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History of Communications-Electronics in the United States Navy, Captain Linwood S. Howeth, USN (Retired), 1963, pages 153-165:


Achievement  of  Federal  Regulation


The Senate's failure to ratify the Berlin Convention in 1908 caused all Government departments concerned with radio to intensify their efforts to obtain legislation for Federal supervision of radio usage. The Navy Department continued to provide the leadership in these efforts. The commercial and amateur interests, having won the first round of the struggle, continued their opposition to any legislation which would affect their interests, and they were abetted by a sympathetic Congress, dedicated to and controlled by "big business." Being prior to the ratification of the 17th amendment, this was especially true of the Senate, whose members were appointed by the State legislatures, many whom were controlled by business interests, as reflected by their appointments. A series of articles appearing in some of the 1907 issues of the Cosmopolitan entitled "The Treason in the Senate" stated that of the 90 members were representing "big business" rather than the people.1
    Before the Government departments would be able to gain success in their efforts to regulate the radio industry, an awakened and aroused public opinion would have to clamor for the enactment of the legislation. Numerous events, some private, some national, and others international in scope, would occur in the several subsequent years which would slowly produce such legislation.
    One of the first indications of a changing opinion concerning this control was a shift in the character of the editorials of the Electrical World, the leading electrical and radio trade journal of the period. Prior to mid-1908 these editorials had supported the commercial companies in their fear that Federal control meant Government monopoly. In the 20 June 1908 issue, its editor made the following comments: Only trivial radio service is available due to the lack of concerted effort to make it a worthwhile service; satisfactory tuning devices required development; a more serious and regular employment of radio for practical purposes should not be expected until there was less stock selling and more communications on a purely commercial basis; the primary use of radio should be in oceanic communications and these should be regulated by international action; the whole North Atlantic area should be provided with a network capable of furnishing complete and always reliable communication service; a complete weather service should be established so that vessels might be informed, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, of the weather to be expected within the following 48 hours; information concerning dangers to navigation should be provided; and, by governmental action in this direction, it should be assumed that a considerable part of the benefits would accrue to private enterprise. He concluded this timely analysis of the situation with the statement:
It is perfectly safe to say that no considerable part of the possible benefits can be realized by private effort. One might as well pin one's faith to a lighthouse corporation instead of trusting such work to a government.2


The second ("lameduck") session of the 60th Congress convened in early December 1908. There were no early resolutions involving radio introduced to replace those which had died at the adjournment of the first session, and there is no indication that any would have been introduced in this short session had not an event occurred which aroused public opinion.
    On 22 January the palatial 15,000-ton White Star liner Republic departed New York, bound for Gibraltar and the Mediterranean, with some 440 passengers and a large quantity of supplies for our "Great White Fleet," homeward bound from its triumphant world cruise. The fleet's passage through the Mediterranean had coincided with the earthquake at Messina and large quantities of its supplies had been expended for relief. Running into thick fog, in the early morning hours of 23 January, the Republic collided with the Italian SS Florida, crowded with 830 immigrants, most of whom were refugees from the Messina catastrophe. The Republic's sole radio operator escaped death by the merest chance, the Florida's sharp bow having cut into the bulkhead only a few feet from where he slept. His radio apparatus remained undamaged, but the inrushing waters shorted the ship's generators, forcing him to use the emergency storage batteries. He transmitted the message: "Republic rammed by unknown steamship, 26 mile southwest of Nantucket. Badly in need of assistance." This was received by the Marconi station at Siasconsett, Mass. This station quickly contacted the SS Baltic and SS La Touraine, both fortunately being "two operator" vessels. A U.S. revenue cutter was quickly dispatched to the Republic's assistance. By daylight as assortment of vessels, informed of the disaster by the Siasconsett station, was gathering at the scene of the collision. About 1,650 persons were transferred from the two ships, with but six reported lost from the Republic. Radio played a major role in limiting the loss of life and created such a favorable impression upon the public that it, like life preservers, became considered a necessity by individual sea voyagers.
    Within a fortnight of this incident there was considerable editorial comment and clamor. The Electrical World stated that either immediate legislation or revised marine insurance rules which would require all passenger steamers to be fitted with radio equipment was to be expected.3 The Scientific American commented, in substance, that legislation should be enacted requiring all oceangoing passenger steamers to be fitted with radio equipment.4 President Roosevelt added his weight to that of the public when, on 8 February, he sent a special message to Congress recommending immediate legislation requiring, within reasonable limits, oceangoing passenger vessels to be fitted with efficient radio equipment. Prior to this, and before 4 February, three separate bills had been introduced before the Congress.
