TOC | Previous Section: Chapter II | Next Section: Chapter IV
History of Communications-Electronics in the United States Navy, Captain Linwood S. Howeth, USN (Retired), 1963, pages 25-36:


CHAPTER  III


Negotiations  With  the  British  Marconi  Company


1.  EARLY  U.S.  INTEREST  IN  RADIO

The Marconi Co. efforts were closely followed and reported by scientific and electrical trade periodicals in the United States. The large eastern newspapers added to the publicity by printing glowing and often exaggerated accounts of the conquering of greater and greater distances. Marconi was granted a U.S. patent covering his system. In England, his company was already claiming complete ownership of this new method of communications. Despite the public interest, little was being done to develop radio communications in this country. Four branches of the Government were considering the possibilities of its use as an extension of telegraphic and cable facilities. As with the English, the U.S. Lighthouse Board took the first step toward establishing its use in this country. Mr. W. J. Clarke, of Chicago, the first American to demonstrate equipment which he hoped to develop commercially, in July 1899, placed a transmitter on a pier of the Lighthouse Board station, Tompkinsville, Staten Island, N.Y., and a receiver on the lighthouse tender Mistletoe. While the tender proceeded from Tompkinsville to pier 5, East River, N.Y., the operator transmitted two long signals every 30 seconds. These signals were received during the entire trip and were used to actuate a 4-inch vibrating bell.1 At this same time the Weather Bureau was considering the use of radio as a means of obtaining weather reports from and providing forecasts to offshore light vessels and isolated localities. Late in that year they sought the services of Prof. Reginald Fessenden of the University of Western Pennsylvania (University of Pittsburgh). In 1900 he entered their employ for the purpose of working out means for its use.2 Both the U.S. Army and Navy, having experienced communication difficulties during the Spanish American War,3 saw in the new medium promise of eliminating the unsatisfactory conditions. The U.S. Army Signal Corps had already commenced the development of radio equipment for field communication purposes.

2.  THE  U.S.  NAVY  INDICATES  INTEREST  IN  MARCONI  EQUIPMENT

The Navy's interest became intensified by the reports of the successful tests conducted by the Royal Navy during the summer of 1899.4 The U.S. Naval attaché, London, Lt. Comdr. J. C. Colwell, USN, was directed to obtain information from the Marconi Co. relative to the costs of a demonstration aboard U.S. naval vessels and the prices of equipments. In replying, on 2 September 1899, they stated:
This Company will be prepared to give a demonstration between two of your cruisers, if your department will bear all out of pocket expenses of our officers while engaged in such work.
With reference to your question as to whether this Company would sell to the United States Navy two of our instruments to be fitted up on two of their cruisers, this we are not prepared to do. We will, as I mentioned, give you a demonstration for any reasonable time, when your department should be able to decide for how many ships you require instruments. If you will then have not less than twenty of your cruisers fitted up, we shall be happy to undertake the work on a royalty of 2,000 per annum. Should you require a much larger number of vessels fitted with our instruments, some reduction might be entertained on our usual fee of 100 per vessel.5

