In the era before the U.S. government began regulating radio, many amateurs were among the most proficient on the airwaves. Some others, however, were among the worst, which was a problem in congested areas, as commercial stations and amateurs all operated on the same wavelengths, most using broadly-tuned receivers and spark transmitters. In this extract from the full article, Amateur Number One, Irving Vermilya recounts the saga, circa 1910, of one struggling amateur operator who would be christened, by an operator at a New York City commercial station, as "the queen of the glue factory". It also explains why some commercial operators began to refer to amateurs as "hams", in the original sense of word, meaning "incompetent".
QST, March, 1917, page 11:
With the coming of "WA", "DF", and a raft of ship stations, I finally decided that I was not making enough noise and, a larger set would have to be installed. I scraped around, and finally got hold of a quarter kw type transformer from Clapp-Eastham. This worked great, and the stations were getting thicker and thicker. I cannot definitely recall who was the next amateur I heard, but I do recall that Dr. Hudson was one of the pioneers. He made an awful slash in the air one night and I gave him shout and asked "Who is it ? He managed to tick out very slowly--"This is Dr. Hudson; I am at Dr. Besse's house on Broadway and 144th Street. Who are you?". I told him who I was, and extended him a hearty welcome to the atmosphere. He asked me if I would come down to help him put up an aerial, as he too wanted to get in the game. I told him I would, but sorry I am to this day, I never got around to it.
It so turned out that Dr. Besse was "a regular guy", when it came to building transformers. He would turn out a couple of kilowatts transformer over night, so I got him to make me one. Poor Dr. Besse. I have always felt sorry for him. He used to sign "HB", and although he said "A bear can learn to telegraph," his speed never exceeded five words per minute. McClarney, who used to be night operator at the Waldorf, nicknamed him "Queen of the Glue Factory," and it always stuck to him. How well I can hear old Mac now calling up "HB" and proceeding at the five word per minute speed, saying "P L E A S E K E E P O U T," only to have the "Queen of the Glue Factory" come back with "What? please send slower". Mac had a most terrible temper, and a most beautiful way of swearing. He would tell old "HB" one or two things at about forty words per minute, and then finally go to the telephone and tell him what he had so vainly attempted to say by wireless.