift for less fortunate friends who couldn’t afford a tube set.

I happened to find this ad from 1922, at which time the set had a retail price of $10. It appeared in the June 1922 issue of the trade publication Electrical Record.

This ad was directed toward dealers, and calls the set a “new harvest in radio profits.” The company notes that it had uncovered a demand that had been growing under the surface for months of “veteran fans who want a portable set to take along on hikes, picnics, to camp, etc.” The ad also notes that if dealers show off this handsome little instrument to other customers, “you will sell many people who cannot afford the vacuum tube sets.”

At the top of the page is an admonition: “Dog Ear this page. The boss will want to see it.”

The product was also featured  editorially in the “new products” section of the magazine:


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Marie Louise Gombier, Belgian Heroine

MarieLouiseGombierNormally on this page, we recognize the pioneers of wireless communications who facilitated the development of radio. We don’t normally recognize people who smashed radio equipment with an ax. But we make an exception in the case of a forgotten heroine of the First World War, Mlle. Marie Louise Gombier, a Belgian girl who bravely did her part to free her country from its German invaders.

At the start of the war, two days before the Germans took Brussels, Mlle. Gombier along with two other girls escaped from a convent and fled to her father’s home at Dickenbusch Farm (Dikkebus) near Brussels. Unbeknownst to her, a German officer was billeted there, and there was a German wireless station installed there.

She awaited an opportunity to slip into the room with the wireless, and did so when the German soldiers had left it unattended. With a shoe, she managed to put the station out of commission, but repairs were effected within 48 hours.

Undaunted, she awaited another opportunity, which presented itself a few days later. Acting under direction of Belgian military authorities, she returned with an ax and completely destroyed the station. Unfortunately, the commotion didn’t escape the attention of the German soldiers, who caught her in the act. She was taken before the commanding officer, who ordered that she be shot as a spy.

Croix de Guerre. Wikipedia photo.

Croix de Guerre. Wikipedia photo. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Fortunately, the officer billeted in the house intervened and commuted the sentence to imprisonment. She was imprisoned, but managed to escape five weeks later. She worked her way to the British lines, and attached herself to a Canadian unit, where she worked as a nurse until the end of the war.

During her work as a nurse, she was befriended by an American, Mrs. Lita Dowdy, a Y.W.C.A. worker from Los Angeles. At the conclusion of the war, Mrs. Dowdy adopted her, and she arrived in America on the French steamer La Lorraine in August 1919.  She became a U.S. citizen in 1925.

Mlle. Gombier was awarded the Croix de Guerre with two palms by the Belgian government.  Her home appears to have been near the location of the British Huts cemetery.  Mlle. Gombier was reported as being 21 years old at the time of her arrival in New York, meaning that she would have been about 16 at the time she smashed the radio.






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Radio in Puerto Rico, 1924


In 1924, Radio was fast becoming a popular fad in Puerto Rico, as shown in this photo from the April 1924 issue of Radio Age.  The island did not yet have any broadcast stations of its own, but the three young women shown here, Srtas. Lydia Rexach, Adela Gomez, and Emilia Rexach, are listening to a concert they’re pulling in from the States.

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Dancing to Radio on the Chicago L, 1922


1922ChicagoLIn 1922, the Chicago Elevated Railroad was equipping its cars with a radio system. Shown here in the March 1922 issue of Science and Invention are a “dozen pretty girls” from the offices of the railroad line, dancing with road officials to the strains of jazz music transmitted from the radio station on top of the City Hall.

1922 L Cars like the one shown above. Wikipedia photo.

1922 L Cars like the one shown above. Wikipedia photo, © Jeremy Atherton, 2007; file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license .

The receiving antenna consisted of wires run atop the train car, and the radio was powered by a high voltage DC dynamo.

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1915 Ketchikan, Alaska, Wireless Station

1915KetchikanMarconiThis illustration of KPB, the Marconi Wireless station in Ketchikan, Alaska, appeared in The Wireless World a hundred years ago this month, June 1915. The U.S. Government already had wireless stations in place in Alaska, but the rate for private correspondence was extremely high, and the Marconi Company set out to provide private competition. Stations leased from Marconi were in place at canneries and mines in Chignik, Naknek, Kodiak, Nushagak, Koggiung, Clark’s Point, and other locations. In addition, most of the ships serving the canneries were equipped with Marconi wireless stations.

The hub of Marconi’s Alaska network was the Ketchikan station shown here, and another under construction at Juneau. They, in turn, were linked to the station under construction at Astoria, Oregon.

The four 300-foot self-supporting towers of the Ketchikan station stood at the corners of a rectangle measuring 300 by 600 feet. The wire antennas were afixed to 14-foot wooden masts at the top. Three thousand pounds of zinc plates were buried in a circle around the station’s power house. Due to the heavy rainfall, the plates were continually wet.

2300 volt power came from the city power plant two miles away and powered a 25 kW rotary disc. The receiving station was 75 feet away, with two tuners covering 100-4000 meters and 100-7000 meters.


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