3.  THE  NAVY  OBSERVES  THE  RADIO  REPORTING  OF  THE  AMERICAN  CUP  RACES

Following Marconi's successful radio reporting of the Kingstown Regatta, off Dublin, Ireland, in 1898, James Gordon Bennett invited him to report the 1899 America Cup Race, between the Shamrock and the Columbia, for the New York Herald. The invitation was accepted.6
    Marconi's trip to the United States was in no manner connected with the increased interest of the U.S. Navy in radio and the Marconi equipment. The Bureau of Equipment was very anxious to have his equipment tested in order that it might be evaluated for Navy use. His impending arrival in this country, with personnel and apparatus, was looked upon as an opportunity for conducting these tests at small cost. In a letter to the Secretary of the Navy, dated 18 September 1899, Rear Adm. Royal B. Bradford, U.S. Navy, Chief of the Bureau of Equipment, stressed this point among others, and requested the
Department to take the matter into consideration and instruct the Bureau if the necessary facilities including the use of proper ships and officers, will be available for the tests.7
In replying the Secretary directed him to make arrangements for naval officers to be present to observe the workings of the Marconi equipment during the yacht races and to arrange for later tests of the equipment in a battleship, a cruiser and a torpedo boat.
    Following Marconi's arrival in New York on 21 September, arrangements were made with him for a group of naval officers to witness the operation of his equipment during the conduct of the races. The Navy Department designated a group of observers, sometimes known as the Marconi Board, which consisted of Lt. Comdrs. J. T. Newton and E. F. Qualtrough, and Lts. John B. Blish and G. W. Denfeld, USN. All four were electrical experts and were well qualified to pass judgment. In order that each officer could thoroughly investigate the operation of the system, the instructions required them to exchange posts and each to submit his own observations on the nature and operation of the Marconi equipment.
    The Highland Light, Highlands of Navesink, N.J., was selected as the shore terminal of the reporting circuit and the necessary equipment was installed there. The SS Ponce of the Puerto Rico Line and the cable ship Mackay Bennett were provided and equipped as the sea terminals. The latter was anchored near the Sandy Hook Lightship, where it picked up and tapped a transatlantic cable in order to relay radio bulletins by cable to England and, if necessary, to New York City. A third ship, the SS Grande Duchesse, jointly sponsored by the Plant Line and the Marine Journal of New York, was equipped with the radio apparatus of Mr. W. J. Clarke. On 7 October, Qualtrough went to sea on the Grand Duchesse and witnessed the working of the equipment. Although the apparatus was of different manufacture, messages were transmitted and received between the Mackay Bennett and the Grande Duchesse, without difficulty, for one hour.8 The Ponce became unavailable and on 10 October the Marconi apparatus was moved to the Grande Duchesse. Clarke's equipment was not used from that date.
    Lack of wind resulted in numerous "drifting contests" which dragged out the races from late September to 20 October. At this time Admiral George Dewey was returning to the United States in the U.S.S. Olympia following the battle of Manila Bay. He had cabled the Navy Department that he anticipated arriving in New York on 30 September. Marconi was persuaded to go to sea for the purpose of contacting and boarding Dewey's flagship and reporting her progress, via the station at the Highlands of Navesink. Equipment was hurriedly installed in an ocean-going tug which started down the bay on September 28th, only to meet the Olympia plowing through the fog, 2 days ahead of schedule. Had not her firemen kept up a full head of steam all the way across the Atlantic, the Navy would have been able to radio the news of her triumphant return long before the press and would have scored its first radio scoop.
    Two days later, a naval parade was held, in honor of the Admiral, in which the Ponce was assigned a position. During the parade Blish sent the following message:
Bureau of Equipment, Washington, D.C.
From Steamship Ponce, underway in Naval Parade via Navesink Station.
    Mr. Marconi succeeded in opening telegraphic communication with shore at 12:34 p.m. Experiments were a complete success.
/S/ Blish, Lieutenant USN
Transmitted personally by Marconi, this was the first paid ship-to-shore radiogram and the first official U.S. naval radio message.9
    Weather conditions finally changed and the America Cup Races were completed. They were successfully reported. Almost as much publicity was given Marconi and the reporting media as was given the winner. The potentialities of this new mode of communication for maritime purposes was well impressed upon the American public. Scientific interest was heightened which later resulted in increased effort on the part of U.S. scientists and engineers.
    The naval observers noted the workings of the equipments, both afloat and ashore, but were limited in their observation by the actions of Marconi and his assistants. Following the first day of the races, Qualtrough exuberantly commented to a Herald reporter:
If we could only have had this last year, what a great thing it would have been. When we landed marines in Guantanamo, the ships were unable to lend assistance, for the reason that the enemy could not be located, and firing at random would have placed our forces in danger. With the aid of the Marconi system, the men ashore would have directed the fire. The English sent a Marconi apparatus ashore with every landing party. In the Philippines, the system would right now be of great service to us.
On 9 November 1899, Newton forwarded the separate reports of the observers to the Secretary of the Navy.10 In this, he stated that he was favorably impressed with the system but said it appeared to be questionable if the receiving apparatus could generally record a message with sufficient accuracy to ensure the consequent transmission of a cipher code. He was of the opinion that fog had an effect on the clearness of transmission.
    Blish, commenting on the restrictions placed upon his observations stated:
My official and social relations with Mr. Marconi and his four assistants during this time and the remainder of their stay in this country were most pleasant, but at no time did any of them describe or explain the apparatus more fully than had already been done in public print, and their answers to questions never gave any information beyond this. Usually their answer was that the information was withheld until a patent covering the point in question had been secured; frequently the answers given by different members of the party were conflicting, and sometimes it appeared that their answers were intended to mislead.
He was of the opinion that if such apparatus were installed on vessels of the Navy, the care and operation of the system would require men with about the same intelligence, education, and length of training then required for naval electricians.11
    The concluding paragraph of Denfeld's report commented upon the possible value of the equipment:
The apparatus cannot be considered perfect, but Signor Marconi gave a practical demonstration which showed that even in its present state the instruments can be made useful in signaling between ships and shore, and there is a certainty of working under all conditions of weather which is not common to any other mode of communication at sea.
    The Ponce was reported as having transmitted approximately 2,500 words during the first day, at an average speed of about 15 words per minute. One speed test produced 31 words in 1 minute and 50 seconds, or about 17 words per minute. Qualtrough estimated that the extreme distance at which messages were sent and received was about 17 miles. Another estimate stated 17 miles with a 120-foot antenna and 24 miles with a 150-foot one. During the course of the races it was claimed that 1,200 messages containing an approximate total of 33,000 words were transmitted and received.12
    Previous to 30 September, the date on which Blish sent the message stating that the system worked perfectly, officials of the Navy Department had been inclined to be skeptical. After the trials comment in the Capitol was optimistic and a Washington newspaper reported Rear Adm. Bradford as being very much pleased with the reported success of the tests.

