Monday, December 19, 2016
Indiana Statehood 200th Anniversary: The Early Wireless Scene
On Sunday December 11, this year, the American state of Indiana celebrated their 200th anniversary of statehood. It was on Wednesday December 11, in the good year 1816, that President James Madison granted statehood to much of the territory that had been previously designated as the Indiana Territory.
In earlier times, the Indiana Territory was home for various tribes of Native Americans for hundreds of years. The first European visitor was the French explorer Rene Robert Cavelier de La Salle who had settled in Canada to the north. La Salle visited the area, long since established as the city of South Bend, in the year 1679.
The state of Indiana is located just south of the Great Lakes, it is 250 miles long and 150 miles wide. The first territorial capital was installed in the settlement at Vincennes on the Wabash River, to the south west. Thirteen years later, the capital was transferred to another small settlement at Corydon, almost on the river to the south.
However, four years after statehood was granted, plans were implemented for the layout of a planned new capital city on the White River in the center of the state. Thus the new capital, Indianapolis, was laid out as a mile square city, with a circle in the center and a square pattern of streets wth two additional diagonal streets.
The functions of the state capital were transferred to the Circle City, as it is known affectionately, in 1825. These days, the entire state of Indiana has a population of 6.6 million, and Indianapolis has a resident population of 2 million. Indianapolis sometimes describes itself as the Crossroads of America, with 21 radial highways leading in all directions of the compass out of the city, probably more than any other city in the world.
During the early 1900s, there were 200 models of motor cars manufactured and assembled throughout the state of Indiana, with some 60 in Indianapolis alone. The Indy 500 is a motor car race that is staged on Memorial Day at the end of May each year. The first running of the Indy 500 was in 1911; and for many years, this annual sports occasion was listed as the world’s largest one day sporting event, with anything up to a million people flooding into Indianapolis over the holiday weekend.
Good quality stone, quarried in the Bedford area in the central south of the state, has been used in the construction of buildings and bridges and monuments in almost every state of the union. The exterior of the Empire State Building in New York City, for example, is clad in Indiana limestone.
A total of 430 local events are planned as anniversary celebrations this year at a cost of $55 million. Two hundred country barns are renovated and decorated, and a Torch Relay, as in the Olympic Games, has traversed 2300 miles within the state and it ended with a government ceremony in the city. A 200th anniversary postage stamp has already been issued, and we might add that one of these new commemorative stamps will be adhered to a QSL card for every entry in our recent Wavescan DX contest.
Indiana has been the home, temporary or permanent, for many notable people in the radio world. Reginald Fessenden was born in Canadian Quebec, but at the age of 26 he accepted a teaching position as the professor in the newly formed Electrical Engineering Department at the University of Purdue in West Lafayette.
That was in 1892; and six years later while serving subsequently in a university in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, he began experimenting with the newly developing system of wireless transmission. He is accredited with the first transmission of speech and music, a radio broadcast if you please, at Brant Rock in Massachusetts during the Christmas season at the beginning of the new century, in the year 1900.
Another Indiana resident, Charles Jenkins, who became an early experimenter with the transmission of mechanical television, was born near Dayton in Ohio, in 1867. Two years later, his family moved into Indiana and they took up a farm property a few miles north of Richmond, on the eastern edge of the state.
As a young man, he left the family structure and moved to Washington DC, where he began experimenting in his spare time in the twin areas of television transmission and movie film projection. In 1894 at the age of 27, he returned to his Indiana roots for what became the world’s first demonstration of a movie projector, with a short film in color.
At the time, a family member owned a jewelry store with an upstairs dwelling at 726 Main Street in Richmond. A few relatives and friends, together with a newspaper reporter, assembled in an upstairs room for this important historic though unceremonial occasion.
There was no electricity connected to the building, so Charles Jenkins attached his own lateral wire to the high voltage wires used by the trolley cars in the street below. He reduced the high voltage with the usage of a bucket of water, and then in the darkened room he screened his short movie that had been colored frame by fame. The title of his movie was the Butterfly Dance. Today, in the street below, is a tourist marker, indicating this memorable event.
In 1928, Jenkins began a regular series of TV transmissions in Washington DC over his experimental station W3XK, which he sold three years later to Lee de Forest, who sold it to RCA, the Radio Corporation of America, a few months later.
The radio experimenter Archie Collins was born in South Bend at the northern edge of Indiana in 1869. As a young man he obtained employment in Chicago, and subsequently in 1898 he began wireless experiments in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. During the following year, he made successful wireless transmissions across an intervening distance of 200 feet. Progressive experiments increased the coverage distance, and in the process of time he was successful in the transmission of the human voice.
Another well known resident of Indiana, at least for a couple of years, was the famous aviatrix Amelia Earhart. In 1935, she was invited to join Purdue University in West Lafayette as the Technical Advisor in Aeronautics. During this tenure, she lectured on Aerial Navigation and also Partnership in Marriage.
It was while serving at Purdue University that she was successful in raising sufficient funding to purchase a new plane, the new Lockheed Electra Model 10E. While flying over the central Pacific on July 2, 1937, the plane with its two occupants, pilot Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan suddenly and dramatically disappeared, somewhere near lonely and isolated Howland Island. The radio callsign for her plane was KHAQQ.
More about the radio scene in Indiana next time.