    Public opinion was having its effect. By 18 February the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries had favorably reported out a bill providing a penalty of $300, or 1-year's imprisonment, or both, for failure of any oceangoing vessel, carrying more than 50 passengers and going more than 200 miles, excepting on the Great Lakes, to be fitted with radio equipment and to carry a radio operator. This bill was supported by the commercial interests, for it did not regulate their activities and, if it became law, would enhance their business. The steamship companies, fearing the formation of a radio combine, argued for a provision against such a possibility. The Commissioner of Navigation urged an amendment requiring all companies to exchange messages in time of distress or emergency. Time was too short to consider controversial issues, especially when such issues concerned business, and the 60th Congress failed to enact the legislation prior to its demise on 3 March 1909.


Inauguration Day, 4 March 1909, was marred by one of the worst blizzards ever to hit the National Capital. All communication with the outside world was lost. In its editorial comment upon this condition, the Electrical World noted that although the Government radio station was operative it was little used; the one available private station operated under difficulty due to interference from the Government station; nothing had been accomplished to permit tuning to allow two nearby stations to operate without interference; the amateurs were using more powerful equipment and were thereby adding to the chaotic condition and should be controlled by Government regulation; action should be taken to insure the availability of radio for emergency use under such circumstances. Continuing, the editor again deplored the lack of accurate tuning to help in alleviating the problem. While receiving stations might be able to tune out interference from certain transmitters, they could not remain in contact with shipboard apparatus over any considerable distance if bothered by numerous amateurs operating on a wide variety of frequencies. As additional vessels became equipped with radio, and depended more and more upon it, the situation would grow more complicated and serious. In the use of equipment this could mean the difference between life and death. As frequent as interference might be at other times, it was assumed that most persons possessed sufficient sense of responsibility to refrain from interfering with distress communications, but there would always by a few irresponsible people. In closing, he warned:
It is high time to undertake friendly but extremely thorough regulations, for amateur seaboard stations are much in the position of amateur lighthouse plants, interfering with the legitimate safety precautions with respect to navigation, which are peculiarly the business of government. It may be contended that private persons have the right to experiment even with lighthouse lenses, but granting this, they should be compelled, and can be legally compelled, to desist from so experimenting as to interfere with navigation. Congress has ample powers under the constitution to pass federal statutes forbidding any and all acts inimical to public safety and federal authority is fully competent to enforce them. With the present tendency to make the installation of wireless apparatus compulsory on oceangoing passenger vessels, close regulation becomes imperative.5
    President Taft called the 61st Congress into special session on 15 March 1909 solely for the purpose of redeeming the Republican Party's promises of tariff reform. During this session, Senator Frye, of Maine, chairman of the Senate's Commerce Committee, introduced a bill similar to the one upon which the 60th Congress had taken no final action. This differed only in that the penalty for violation was a fine of $2,000, and the steamship companies were afforded the protection they had previously sought by the following proviso in the penalty clause:
That it shall constitute a good defense to a prosecution under this act for the defendant to show that the corporations supplying efficient apparatus for radio-communication have entered into a combination for the purpose of maintaining or enhancing the rental price of such apparatus.
Congress was completely occupied by the tariff legislation until August and other business was deferred.
    During the passing months, public opinion was gradually shifting to the position held by the Government departments. An editorial appeared in the Electrical World6 advising its readers that the Frye bill, in itself, was insufficient, and pointed out that its column had, several times, taken up the need of proper regulation by the Government over the hundreds of amateur, commercial, and Government radio stations which "daily afflict the overburdened ether with their sputtering."
    Late in 1909, Congressman Roberts, of Massachusetts introduced House Joint Resolution 95, which in the light of subsequent history must be considered the most sensible proposal made, to that time, for the solution of the radio-usage problem. It proposed the creation of a board to be assigned the task of preparing, within 30 days of its organization, a comprehensive plan to govern the operation of all radio stations under the cognizance of the United States, with due regard for all. Under the measure, the board would have consisted of seven members, one each from the War, Navy, and Treasury Departments, three from commercial interests, and one unbiased scientist.
    This resolution was far more in keeping with the needs of the Government and the suggestions of the Electrical World. That journal praised it highly, stating that the need of regulation was a "crying one" and further observed:
As pointed out by Representative Roberts, the abuse of the present freedom of wireless operation on the part of amateurs is abominable, not only through interference with commercial working but, not infrequently, in violation of decency.7
This publication continued its weekly editorials in support of the measure and constantly invited attention to its salient features and to the necessity for enactment of legislation to remove the causes of the chaotic condition.