4.  NAVAL  TESTS  OF  MARCONI  EQUIPMENT

During the progress of the America Cup Races, an agreement to conduct tests of his equipment aboard U.S. naval vessels was reached with Marconi. Prior to agreeing, he had demurred on the grounds that the equipment provided for the races was short range, only sufficient for the distances required by the races, and was not the type of equipment his company fitted into naval vessels. He further stated that with the available equipment he would not be able to obtain results comparable with those obtained in the British Navy maneuvers of the previous July. He claimed it would be necessary to equip the Navesink Light station with a set of apparatus which did not incorporate his latest devices. Under the circumstances, he could not guarantee the results at that station, a fact he wished known and accepted before the trial. Fig. 3-1
    Rear Adm. N. H. Farquhar, USN, Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval forces on the North Atlantic station, was placed in charge of the tests. Marconi conferred with him and they made all necessary arrangements on his flagship the armored cruiser, U.S.S. New York, on 22 October. He requested an overall height of 150 feet, for antenna installations. This necessitated adding special spars to the masts of the U.S.S. New York and Massachusetts, the two ships which were to be equipped. It was agreed that during the tests visual signaling would be dispensed with, and that all orders of the admiral would be transmitted by radio telegraph. A later test was to be made with one set of equipment installed in a torpedo boat. The apparatus from the Grande Duchesse was placed in the New York, that from the Highlands in the Massachusetts, and the set which had been on the Mackay Bennett was set up at the Highlands station. Marconi and his assistants made the ship installations. Blish, one of the Bureau of Equipment representatives, was detailed to make the necessary arrangements for getting the instruments to the ships. On 23 October 1899, Secretary of the Navy Long appointed the members of a wireless telegraph board for the purpose of investigating the Marconi system of radio telegraphy to be tested in the U.S.S. New York, Massachusetts and Porter and at the Navesink Lighthouse.13 Newton was designated senior member of the board and Blish and Lt. F. K. Hill, USN, members with orders to report for duty to the Commander in Chief of the North Atlantic station, and by letter to the Chief of the Bureau of Equipment.
    In a letter, dated 20 October 1899, Chief of the Bureau of Equipment requested Admiral Farquhar, to obtain, by tests, the following information:
Suitability for use in squadron signaling under conditions of rain, fog, darkness, and motion of ship;
Accuracy of receiving letters or figures, using words in signal code as a test;
Possibility of receiving messages when the ships are close together;
Greatest distance that messages can be exchanged between Navesink Station and one of the ships;
Best location of instruments;
Danger of fire, due to faulty insulation with such high potentials;
Result of two transmitters operating at same time;
Method used to overcome interference; and,
Such other information as may appear desirable during the conduct of the trials.14
    The installations 15 were completed and the initial tests were commenced on 26 October. The first of these was one to determine the suitability of the equipment for tactical signaling by testing the speed and accuracy of the instruments at moderately close distances, under favorable conditions. As there was no need for the ships to be underway, they were anchored in the North River, one off 34th Street and the other off 38th Street, about 488 yards, or cruising distance apart. A variety of messages were exchanged, with practically no errors, at an average speed of about 2 words per minute, which was considerably slower than the sending of Marconi while reporting the yacht races. These messages consisted of items from newspapers, series of numbers, mixed alphabet and encoded and enciphered items. Legibility ranged from "good" to "very good" the first day, but "not good" to "good" on the following.16 In writing of these short range tests Marconi, apparently with no knowledge of the requirements of tactical signaling, commented:
Curiously enough, one of the first requests of the officers was for official proof that the system could be operated for short distances, and two or three days were spent in the East River signaling a few hundred feet.
    Listening only to Marconi's criticism and without endeavoring to gain any understanding of the reasons for the short range tests the New York Times commented:
. . . Is there not something a little provocative of smiles in the 'tests' of wireless telegraphy now making by the Navy Department? It was so very well known to all who have paid the slightest attention to the operations of Signor Marconi that much more can be accomplished by the aid of his device than was attempted in Thursday's experiments! To send signals and messages between warships anchored a few hundred feet apart is a task vastly easier than others which he performed with complete success months and months ago, and surely our naval officials should not need to enter the primer class in this method of communication. There was a trace of deserved sarcasm in the inventor's tone when he said that the telegraphing done on this occasion was a trial of the operators' skill, not of the system. The curious slowness of the Government in taking up new ideas and new implements has often had expensive consequences, and more than once it had had tragical ones, as in the case of smokeless powder and high-power rifles. At present, apparently, they are tempting the laughter of foreigners by treating as novel things that have long been matters of common talk among amateurs and professional scientists alike.17
    In the next tests, which were for the purpose of determining the ranges of the equipments, the New York was anchored about 5 miles off the Highlands of Navesink, while the Massachusetts proceeded to sea. At 10-minute intervals, messages were successfully exchanged up to 36.5 miles. The Massachusetts was able to receive the New York's transmissions up to 46.3 miles. The curvature of the earth was blamed for restricting the range,18 despite the fact that this had been disproved in the July maneuvers of the Royal Navy. At the time the theory prevailed that the distance of transmission depended upon the vertical component of the aerial and varied as the square of the height of the upper end of the wire above the instruments, or above the hull of an iron ship, when the instruments are placed below the upper deck.19
