Friday, June 26, 2015

Ancient DX Report 1910

Metropolitan Opera House, New York - postcard
            Among the many interesting and significant radio developments in various countries around the world during the year 1910, were four occasions in which experimental radio programming was broadcast.  Each of these developmental events occurred in the United States.
            The first of these broadcasting achievements took place quite early in the year, under the initiative of Dr. Lee de Forest.  Somewhere around the end of the previous year, it is reported, Forest installed a radio transmitter aboard a yacht that James Dunlop Smith had procured. 
            The Smith yacht was renamed, rather appropriately Radio, and public demonstrations were presented off the coast of Rhode Island.  It is suggested that these radio program broadcasts were presented to encourage wealthy people ashore to invest in the Lee de Forest Radio Telephone Company,
            Then, after the turn of the year into 1910, Forest installed a transmitter in the Metropolitan Opera House, New York where he made a live radio broadcast that was announced in advance.  Radio historians suggest that this event was the first ever radio program broadcast.
            For this important occasion, Forest set up two microphones near the performance stage in the opera house in New York, together with a 500 watt transmitter on top of the building.  Several Forest receivers were installed in various buildings in New York for the benefit of newspaper reporters and others who had an interest in the newly developing radio medium. 
            The operatic program featured Enrico Caruso and other well known singers of that era performing in the opera Cavalleria Rusticana, on Thursday January 13, 1910.  The New York Times reported next day that the broadcast was spoiled by static and interference, though this broadcast was heard more clearly in Bridgeport Connecticut, and also by the radio officer aboard the ship Avon in nearby coastal waters.
            During the year 1910, Dr. Charles Herrold transmitted many radio program broadcasts from his 10 watt arc station FN which was installed in his College of Engineering and Wireless in the Garden Bank Building in San Jose, California.  These program broadcasts were presented on a regular basis and consisted of recorded music together with news items read from the local newspapers; regular broadcasting, if you please.
            Over in Seattle Washington, the young experimenter, William Dubilier continued the series of experimental radio broadcasts that he had inaugurated at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle during the previous year.  His program broadcasts consisted of recorded music and spoken information.
            On July 4, 1910, there was another significant radio broadcast from a wireless station in California, though this was all in Morse Code.  We take this information from what is believed to be the worlds oldest off air recording of a radio/wireless transmission.  This broadcast was recorded on a tin foil cylinder recording.
            This original tin foil covered cylinder containing the off-air recording of a wireless transmission in Morse Code is housed in the San Francisco State University.  The Morse message was recorded at a speed of 125 revolutions per minute.
            The tin foil wireless message in Morse Code seems to be the introductory comment just before a boxing match with information about the boxer Jack Johnson and his boxing opponent, Jim Jeffries.  This message was sent by wireless in the original Morse Code that was developed by Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail in 1844.
            In this message, it is stated that Jack Johnson insisted on a fight with the retired Jim Jeffries, and boxing records do show that Johnson did meet Jeffries in a match of 15 rounds in Reno, Nevada on July 4, 1910.  This match was considered to be a fight of major significance in the boxing world and progressive news of the event was flashed nationwide by Morse Code just as quickly as the communications of the day could permit.
            A short article in the American magazine, Modern Electrics for August 1910, states that the details of the Johnson-Jeffries match were transmitted progressively by wireless station TG which was owned at the time by the Western Wireless Equipment Company in San Francisco.  The station was located in the city offices of the company and it was on the air with the news broadcast in Morse Code for the benefit of ships at sea and for local amateur wireless operators along the west coast of the United States.
            A careful listening to the recorded message indicates that it was made by playing the sound from a wireless receiver directly into the recording horn of a cylinder phonograph.  The available information would suggest that the Morse Code wireless message from station TG in San Francisco was made shortly before 3 pm on Monday July 4 in the year 1910. 
            This broadcast could have been recorded by an amateur wireless operator somewhere in the San Francisco area.  Or perhaps it was recorded by Earle Ennis himself, the owner of station TG which was installed in the Grant Building in San Francisco.  
            By courtesy of Glen Sage in Portland Oregon and his website you can listen now to a portion of what is believed to be the oldest off air recording from any wireless transmission.

In other radio news for the year 1910, Hugo Gernsback in New York issued the second edition of his annual publication the Wireless Blue Book which listed all of the wireless stations on the air in the United States.  At this stage, all callsigns were self assigned and were frequently made up from the owners name or initials, or his location.
            What is believed to be the worlds first radio/wireless contest was staged in Philadelphia on February 23.  Contestants in this nationwide contest were required to demonstrate capability in the sending and receiving of Morse Code.
            In mid 1910, the licensing authorities in Australia began issuing licenses for amateur stations, and the three letter callsigns began with the letter X.  The Commonwealth government called for tenders for establishing two wireless stations; station POP at Pennant Hills near Sydney in New South Wales and station POF at Fremantle, near Perth in Western Australia.  The Australian Wireless Company established maritime station ATY near the Bulletin office on Underwood Street in Sydney.
            In Ireland, Marconi installed his large wireless station at Cllffden; in Spain a new wireless company was registered to experiment with Marconi apparatus; and in Belgium the very first amateur radio operator, Paul de Neck, began his experiments.
            On the open seas in 1910, two ships signaled SOS: the Minnihaha ran aground and called the Marconi station LD at the Lizard in England and the Puritan on Lake Michigan was caught in ice.

 (AWR/Wavescan NWS 330)