    On 16 February 1910, hearings on the Roberts resolution commenced before a subcommittee of the Committee on Naval Affairs of the House of Representatives with Congressman Roberts presiding. All interested companies had been requested to send representatives, and no individuals were barred from making comments or suggestions. Mr. Roberts opened the hearings with the following statement:
The resolution was introduced by myself, and I wish to state that the only purpose in my mind in introducing this legislation was to bring about some reasonable regulation of the air in the interest of not only the government service in wireless, but of the commercial and the amateur as well. I judge, from communications I have received and from articles I have read in papers, that there is an impression in the minds of the amateurs of the country that the purpose of the bill is to put them out of business entirely. I wish to disabuse their minds of that idea; it is not to prevent any person having a right to use the air for wireless communication from so using it, but simply, through a board, to make appropriate regulations to control that use of the air so that one will not be needlessly and unnecessarily interfering with the other, that all will have their rights. I presume you gentlemen recognize the fact that we are entering, in this proposition, upon new territory entirely from a legal standpoint. It has always been understood that a man owning real estate owned to the center of the earth and the heavens above and controlled everything above and below the surface of the piece of land that he happened to own. We have been brought up with the idea that the air was absolutely free to everyone; but the march of civilization has brought about conditions, particularly in this matter of wireless communication, that render it imperative, in my estimation, that there be some change of the old common law with regard to rights in the air, in the interest of modern progress and development. I apprehend we may meet with some difficulties in attaining that end by reason of this radical change from the old law on the subject of uses of the air.8
    In support of his bill, Mr. Roberts presented a large mass of matter he had collected relating to the need of regulation and listed innumerable instances "of interference on the part of Government operators with commercial operators, on the part of commercial operators with Government operators, and on the part of amateurs with both commercial and Government operators." Assuming the necessity of some means of control, he felt that the principal question to be taken up by the committee was the modus operandi of accomplishing the task. Being of the opinion that the committee would be provided with the "very cream of experience and knowledge in the art of wireless communication," he felt that the opinions and views of those present would enable the legislators "to arrive at the proper method of going about the subject."9
    The chief objectors to the Roberts proposal were the National Electric Signaling Co., the Massie Wireless Telegraph Co., the amateurs, and the manufacturers who provided them with their equipments. The Marconi interests did not send a representative to the hearings. The supporters of the measure were the United Wireless Co., the Radio Telephone Co., and the Government departments.10
    Volumes of testimony were taken or accepted in the form of briefs by the subcommittee. Those who objected to the proposal were, for the most part, merely repeating their objections as previously raised at the hearings on the ratification of the Berlin Convention. They were summarized by the opposition's spokesmen, the representatives of the National Electric Signaling Co. They noted that the Government representatives had mentioned a complete system of regulations for the control of radio which had been drawn up at Berlin. Even though the Conference had been attended by radio experts from the military and naval services of many governments as well as by men understood to be scientists, and who produced a most elaborate scheme of regulation, this scheme was not adopted by the United States, in spite of the fact that adoption was most vigorously urged by the Government representatives before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs in 1908. In that Convention there were three or more regulations which the National Electric Signaling Co. felt, had they been adopted, "would have prevented most important improvements that have been made in the art and are employed in it today by the Army and Navy as well as by commercial interests." The firm believed that the regulations formulated by the Berlin Convention provided a fine example of what might be expected from the proposed committee. Therefore, if a board were permitted to prepare a comprehensive scheme of regulation, it would impede and interfere with the progress of the art. From a purely selfish motive, the firm admitted, it was convinced that it could practice wireless telegraphy without fear of interference from anybody. "All that we ask is to be let alone--to have no rules or regulations made."11
    The amateurs were loud in their objections. They sent in numerous resolutions voiced against the measure and expressing the fear that amateurs would be legislated against to the extent that they would be placed in a status which would almost completely prohibit their activities. They were supported and abetted by manufacturers who feared that legislation controlling amateur usage would eliminate a profitable portion of their businesses.12
    Several individuals, claiming status as experimenters, had a representative appear before the committee and file a brief which in essence requested consideration for membership on the proposed board.13
    The supporters of the measure pointed out the need of regulation and of adherence to the Berlin Convention. They submitted hundreds of pages of radio logs and correspondence in support of their contention that the air was full of vituperations, obscenity, and unnecessary transmissions.14
    By 31 March the Roberts bill had been favorably reported out by the Committee on Naval Affairs and was expected to come up for consideration. Several bills had been urged in opposition to it, among them one by Congressman Peters and another by Congressman Burke. Every week brought forth new editorials and letters. The responsible trade publications continued to support the Roberts resolution, but many contrary opinions were expressed. Almost all of these recognized the increasing menace created by the small percentage of amateurs who were irresponsible.