    On 31 October, during a very heavy northeast gale, accompanied by almost constant rain and under conditions regarded as most unfavorable, the tests were continued between the two vessels, with the Massachusetts anchored inside Sandy Hook and the New York anchored in Gravesend Bay. The elements presented no disturbing effects on transmission and reception, and satisfactory results were obtained.20
    On 2 November, with the storm unabated, Marconi in the New York transmitted the first official naval radio message sent from a U.S. naval vessel. The 4 November 1899 edition of the New York Herald contains this item:
Rear Admiral Phelps received the first official message of wireless. Rear Admiral Farquhar, on his flagship, the New York, twenty miles at sea, presented his compliments to the Commandant and reported that he would be at the Navy Yard on Friday morning to refuel. The message was ticked off from the transmitting spar lashed to the topmast of the New York, caught by the receiver at the Navesink Station 20 miles away; then it was sent over the wires to the Navy Yard. Admiral Phelps immediately acknowledged the receipt of the message and reported that the coal dock would be made ready for the New York.
    When Admiral Farquhar called Admiral Phelps yesterday morning, the latter asked "Did you get my message?" "Perfectly," said Admiral Farquhar, "It was rather startling to get word from you, whom I knew to be cozy and comfortable in your office, while we were tossing about out there in a lively gale."
    The results of the interference tests were perfect. That is, the interference was perfect. From time to time the land station transmitted signals while one ship was receiving from the other, which always resulted in utter confusion with the tape being rendered absolutely unintelligible. Concerning this defect it was reported:
When signals are being transmitted from one station to another, as between the U.S.S. New York and the Highlands Light, and another vessel comes within signaling distance and attempts communication with the Highlands Light, then the signals from the two ships become confused, and the receiving station on shore is unable to distinguish between them. Mr. Marconi claims he could overcome this defect, but did not do so. It is said that he has since perfected apparatus which will, in a measure, accomplish this result.21
In a letter to the Wireless Board, dated 29 October 1899, Marconi stated:
Having consulted with my partners, I regret being unable to give a demonstration of the device I use for preventing interference, and of the system employed for tuning or synchronizing the instruments. The reasons why I cannot give such demonstrations are: (a) the means employed are not yet completely patented and protected, (b) insufficient material and instruments here with me to give a full demonstration, and (c) no detailed information from the United States Navy Department was received by my Company, prior to my departure from England, as to the extent of the demonstrations required; therefore the instruments sent here were solely necessary for carrying out our contract with the New York Herald, and sufficient for a Government test not on a large scale.
This was very disappointing, but, since the three installations were operating on about the same frequency the result was inevitable. If the same experiment were to be repeated today with broad-band transmitting equipment, on approximately the same frequencies, the results would be the same. The inability to employ tunable equipment at the time was unfortunate, for impressions developed about the inevitability of interference with the Marconi equipment which persisted for years.
    Upon the completion of the Massachusetts-New York tests the equipment from the latter was removed and installed in the torpedo boat Porter. The Porter spent a day steaming about the Massachusetts, off the Highlands, conducting tests to determine to what extent the reduced aerial height with the resultant change in frequency of the Porter installation would limit communications. The Massachusetts was able to receive the Porter for a distance of 8.5 miles and the Porter received the Massachusetts a distance of 7 miles.
    The New York Herald, which had given thorough coverage to both the yacht races and the Navy tests, had great faith in the future of radio telegraphy. In its issue of 21 January 1900, it came out with the following prediction:
The day of the flag and lamp signaling system in the Navy is drawing to a close. The Dewey of the next war, instead of signaling the course to be pursued by means of lights, as Dewey did when he entered Manila Bay, and thus exposed his position to the enemy watching on Corregidor Heights, will send out electric waves.
In making this prediction, little did they realize or understand that the visual observation of the blinking light disclosed Dewey's fleet at an infinitesimal distance as compared with the distant locations obtained on ships making radio transmissions during later wars. The trials were not fully completed when Marconi was requested to return to England22 to prepare apparatus for use in the Boer War.23 Always extremely anxious to do his utmost to be of service to the British Government, he made immediate arrangements to return. The remainder of the tests were cancelled.
    Prior to his departure he stressed the advantages of his system, particularly its cheapness and the ease and rapidity with which it could be transported and installed. Picking up the theme of Qualtrough's earlier exuberant remarks, he pointed out how valuable his equipment would be in the occupation of territory and for communication between ships and shore as well as between ships. In a caustic letter addressed to the Navy Department he noted, among other things, that he had had no inkling before leaving England on September 12 that the Navy desired him to give a complete demonstration, and that therefore he had not brought the apparatus suitable for the tests desired. This is at variance with the letter from the Wireless Telegraph and Signal Co., Ltd., to the naval attaché, London.24 Moreover, the time between the dates of the agreement and the beginning of the tests was more than enough to have permitted shipping the equipment from England. Since the Marconi interests had something to sell to a potentially large customer, the burden lay upon them to see that their latest and most suitable equipment was demonstrated.

