The American Radio Relay League was reactivated in 1919, after shutting down for two years due to World War One, and quickly became the largest amateur radio organization in the United States. (In contrast, Hugo Gernsback's Radio League of America, though restarted after the war, later quietly disappeared, as Gernsback began to concentrate on a more general audience, symbolized by the 1921 renaming of his magazine, from "Radio Amateur News" to just "Radio News".)
The Book of Radio, Charles William Taussig, 1922.
WHAT THE AMATEUR HAS DONE IN RADIO
When, just prior to the formulating of the present radio laws, in 1912, the right of the amateur radio enthusiast was being challenged, much was heard pro and con concerning the usefulness or uselessness of the private wireless station. Against the amateur wireless operator, it was stated that he was a nuisance, that he interfered with commercial stations and government stations, and that he pursued radio only to amuse himself, at the expense of the public in general. His opponents were unmerciful in their condemnation. The champions of the amateur were somewhat vague in their praise of him. "Embryo Engineers," "Inventors in the Making," "Future Commercial Wireless Operators," were some of the commendable appellations given him. Wild speculations as to his possible use, in case of war, were indulged in by those who sought to have the amateur protected by law. Just why the amateur finally did become a protégé of the United States Government is not clear, unless it was to defeat the somewhat selfish motives that prompted his opponents, for he was not particularly worthy, in those days, of government protection. Perhaps, however, our lawmakers were farsighted, and had faith in American youth, and saw what lay hidden in Young America's apparently useless hobby.
Ten years have passed since Uncle Sam promulgated a law which forever assured to the American radio amateur certain definite rights. In no other country, is the private citizen allowed such freedom in radio as in the United States. Just as the Constitution of the United States provides for free speech, so the Radio Law of 1912 provides for free ether.
"What has the amateur done in the past ten years, to justify the privileges granted him by his government?" Such was the question the writer put to Hiram Percy Maxim, the inventor of the famous Maxim Silencer, and President of the American Radio Relay League, an organization of 10,000 amateur wireless operators. Seated around a small table in the grill of the Hotel Bond in Hartford, were Mr. Maxim, the writer, Kenneth B. Warner, Secretary of the League, and his assistant, R. L. Northrop. Mr. Maxim told the following story:
"Early in April, 1917, a Captain in the Army, with whom I was well acquainted, telephoned me and asked if I would call and see him. I called on him and he told me that in all probability war would be declared and they would require a great many radio operators. He further stated that the Army was faced with a shortage of radio operators, and that they did not have the proper machinery or organization to teach them. Owing to my connections with the American Radio Relay League the Captain thought that I might be able to assist him. I promised to do what I could.
"As soon as war was declared, we appealed to the amateurs, through our official paper Q S T, to enlist. Their response was instantaneous and, in thirty days, we supplied 2,000 expert radio operators to the Army and Navy. Before the war was over, 3,500 members of the American Radio Relay League were serving Uncle Sam in the Army, Navy and Marine Corps."
Mr. Warner, at this point, interrupted in order to emphasize what it meant to the Army and Navy to have such a large number of trained radio operators ready for service.
["During the war" said Mr. Warner], "I was an instructor of radio operators. I found it difficult to turn out a good operator in less than six months. Had we not been able to draw in such large numbers from the amateur ranks, we would have been in a sorry predicament. British and French officers, whom I met in the course of my work, expressed admiration for our foresight in having such an army of radio operators ready for immediate call. The officers of these countries told me that they were severely handicapped in not having radio operators, and they blamed this on the fact that both their countries had very strict laws, practically prohibiting amateur radio, as it is practiced in the United States. These officers stated that they intended to bring pressure on their respective governments, in order that some of the restrictions which hampered the amateur might be lifted. France was somewhat successful in this, and now has a large number of amateurs."
Mr. Maxim then told how an amateur, Charles E. Apgar, of New Jersey, in the autumn of 1914, recorded the signals sent out from the German-owned radio station at Sayville, Long Island, on an Edison dictaphone, and caused the United States government to close down the German station, thus preserving our neutrality.
It seems that Apgar, shortly after the declaration of war in the summer of 1914, listened one evening to Sayville sending out messages to Nauen, Germany. One of the messages was as follows: "Ship 300,000 shovels express C.O.D." This message did not appear to Apgar as being "on the level." There was something peculiar about a shipment of 300,000 shovels to be expressed C.O.D. He decided to keep a record of what Sayville was sending, and with the ingenuity so often shown by American amateurs, he secured an old Edison dictaphone and connected it to his receiving apparatus. Every dot and dash sent out by Sayville was registered on the waxen cylinder. Cylinder after cylinder was impressed with Sayville signals. After having collected a great many, he took them to Radio Inspector Terrell. Inspector Terrell turned the cylinders over to the Secret Service. A few nights afterwards, Apgar was called on the telephone. It was Detective Burns of the Secret Service. Could Apgar see him? Certainly! Burns called on Apgar and arranged to receive further messages on the amateur's radio receiver. They bought a new dictaphone and recorded everything sent out by Sayville. A short time later, Detective Burns brought suit against the German wireless company, who owned the Sayville station, on the grounds that they were violating the neutrality of the United States. In a short time, the Sayville wireless station was taken over by the Government. Thus did the amateur again justify his existence.