    While the House subcommittee had been conducting hearings on the Roberts bill, the Senate passed the measure introduced by Senator Frye. On 20 June 1910, the House also acted favorably on this measure. It was approved on 24 June as Public Law No. 262, commonly known as the Radio Ship Act of 1910, and became effective on 1 July 1911. This law required that, beginning with its effective date, all oceangoing vessels carrying 50 passengers or more be fitted with efficient radio apparatus, capable of transmitting messages over a distance of at least 100 miles, day or night, and staffed by 1 skilled operator. It was not applicable to vessels plying between ports less than 200 miles apart nor to shipping on the Great Lakes.
    Although the enactment of this legislation was desirable and a necessary, though inadequate, measure for the protection of life at sea, it increased the number of stations but did nothing to regulate their usage or to compel intercommunication between commercial companies. Unbridled, the amateur, the commercial, and the Government operators continued to vie with each other and among themselves for air time. The chaotic conditions increased until open warfare, consisting mostly of vituperation and obscenity, took over as much time as did the transmission of legitimate correspondence. However, the passage of this act apparently reassured the public, as evidenced by a diminution of editorial comment for the next few months. This relieved the pressure on a Congress which had no desire to antagonize business interests further. Considering that it had done its duty, Congress went on to adjournments of both this and its second session without action on other radio measures.


The Republican Party had been in power since early 1897. Shortly after the Taft administration came into office in 1909, dissension commenced as a result of the failure of Congress to represent the people. This political revolt culminated in the 1910 elections, when the Democrats obtained control of the House and reduced the Republican majority in the Senate to the point where, with about a dozen insurgent Republicans, they effectively controlled that Chamber.15 Big business interests lost their power to control the enactment of legislation. This enhanced the possibility of obtaining some measure of Federal control over the use of radio. However, this Congress was not called into special session and, therefore, did not convene until the first Monday in December 1911.


In the latter part of 1911 arrangements for the Third International Radio Telegraphic Conference, scheduled to be held in London during June 1912, were being pushed to conclusion. Since the United States had failed to ratify the Berlin Convention of 1906, its adhering members deemed it necessary to withdraw the invitation to this country to participate.16 The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, awakening to the fact that its two immediate predecessors had left some unfinished business, hastily removed the treaty from its "pigeonhole" and on 21 February 1912 began reconsideration of its ratification. In commenting upon this, the Electrical World stated:
The International Wireless Telegraph Convention will again convene in London during the month of June this year. Although no government, through its representatives, had a more prominent part than the United States in framing the terms and regulations of the Convention organized in Berlin in 1906, yet the Senate has steadfastly ignored its ratification. When the invitation to our Government to participate in the London Convention was withdrawn, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations awakened to the fact that from a wireless standpoint this country was an outcast among the nations and hastened to make amends by reporting the Treaty out of the committee. As there is no serious opposition, the Treaty will probably receive favorable action in the Senate, and delegates representing the State, War and Navy Departments and the commercial interests will be appointed to attend the London Convention.17
The hearing to reconsider the ratification of the Berlin convention was of but few hours' duration. The National Electric Signaling Co. offered the sole opposition to ratification. Their objections were the same as in the 1908 hearings and can be summarized by the following excerpts from a brief filed by its general manager:
It is unjust to the companies who have developed wireless telegraphy.
    It is not practical.
    Its restrictions are of such a character as to prevent future development of wireless telegraphy.
    It forbids the use of a number of most important developments in wireless telegraphy.
    It is premature. The art is young and should be allowed to develop unrestricted. No one can say at present along what lines it will reach its greatest degree of perfection.
    It is believed to involve acts that are opposed to the Constitution.18
    Rear Adm. John R. Edwards, USN Inspector General of machinery for vessels building on the Atlantic coast, was designated by the Navy Department to present the Government's reasons in advocating ratification. His able and forceful testimony, together with his prepared brief and complete rebuttal of the opposition's testimonies as presented in the 1908 hearings,19 were instrumental in having the Convention favorably reported out of committee.