5.  REPORT  OF  THE  NAVY'S  RADIO  TELEGRAPH  BOARD

During the tests the instruments had been open to the inspection of the naval officers, except that certain parts were never dismounted for close scrutiny. Their workings were explained only in a general way, and when questioned, Marconi and his assistants always give vague and conflicting replies or excuses, as to why they could not provide the information.25
    The Board submitted its report on 4 November 1899, portions of which are quoted:
It is well adapted for use in squadron signaling under conditions of rain, fog, darkness and motion of ship. The wind, rain, fog, and other conditions of weather, do not affect the transmission through space, but dampness may reduce the range, rapidity, and accuracy by impairing the insulation of the aerial wire and the instruments. Darkness has no affect. We have no data as to the effects of rolling and pitching, but excessive vibration at high speed apparently produced no bad effect on the instruments and we believe the working of the system will be very little affected by the motion of the ship. The accuracy is good within the working ranges. Cipher and important signals may be repeated back to the sending station if necessary to insure absolute accuracy.
    When ships are close together (less than 400 yards) adjustments (easily made) of the instruments are necessary.
    The greatest distance that messages were exchanged with the station at Navesink was 16.5 miles. This distance was exceeded considerably during the yacht races when a more efficient set of instruments was installed there.
    The best location of instruments would be below, well protected, in easy communication with the commanding officer.
    The spark of the sending coil or of a considerable leak due to faulty insulation of the sending wire would be sufficient to ignite an inflammable mixture of gas or other easily lighted matter, but with the direct lead (through air space if possible) and the high insulation necessary for good work, no danger of fire need be apprehended.
    When two transmitters are sending at the same time all the receiving wires within range receive the impulses from transmitters, and the tapes, although unreadable, show unmistakably that such double sending is taking place.
    In every case, under a great number of varied conditions, the attempted interference was complete. Mr. Marconi, although he stated to the Board before these attempts were made, that he could prevent interference, never explained how nor made any attempt to demonstrate that it could be done.
    Range of signaling: Between large ships (heights of mast 130 and 40 feet above the quarter deck) the range is at least 35 sea miles at sea and 16.5 miles or less when tall buildings of steel frames interfere.
    The rapidity is not greater than 12 words per minute for skilled operators.
    The shock from the sending coil of wire may be quite severe and even dangerous to a person with a weak heart. No fatal accidents have been recorded.
    The sending apparatus and wire would injuriously affect the compass if placed near it. The exact distance is not known and should be determined by experiment.
    The system is adapted for use on all vessels of the Navy including torpedo boats and small vessels as patrols, scouts and dispatch boats, but it is impracticable in a small boat.
    For landing parties the only feasible method of use would be to erect a pole on shore and then communicate with the ship.
    The system could be adapted to the telegraphic determination of differences of longitude in survey.
    The Board respectfully recommends that the system be given a trial in the Navy.
    On 1 December 1899, the Chief of the Bureau of Equipment forwarded the report, with his comments and recommendations, to the Secretary of the Navy. The salient portions of his letter stated:
    The report of the officers detailed to witness the use of this system during the late International Yacht races and of the board appointed to carry on experiments on board of the New York, Massachusetts and at the signal station established at the Highlands of Navesink, indicates that this system is successful and well adapted for Navy use. The chief objection to it is known as "interference," which may be described as follows: When signals are being exchanged between two stations, if signals are made at a third station within the radius of effect then the signals at the receiving station of the first two mentioned become confused and unintelligible.
    Notwithstanding this fact, the Bureau is of the opinion that the system promises to be very useful in the future for the naval service. So far as the Bureau is able to learn this system is now in use.
    (a) In the Italian Navy.
    (b) In the French Navy.
    (c) In the British Navy.
    (d) At the East Goodwin Lightship and the South Foreland Light-House.
    (e) At several other permanent shore stations in England and at least one in France.
    (f) It is reported that it is to be supplied for use in the British Army in South Africa.
    It does not appear that any makers of electrical instruments have been able to successfully duplicate Marconi's apparatus.
    If attempts were made, the result would undoubtedly be expensive and success problematical. It would also involve a risk of an injunction or patent suit.
    Although the validity of the Marconi patents have not yet been tested, he is the recognized successful inventor and practitioner of wireless telegraphy.
    At the request of the Bureau, the Naval Attache' in London addressed an inquiry to the company having Mr. Marconi's apparatus in charge, with the view of ascertaining the cost of instruments successfully used in this system. A response was received to the effect that not less than 20 sets of instruments would be supplied and that cost of these 20 sets would be $10,000 and a royalty of $10,000 would be required for their use per year, making the expenditures necessary for instruments and the right to use for the first year $20,000 and for each succeeding year $10,000. It was stated that a reduction in the royalty would be made if a greater number of instruments were purchased; the purchase including the right to manufacture and to use all improvements adopted in the future by the company. It does not appear probable, owing to the success in recent experiments that these prices will be reduced. The appropriations of the Bureau will not admit of the expenditures above mentioned.
    It is probable that instruments can be purchased or manufactured in this country sufficiently accurate for use for a distance not exceeding 2 miles.
    Should it be deemed advisable to adopt the Marconi system in the naval service, which the Bureau recommends, the first step necessary is to instruct a certain number of officers and men in the use of the apparatus. Lieutenant J. B. Blish, USN, now attached to this Bureau is deemed competent for this duty.
    It is therefore suggested that at some suitable place two stations be established with this end in view.
    It is suggested that Newport, R. I. is a suitable place for the purpose, one station being established on Goat Island at the Torpedo Station and the other on Coasters Harbor Island at the Training Station.
    In addition instruction in this method of signaling could be incorporated in the yearly course of instruction for officers in electricity at the Torpedo Station.
    There are at both places quarters for men which is an important item; there are also in connection with both stations the necessary facilities for the work. The rough imitation instruments above-referred to, which would cost under $1,000 can be supplied by this Bureau and will be sufficient probably for all purposes of instruction. There are also light-houses in the vicinity available for more distant stations and there are tugs and boats available for such service afloat as will be required.
    No other station, so far as the Bureau is informed, offers as many facilities as Newport for this duty.
    Should the Department decide to establish the above mentioned station, further details of requirements can be furnished by the Bureau.
    The Bureau recommends that this station for instruction be established forthwith.26

