A hundred years ago this month, the June 1916 issue of Boys’ Life showed Scouts how to make this telegraph set. The plans are pretty self-explanatory. Closing the key energizes the electromagnet and makes the sounder sound. The article notes that it works just like a regular set used by the railroad and telegraph companies. It concedes that the set “isn’t much to look at, but it is a better one than Edison made when he was a beginner.”
It went on to show the hookup for two sets (simply using three wires) to communicate with a friend “across the street, down the block, or over the way.”
The author of the article was A. Frederick Collins, a prolific early radio author of books such as the 1915 The Book of Wireless. He was also the principal author of the 1922 Radio Amateur’s Handbook.
The 1915 Book of Wireless, as well as his contributions to Boys’ Life, came on the heels of the low point in his life, a 1913 conviction for mail fraud, arising out of exaggerated claims over a wireless telephone stock promotion. In 1917, the year after this upbeat Boys’ Life article, his wife filed for separation, stating that he “had come back to freedom… with his disposition ruined”, “soured against the world, soured against even his benefactors, and soured against her,” and engaging in “long harangues and tirades of invectives against the world in general and the United States government in particular.” Collins died in 1952 at the age of 82.