One of the most useful features of amateur radio is the wonderful organization that has been built up, to a large extent through the efforts of Hiram Percy Maxim. Though a middle-aged man, with steel-gray hair, Mr. Maxim seems to be more the average American boy with a hobby, than an internationally-known inventor. In talking amateur radio with Mr. Maxim, you strike a sympathetic chord, and you are not surprised that 10,000 boys, girls, men and women have gathered around him to form one of the most typically American and useful amateur organizations in existence. Mr. Maxim does not claim the credit, which is surely his, for this achievement in organization. "It is the bond of the American Radio Relay League," he said. "There is an invisible link that binds all radio amateurs to one another, and to their organization. No doubt, it is the romance of radio that is the cause, for surely a man cannot sit in his room evening after evening, and exchange greetings, messages and ideas with a fellow man, five, six, seven, eight hundred, a thousand miles away, without feeling some tie to him, other than the ether waves."
"Just what is the purpose of the American Radio Relay League, Mr. Maxim?"
He turned to Mr. Warner, who recited the following, just as he might recite any creed which was almost a part of him: "A national, noncommercial organization of radio amateurs, banded for the more effective relaying of friendly messages between their stations, for legislative protection, for orderly operating, and for the practical improvement of short wave radio communication." The organization is divided into seventeen operating districts, covering the entire United States, Canada, Alaska, and the Hawaiian Islands. At the head of the Operating Department is F. H. Schnell of Hartford, Conn., who is the Traffic Manager. It might be mentioned here that Mr. Schnell and Mr. Warner are the only paid officers of the League, and they are paid because it is necessary for them to give their entire time to the League.
Each division is headed by a Division Manager, who has one or more assistants. The Manager has charge of all amateur radio communication in his district. There are also a District Superintendent and City Managers in each district. The personnel of the system of nation-wide relaying consists of 400 radio operators scattered over various trunk lines throughout the country. Every town and city in the United States has one or more radio stations, in consequence of which messages can be sent to almost any part of the United States via the American Radio Relay League's trunk lines and other amateur stations. No charge is made for any of this work.
Recently, a test was made for speed in handling traffic and a record was made by transmitting a message from Hartford, Conn., via the American Radio Relay League stations to Los Angeles, Calif., and transmitting a reply from Los Angeles to Hartford, which arrived there 6½ minutes after the first message had been sent. Whereas, this speed is not regularly accomplished, it indicates what can be done by amateurs in cases of emergency. In winter, rush messages via amateur radio can be counted on to average one hour across the continent. In summer, when atmospheric conditions are not so good, somewhat longer time is taken. An average of 30,000 messages are sent to various parts of the country via American Radio Relay League stations, every month.
Since the memorable achievement late in 1921 of American amateurs transmitting across the Atlantic Ocean on short wave lengths and with limited power, amateurs in France and in England are regularly picking up American Radio Relay League stations. Owing to the strict regulations, limiting amateur transmitting stations, actual exchange of messages is not, at the moment, possible. It is to be hoped, however, that the time is not distant when the governments of Great Britain, France and other European countries will recognize the value of amateur radio and lift some of the regulations that prevent long distance transmission.
Recently Mr. Maxim received a letter from General Ferrie of France, who has charge of radio in that country, saying that the French amateurs expected to attempt radio communication with America in a short time. How great a step toward international amity will be taken, when John Smith of Meriden, Conn., will be able to sit in his home of an evening, and carry on a conversation with his friend François in some little French village! Or, the rivalries of some international sporting event can be aired via ether waves between two amateurs, one in London and the other in New York. This is not a vague dream; it merely requires a change in government regulations abroad. America has done her part toward this end. Transmission of radio messages across the Atlantic has been accomplished by American amateur stations, using as little power as five watts, which is considerably less power than is required to light an ordinary electric lamp. On October 6, 1920, Messrs. Harold and Hugh Robinson of Keyport, New Jersey, were heard talking over their radiophone by a station in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
Among the more recent accomplishments, Mr. Maxim told me of the extension of the American Radio Relay League relay system to the Hawaiian Islands. Mr. Clifford S. Dow, call letters 6ZAC, located at Wailuku, Maiu, Hawaii, handles the traffic for this outlying territory of Uncle Sam. Only the night previous had Mr. Maxim sent a message to Mr. Dow. "I transmitted it directly from Hartford to a station in West Virginia for relaying to Hawaii," said Mr. Maxim. "It was the first message thus routed, and I wager that the West Virginia amateur nearly fell off his chair when he saw the address." All this relay work is accomplished, using the limited wave lengths and power allotted to the amateur by United States regulation.