6.  MARCONI'S  PROFFER  UNACCEPTABLE  TO  THE  NAVY

There is no available record of the discussions which followed the Secretary's receipt of this letter. Later information would indicate it probable that he pointed out the illegality of obligating unappropriated funds. It is also possible that the refusal of the War Department to accept Marconi's stipulation may have had some bearing. In any event the Chief of the Bureau of Equipment changed his mind shortly after making his favorable recommendation. The New York Herald, 4 December 1899 edition carried the following news item, under a Washington, D.C. date of the previous day, which stated:
After the Naval experiments, Rear Admiral Bradford communicated with Signor Marconi and requested him to state the figure at which he would sell twenty sets of instruments. Mr. Marconi declined to sell, but said that the Navy would have to pay $10,000 down, and $10,000 a year, for the twenty sets. Rear Admiral Bradford thought this a high price, and it is proposed to purchase the various parts for the instrument and assemble them. It is said there can be no infringement of patents, as, with the exception of a few parts, the wireless telegraphy system is common property, and the Signal Corps of the Army is now experimenting with instruments devised by its own officers.27
    Following this, it does not appear that the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America 28 made any endeavor to obtain the contract. It is possible that Marconi, feeling secure with his U.S. patent, directed them to await further overtures from the government services. If so, they waited in vain.
    In the light of future events, the Marconi leases and stipulations have proved a blessing in disguise. The foresight of the authorities in not permitting themselves to be shackled with its restrictions, which would have persisted for more than a decade, allowed the Navy a free hand in guiding and assisting in the development of radio in this country. The nonacceptance of unwarranted, dictatorial authority led to a wider search, the exercise of ingenuity, and the more rapid development of a competitive market which benefitted the Navy and the rest of the world.