After more than 5 years of delay and after all the other signatory powers had ratified the Convention, the Senate approved the treaty on April 1912. Following the formal notification of ratification, the invitation for the U.S. Government to send delegates to the Third International Radio Telegraphic Conference was reextended.20


Just prior to the convening of the 62nd Congress occurred one of several incidents pointing out the inadequacy of the Radio Ship Act of 1910. At 0345, 23 November, 1911, the steamer Prinz Joachim, bound from New York to Jamaica, struck a reef near Atwood's Key, the most easterly of the Bahama group. Radio calls brought early responses from six shore stations, including one at New York, 1,100 miles distant, but not a single ship answered. When the passengers discovered that a large number of ships carried but one radio operator, who normally slept between the hours of 0130 and 0600, they were indignant. They voiced the opinion that such a situation required change and that each ship should be forced to carry several operators, standing round-the-clock watches. A ship was contacted about 0900, about 80 miles away, but it refused to lend assistance. It was not until after 1400 that the Ward liner Virginia answered and approached to rescue those on board.
    The Honorable William Jennings Bryan was one of the rescued passengers. He was extremely influential with the members of the 62nd Congress, and in the following spring he did much to speed the drafting of a bill of amendment to the Radio Ship Act of 1910. This, and several other bills pertaining to necessary Federal regulation of radio communications, were being studied by Congress when occurred one of the greatest peacetime disasters in maritime history.
    In the early hours of 15 April 1912, the White Star liner Titanic, then on her maiden voyage, struck an iceberg and sank. The world was stunned at the sudden and tragic end of the newest, largest, most luxurious, and "unsinkable" 46,000-ton, $12 million masterpiece of shipbuilding. The most astounding part of the calamity was that on a clear, calm, beautiful, starlit night, with scarcely a ripple on the surface of the sea, and with nearly 3 hours in which to abandon ship under ideal conditions, over 1,517 human beings, men, women, and children, including a long list of prominent figures in the arts, public life, and business world, met death in the icy waters over the Grand Banks of the North Atlantic. Tragically, there were ships within range of the Titanic that did not know of her plight because they either were not equipped with radio or employed a single operator. The 6,000-ton Leyland liner California had stopped to await daylight before steaming through a field of drifting ice, and was not more than 20 miles from the disaster scene. Its operator, a 20-year-old, $20-a-month radioman, had, tried to inform the Titanic's operator of the situation, but had received a curt, "Shut up, I'm busy with Cape Race." Following this rebuff, and after having been on duty 16 hours, he continued to listen for a few minutes longer, and then secured his equipment. Had he remained on duty, he should have heard the distress signal and the California could have cautiously covered the distance in time to be of invaluable assistance. Other ships received the Titanic's distress signals. The first to answer was the German SS Frankfort, 153 miles to the southwest, and the slow-speed Carpathia, 58 miles away, whose operator happened to be on watch, long after his time was up, because he was interested in picking up some news from Cape Cod. The Carpathia, under forced draft, hurried to the rescue of 712 of the survivors. Few pages of history record a more gallant effort than that of the Carpathia's captain, Arthur Rostron. His amazingly complete preparations and his accomplishment were later praised by the U.S. Senate Investigating Committee as a "marvel" of foresight and masterly organization. The radio operator of Mount Temple, 50 miles distant, was preparing to secure his equipment when he picked up the frantic message. She immediately proceeded to assist, but when within approximately 14 miles of the sinking vessel she was stopped by the same icefield that had stopped the California. The Baltic and the Russian SS Birma, also converging on the ice-littered area, were forced to await daylight.
    The disaster served to point, with terrible directness, to the absolute necessity of regulating the use of radio. Great as was the loss of life, without radio there might not have been a single survivor. A few more hours, the roughening sea and increasing cold would certainly have decreased the list of survivors. The succeeding 24 hours demonstrated only too clearly that lacking rigorous regulation radio was far less effective than it might have been. The Carpathia and the shore stations experienced difficulty maintaining communications because of the constant interference from chattering operators.21
    Following the Titanic disaster the bill amending the Radio Ship Act of 1910 was quickly passed and became Public Law 238 of 23 July 1912. This amendment to Public Law 262 of 24 June 1910 included shipping on the Great Lakes; required auxiliary power supply, independent of the vessel's main electric powerplant, capable of enabling radio apparatus to be operated continuously for at least 4 hours at a minimum range of 100 miles, day or night; and, made it compulsory for ships to carry two or more persons skilled in the use of such apparatus.