"Mr. Maxim, some people have the idea that amateur radio serves no useful end, other than the amusement it affords the amateur himself. Are you acquainted with any work done by the amateurs of your organization which can be considered of service to the public ?"
Mr. Maxim's eyes sparkled as he replied, "The radio amateur is always ready to be of service and needs no prompting to show him his duty in time of need, as is shown in the following incident:
"During the latter part of February, 1922, a terrific sleet storm and blizzard visited Minnesota and near-by territory. Wire communication from Minneapolis and St. Paul, to the outside world, was completely destroyed. On the evening of February 22d, at 6 o'clock, the wire service went out of commission. Minneapolis was completely cut off from the rest of the country. No messages could reach the city, nor could any go out. The Minneapolis Tribune appealed to the University of Minnesota, which had a radio installation, and asked them to get news for its morning issue. Therefore, 9XI (those being the call letters of the University of Minnesota) attempted to get into communication with the outside world. They succeeded in communicating with 9ZS in Indianapolis, but, due to the terrific atmospheric disturbances, were unable to secure any news. At 2 o'clock in the morning, the University of Minnesota communicated with Morris MacCabe, station 9AXF, at No. 1223 Foster Ave., Chicago, Ill. Before any traffic was handled between these two stations, the Associated Press opened up line communication to Chicago by a roundabout series of connections, which took in Vancouver, Denver and St. Louis. Early on the morning of the 23d, this line also went out of commission, and with it the entire service of the American Telegraph and Telephone Company. The Telephone Company immediately set out to repair the lines, but requested that some of the Minneapolis and St. Paul amateur radio stations get in touch with Chicago. The University of Minnesota, another station with the call letters 9ZT, and Albert P. Upton, No. 2328 Taylor St., Minneapolis, Minn., all proceeded to establish communication. At 10 o'clock in the morning, the station of Donald Clair Wallace of No. 823 Snelling St., St. Paul, Minn., call letters 9DR, raised 9MF at St. Cloud, Minn., and also Ivan J. Bullock, No. 1004 North Ave., Fairmount, Minn.
"All these connections were made before noon. At noon, St. Cloud was in touch with Brainard, and also with 9BAC, some miles to the north. Fairmount had by that time gotten in touch with New Ulm, Minn., and before the end of the afternoon, a network had been established to Le Mars, Iowa. Every hour, the entire system was checked. From Le Mars, communication was had with Davenport, Iowa, and from there to Rood House, Ill. This network of amateur radio stations was the only communication to be had in the district until 4 o'clock in the afternoon, when the telephone line was reestablished. Station 9XT and 9ZT not only succeeded in getting into communication with Chicago, but copied press from the Government Station at Arlington, Va., which they turned over to the local newspapers. Mr. J. F. Carpenter of the University of Minnesota, is the manager of the City of Minneapolis for the American Radio Relay League, and it was largely due to his direction that this network was formed. He stayed at his post, routing messages and keeping the ether clear, for 40 hours without sleep."
Various feats of this sort, accomplished by the American Radio Relay League, are published in their official organ Q S T, and serve as examples of how every amateur is expected to act in cases of emergency.
"At another time," said Mr. Maxim, "Kenosha, Wis., was completely isolated by a severe blizzard. All the wires were down. There were wrecks and snowdrifts blocking the railroads. Most of the power lines were down, and besides there was no coal for the power station. The factories stopped running and almost every amateur aerial was on the ground. Not to be daunted, however, several amateurs constructed emergency aerials in the attics of their houses, and one succeeded in putting an aerial on the roof of a mill. With spark coil and storage battery, they rigged up temporary transmitters and after a short time succeeded in communicating with a naval station at Manitowoc, Wis. Through the naval station, the outside world was made aware of Kenosha's plight, and relief was sent at once. The municipal authorities utilized the amateur stations to send messages of civic importance directing their rescuers. Through these amateur stations, the railroad was assisted in the work of reëstablishing its lines. Coal, food and medicine were requested and secured, due to the communications via radio; in fact, the entire situation was relieved; owing to the ingenuity and foresight of these amateurs."
Many more instances could be cited of amateur radio service to the public. Certainly the record which the amateur has made for himself makes him worthy of the assistance and protection given him by the United States Government.