___________________
    1 Navy Times, 24 March 1956 (Army Times Publishing Co., Washington, D.C.), p. 2.
    2 W. Rupert Maclauren, "Invention and Innovation in the Radio Industry" (the Macmillan Co., New York, 1949.), p. 59.
    3 Supra, 1sec8.
    4 Supra, 2sec11.
    5 Letter, dated 2 Sept. 1899, Marconi Wireless Telegraph and Signal Co., Ltd. to Lt. Comdr. J. C. Colwell, USN, files, Bureau of Equipment, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
    6 ("Radioana," SRM-173-009, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.). Pro. Amos Dolbear, of Tufts College, holding a basic U.S. patent on an induction system of communication, notified Marconi, upon his arrival in this country, that he would be restrained, but later through courtesy allowed him to report the yacht races. ("Radioana" is a large collection of material on the early history of radio cataloged and reposited by Mr. George Clark).
    7 Letter, dated 18 Sept. 1899, files, Secretary of the Navy, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
    8 This cooperation must be considered an error of judgment on the part of Marconi. At this time and for the next several years, in their endeavor to establish the monopoly, his company insisted that, if proper results were to be obtained, it was essential that the receiver and transmitter be of the same manufacture.
    9 George H. Clark, "Radio in War and Peace," p. 6, "Radioana," Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.
    10 Letter, dated 9 Nov. 1899, files, Bureau of Equipment, National Archives, Washington, D.C. A portion of Denfeld's description of Marconi equipment as contained in this letter is summarized: "The Marconi apparatus installed at each station consisted of a transmitter operated by a storage battery with a capacity of 6 amperes and 18 volts, the storage battery being charged by 98 Obach cells connected in series multiple (14 cells in series with 7 groups). The receiver (coherer) was enclosed in a rectangular box which also contained transformer, choking coils, tapper, and a single-cell battery. A separate battery of eight cells was used for working the tapper and the Siemen's recording instrument. At Navesink the antenna was supported from a gaff fitted to the flagstaff. On vessels they were suspended carefully from masts and carefully insulated from them. These antennas were of insulated wire, about 100 to 130 feet long. In leading them into the rooms containing the apparatus, great care was exercised to ensure that the insulation was satisfactory. During transmissions of messages the antenna was connected to one of the knobs of the secondary winding of the transmitter and the other knob was connected to earth. These knobs were about eight-tenths of an inch apart. The telegraph key was in series with the primary winding of the coil. When the telegraph key was closed, sparks between the knobs made a noise similar to striking several matches. When receiving messages, the antenna was disconnected from the transmitter and secured to one terminal of the primary winding of the transformer, while the other end of this winding was grounded. From the transmitter, the antenna was rapidly charged and discharged, thereby producing an electrical effect which acted on wire in a receiving antenna in a manner which reduced resistance in the receiver which was either in series with the second wire or in a circuit with one of the transformer coils, the other coil being in series with the antenna. When resistance of the receiver circuit was sufficiently reduced, the local battery energized it, and the dot or dash was recorded.
    11 "Radioana," SRM 100 op. cit., p. 2.
    12 Orrin Elmer Dunlop, Jr., "Marconi-The Man and His Wireless," (the Macmillan Co., New York, 1937), p. 80.
    13 Letter, dated 23 Oct. 1899, Secretary of the Navy to Lt. Comdr. John T. Newton, files Bureau of Equipment, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
    14 Report of Board on Marconi System of Wireless Telegraphy", n.d., files Bureau of Equipment, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
    15 The aerials employed were, in each case, a rubber-insulated single wire, made of seven copper strands, each 1/25-inch in diameter. Three ebonite rods, each 18 inches long and inch in diameter, suspended in series, formed the aerial insulator at the top of the wire. The temporary wooden masts attached to the topmast of each battleship had an 18-foot sprit hoisted to the top by halliards bent on, at about one-third of its length. The aerial was attached to the longer end while the shorter one was held steady by a down haul keeping the wire away from lightning conductors on the masts and from metal rigging. The antenna was, therefore, more or less of the vertical type, being at an acute angle with the mast, and extending from the top of the sprit to the after gunroom, where it was attached to the wireless apparatus. The upper ends were 130 feet and 140 feet, respectively, above decks of the New York, and the Massachusetts. At the Navesink station, the upper end was 150 feet above ground. On torpedo boat Porter, used later in the tests, the upper end of the antenna was only 45 feet above deck. The detector was the coherer, with each of the telegraph instruments being equipped with a Morse inkwriter, so that messages received were recorded on tape. Some sources state that a plain antenna circuit was used; i.e., that the coherer was directly in series between antenna and ground; others that a coupling transformer was employed. The former view was held by Mr. W. G. Richards of Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Co., Ltd., London, who, after searching the company files, reported that circuits used during yacht races were plain