Lt. Comdr. David W. Todd, USN, became the Head of the Radio Division, Bureau of Steam Engineering, in 1910, and shortly thereafter became the spokesman for the Government departments in their struggle to obtain regulation. He was not unaware of the change in congressional attitude. In the period preceding the convening of the new Congress, he and his associates were active in pushing regulatory legislation. In a paper entitled, "The Navy's Coast Signal Service," delivered before the American Society of Naval Engineers, 14 November 1911, he clearly stated the Government's position relative to the control of radio. This paper is quoted in part:
There is no law, nor order and with an increase of the number of commercial shore stations conditions will be chaotic. Any wireless company, any individual, can put up a station anywhere, of whatever power or range it or he may please. Any wave length may be used, any kind of transmitter. There is no restriction as to hours of working. The time signals sent out by naval stations, the information concerning wrecks, derelicts, ice, aids to navigation displaced, storm warnings, all are subject to interruption, by neighboring stations, and the mariner may listen for them in vain. Vessels in distress may not be able to make known the fact or extent of their plight or their positions, on account of press dispatches being relayed along the coast, or a long invoice of goods being repeated by wireless, for advertising purposes, between cities separated by a twenty-five-cent telegraph rate. The government station, most useful to shipping of all kinds, may be seriously handicapped by malicious interference. Not only are land stations troublesome to each other, but ship stations are poorly managed. Ships in harbor use their sets for needless work with a station sometimes less than a mile away. They send position reports too frequently. The operators engage in personal chatter.
Todd advocated a law licensing all stations by the Department of Commerce and Labor and under regulations to be framed by it. The proposed law included the following: The hours of operation of a station; the power to be used, depending on the business for which the station is licensed; the frequencies authorized; the type and degree of efficiency of the apparatus; a prohibition against ships using their sets within certain limits when making or leaving port, except in emergencies; a prohibition against shore stations using radio between points covered by landwires; and a requirement that all coastwise stations be opened to international traffic under the rules established by the Berlin Convention. Commenting upon the last item, he pointed out that various nations had sent representatives to the Berlin Conference, where plans had been developed for international wireless communications between ship and shore. These plans included arrangements for satisfactory radio communications between vessels, for the use of radio in succoring vessels in distress, and provided the means whereby any individual on radio-equipped vessels could send a message via a coast station of any country and prepay charges on board. He stated that while the United States was well represented at the Conference, was given ample opportunity to express its views, and was largely responsible for the framing of the Convention, the results had been fruitless for this country. The commercial firms had been powerful enough to block its ratification by the Senate, and the United States had become an international outcast insofar as radio operations were concerned. He stated that:
If a foreign ship or station accepts a message from an American ship it is through courtesy only. One of the greatest nations of the world, with thousands of miles of sea coasts, with outlying island possessions, one whose stations will always be a factor in facilitating and guarding the safety of the world's commerce, is without standing. Foreign vessels on our coast get no response to their calls, or are told that a certain station takes messages from certain ships only, or in the case of a naval station, that any message will be forwarded 'Collect' only. This cannot go on.
Continuing, Todd suggested that it would be better if the Navy provided all shore stations for commercial radio communications with ships and stated that a chain of stations under a single control would result in a minimum of interference and provide a maximum of satisfactory communications with ships at sea, which he saw as the true field for radio. For military purposes and for certain oversea work, radio communications between shore stations was feasible and necessary, but he believed all relaying of messages between points adequately connected by landwire should be reduced to a minimum and that this should be required by law. He considered that any radio concern proposing to operate overland, in competition with the telephone and telegraph companies, was either extremely optimistic or was not acting in good faith. While another international convention was close at hand at which the United States would probably be as well represented as in the past, he opined that the arguments of the commercial companies would prevail and color our position since our Government, as a whole, had not yet realized the importance, the tremendous possibilities, and the astonishing growth of the new medium during the past decade.22


The ratification of the Berlin Convention necessitated the enactment of legislation to insure the carrying out of its accepted provisions. In anticipation of this ratification, the Bourne bill had been introduced in the House and, at about the same time, two measures, S3620 and S5630, were introduced in the Senate. After studying the two Senate proposals and conducting hearings, open to all concerned, a subcommittee of the Committee on Commerce considered that both bestowed undesirable powers upon the executive departments of the Government and gave too-great privileges to military and naval stations, while failing to define accurately the limitations and conditions under which commercial enterprises could be conducted. At the subcommittee's direction, S5334, a substitute bill, was drafted by the Government departments and introduced on their behalf.23
    The Government interests supported the substitute measure. Todd was ably assisted by Dr. L. W. Austin, head of the U.S. Naval Radio Laboratory; Mr. E. T. Chamberlain, Commissioner of Navigation, Department of Commerce and Labor; and Maj. S. O. Squier, Signal Corps, USA. The opposition was comprised of the Marconi Wireless Telegraphy Co. of America, the National Electric Signaling Co., and the United Fruit Co., all of which filed briefs of objections and had representatives present at the hearing. Mr. Richard Pfund, manager of the Telefunken Wireless Telegraph Co., did not appear, but addressed a letter to Senator Bourne, the subcommittee chairman, recommending passage with some minor changes. Mr. Charles H. Stewart, representing the Wireless Association of Pennsylvania, the only amateur organization having representatives present, filed a brief recommending minor changes and stating that they preferred legislation along the lines which had been envisioned by the commission plan of the Roberts bill. He pledged his organization's support of any legislation which would bring about the proper observance of necessary controls.24 
    The hearing was conducted under amiable conditions, with the subcommittee exercising considerable patience in an endeavor to obtain all points of view in order to amend the bill in the best interests of the people of the United States.25 The viewpoints of the opposing factions, as submitted by their briefs, were not materially different from those presented at hearings in previous proposed legislation. However, in the oral testimony there was more an air of understanding and willingness to compromise on the part of all witnesses.26
    The changes made in S5334, before it was enacted into Public Law 264, 62nd Congress,27 were relatively minor in most aspects. The new law required the licensing of commercial and amateur stations and operators and included a provision for the collectors of customs of ports to issue temporary licenses to operators sailing on vessels as reliefs for regularly assigned but unavailable operators. The proposed bill had required that only naval and military stations receive distress signals, but the law, as passed, made no distinction. Changes were made to the regulations as originally contained in the measure, some which were considered desirable by the commercial interests and which were acquiesced to by the Government departments, such as a requirement for secrecy of context of messages; the reservation of the first 15 rather than the first 30 minutes for Government traffic in locales where interference made time division a necessity; the elimination of the Government silence signal; the addition of a mandatory requirement that all stations give absolute priority to distress signals and traffic; the limitation of amateur usage to the band above 1500 kc. instead of 1,000 kc.; the requirement that a ship station would normally communicate with the nearest shore station; and the establishment of more stringent penalties for violations. Commercial interests had endeavored to restrict the Government to a band between 333 and 500 kc. in lieu of the proposed 300 to 500 kc. band, but they were not successful. Naval stations were authorized, insofar as consistent with the transaction of Government business and wherever necessary because of the lack of a commercial station within 100 miles, to handle commercial messages, collecting tolls thereon, and depositing such funds with the U.S. Treasury Department as "miscellaneous receipts."28
    The Titanic disaster has often been given as the compelling reason behind the enactment of this legislation. This is not correct. The subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee had completed its masterful work of bringing the opposing views into proper focus and the bill had been reported out prior to the disaster. It did, however, awaken congressional eyes to its wisdom and necessity and insured its final enactment.
    In closing this narrative of the decade-long effort, to establish a semblance of circuit discipline, no better tribute can be paid the final action than to quote a statement made a few months later by Mr. John Bottomley, who had represented the Marconi interests at the hearing:
While it is true that the laws enacted are not ideal and that more deliberate action would undoubtedly have produced a better result, it must be admitted that the lanes of the ocean have been rendered safer. . .29


The Third International Radio Telegraphic Conference convened in London on 4 June 1912. The American delegation was headed by Admiral Edwards, who had so ably supported the ratification of the Berlin Convention. Another United States delegate was Todd, who had been the Government spokesman at the hearings resulting in the enactment of Public Law 264. He had been relieved as Head of the Radio Division of the Bureau of Steam Engineering in order that he could devote full time to this duty and to additional duty as personal aid to Admiral Edwards. Other members of the delegation were Dr. Louis Austin, head of the U.S. Naval Radio Laboratory; Majs. George O. Squier, Edward Russel, and Charles Saltzman, Signal Corps, USA; Mr. John I. Waterbury, who had attended the previous conferences; Dr. Arthur G. Webster, professor of physics, Clark University; Mr. John Hays Hammond, Jr., who, within a few years, would become famous for his successful application of the radio control of objects; Mr. William D. Terrell, Chief Radio Inspector, Department of Commerce and Labor; and Prof. Willis L. Moore, Chief of the Weather Bureau, Department of Agriculture. These delegates were all extremely well qualified to represent the United States in this Conference and had been selected with extreme care in order that this country might maintain the prestige which the delegates had established for it at the Berlin Conference, some of which had been lost in the long delay in ratification.30