circuits. On the other hand, Blish states that a coupling transformer was used, and shows a diagram of the receiving circuit with that device included. (U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 1899, vol. 25, pp. 861-863.) Marconi's letter to the Navy Department, stating that he had not used his tuning apparatus in America for patent reasons, would appear to support Mr. Richard's opinion. (Radioana, SRM 100-197, SRM 82-97, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.). Clark's account ("Radio in War and Peace," pp. 7-8) reports that a spark transmitter was used, with the spark gap in the antenna directly, with no coupling of any sort being employed. An induction coil, fed by storage batteries, excited the gap. The transmitted wave was dependent entirely on length of antenna, and the signal emitted was very broad. The receiver was slightly more refined, as an induction coil was used to connect the antenna circuit to the detector. This coil was not tuned but was intended merely to raise the voltage which operated the coherer. Frequencies transmitted by the two larger ships and the shore station were about the same. Since all three stations had antennas approximately the same height, they were tuned to each other as closely as was necessary. However, in the later test between Highlands Station, with an antenna of 150 feet, and torpedo boat Porter, with a antenna height of 45 feet, the latter's frequency was about three times that of the others.
    16 Report of Board on Marconi System of Wireless Telegraph.
    17 The New York Times editions of November 1899.
    18 Dunlop, op. cit., p. 81.
    19 John B. Blish, U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 1899 vol 25 p. 861.
    20 Letter, dated 2 Nov. 1899, Rear Adm. N. H. Farquhar to the Secretary of the Navy, files, Bureau of Equipment, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
    21 Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1900, pp. 319-320.
    22 Marconi returned to England on the S.S. St. Paul. Ever alert for any opportunity to offer proof of practicality of his apparatus and to obtain publicity for his company, before departing New York he cabled his London office that he would speak to Needles station from the ship on arrival in English waters. On the afternoon of 15 November 1899, he established communication with this station 60 miles distant and had them transmit news bulletins. With these, the ship published The TransAtlantic Times, vol. I, No. 1., first ship's newspaper to contain news reported by radio. Capt. J. C. Jamison issued instructions for preparation of a souvenir of this event. Copies of this first issue were sold for $1 each and were available to passengers and crew just before the ship docked at Southampton.
    23 While in America, Marconi's experiments in peacetime operations induced him to remark at the conclusion of the America Cup Races, "I'd like to try the system in war" ("Wireless Telegraphy in War," Professional Notes, The Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute, vol. XXVI, no. 3, September 1900, p. 535). Opportunity soon presented itself, when the British War Office adopted Marconi apparatus for use in the Boer War. Within a month of the outbreak of hostilities 6 of his assistants departed for the front, taking 32 sets of instruments (New York Herald, 8 Nov. 1899). These did not prove of great value to the British Army in the field. Since they were not easily transportable at a time when that factor was a major problem, they became an unwanted burden. Some sets were transferred to the British naval squadron blockading Delagoa Bay and others were set up on shore to provide land terminals for the blockaders. The Marconi personnel confined their attention to the task of communicating between warships patrolling coast and shore stations (Op. cit., Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute, p. 536). The Boers ordered radio equipments from a European firm (New York Herald, 31 Dec. 1899). This equipment was delivered too late to be of any value.
    24 Supra, 3sec2.
    25 Letter, dated 2 Nov. 1899, Rear Adm. N. H. Farquhar to the Secretary of the Navy, files, Bureau of Equipment, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
    26 Letter, dated 1 December 1899, Chief of Bureau of Equipment to Secretary of the Navy, files, Bureau of Equipment, National Archives, Washington, D.C. Although equipment was assembled and erected at Newport, R. I., it was not officially established as a radio school and quickly fell into disuse.
    27 Capt. Samuel Reber, Signal Corps, U.S.A., witnessed tests of Marconi equipment as representative of the War Department. He recommended that the Department reject a similar offer. At this time the Signal Corps had assembled equipments and established one circuit between Fire Island, N.Y., and Fire Island Lightship and another between Governor's Island, N.Y., and Fort Hamilton, N.Y. (George H. Clark, "Radio in War and Peace," unpublished manuscript, n.d., pp. 6-7).
    28 While in the United States, Marconi and several business associates, who had crossed with him, established the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America. It was incorporated under laws of the State of New Jersey on 22 November 1899 with sole rights to exploit Marconi patents in the United States, its possessions, and Cuba, except a newly established Hawaiian interisland system, which was retained by British Marconi Co. Of the 2,000,000 shares of $5.00 par value stock authorized in the American affiliate, the British parent firm held 365,000 shares and Marconi was given 600,000 shares for American rights to his patents, present and future.
TOC | Previous Section: Chapter II | Next Section: Chapter IV