    Twenty-nine nations and eight dominions and colonies, all with voting powers, were represented at this Conference. With the exception of Mexico, all the nations which had subscribed to the Berlin Convention were represented. The 1903 Conference had been attended by 9 nations and the 1906 Conference by 27.31
    Since the Conference was called to revise a convention framed to promote the efficient use of radio for commercial uses, most of the delegations were made up of officials and experts of the various post and telegraph departments. Because of the great importance of the art as an instrument of war, the military element composed about one-third of the delegates. About one-sixth were technical personnel of special attainments in scientific fields. To watch matters concerned with national policies, some delegations had diplomatic officials of high standing.32
    Over 200 propositions were submitted by the various delegations, many of which were duplicates or represented different expressions of the same fundamental problems. The excellent work of the Berlin Conference made it unnecessary to amend radically the existing convention. Although it was thoroughly revised to bring it up to date, the additions were of more importance than the changes.33
    The American contingent took an advanced view of the possibilities of increasing the number of circuits in a given area by a requirement for sharp tuning. Other nations were not ready to accept this view because of the lack of transmitting equipment capable of being adjusted to transmit over a narrow band.34
    Following so close after the Titanic disaster, the Conference gave great attention to regulation pertaining to safety at sea. The following new regulations were added to this Convention:
The maintenance of a continuous radio watch by certain ships;
    Specified periods of compulsory 'listening-in" by ships not required to maintain constant watch;
    A compulsory requirement for vessels to be fitted with auxilliary apparatus capable of working six hours, independent of the ship's boiler supply.
    A compulsory requirement for cessation of transmission during the "listening-in" periods.
    A compulsory requirement that radio operators and apparatus be directly under the authority of the captain; and
    A requirement that all radio transmissions in the vicinity of a ship in distress be under the control of that ship.
All of these items, with the exception of the one requiring "listening in" periods for ships not maintaining a continuous watch, were tabled by the U.S. delegation.35
    The Convention added a requirement for priority transmission of weather and time signals to ships upon request and, additionally, required that other ships in the area refrain from transmitting during these transmissions. Another addition included the assignment of the first letters of the present call system to the various adhering nations.36
    While the London Conference did not regard itself competent to go beyond recommending the compulsory equipping of ships and the erection of additional coast stations, it did unanimously adopt the following resolution:
The International Radio-Telegraphic Conference having examined the measures to be taken with the view of preventing disasters at sea and of rendering assistance in such cases, expresses the opinion that, in the general interests of navigation, there should be imposed on certain classes of ships the obligation to carry a radio-telegraphic installation.
    As the Conference had no power to impose this obligation, it expresses the wish that the measures necessary to this end should be instituted by the Governments.
    The Conference finds it important, moreover, to ensure, as far as possible, uniformity in the arrangements to be adopted in the various countries to impose this obligation, and suggests to the Governments the desirability of an agreement between themselves with a view to the adoption of a uniform base for legislation.37
    Immediately prior to the close of the Conference on July 1912, in compliance with instructions from the U.S. State Department, and in consideration of the expressed desires of several of the delegations, an invitation was extended to hold the next conference at Washington. This invitation was greeted with acclamation. It was first suggested that the date be fixed for 1915, the year of the official opening of the Panama Canal, but the conferees considered that a minimum of 5 years should elapse between conferences.38

    1 David Sayville Muzzey, "A History of Our Country" (Ginn & Co., Boston, 1942), p. 588.
    2 Electrical World (McGraw-Hill Publishing Co., New York), vol. LI, No. 51, 20 June 1908.
    3 Electrical World, op. cit., vol. LI, No. 31, 28 Jan. 1909.
    4 Scientific American (Munn & Co., New York), 6 Feb. 1909.
    5 Electrical World, op. cit., vol. LII, No. 37, 11 Mar. 1909.
    6 Electrical World, op. cit., vol. LIV, No. 19, 4 Nov. 1909.
    7 Electrical World, op. cit., vol. LIV, No. 26, 23 Dec. 1909.
    8 "Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Naval Affairs of the House of Representatives on H. J. Res. 95" (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1910).
    9 Ibid.
    10 Ibid. The United States Wireless Co., engaged mostly in providing radio communications for coastwise shipping along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Caribbean sea-coasts, had discovered that the maintenance and operation of the required number of coastal stations depleted the profits obtained by leases of shipboard equipments. They, therefore, favored Government ownership and operation of such stations ("Radioana," Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass., memorandum, dated 12 Feb. 1912, J. L. Hogan, Jr., to General Manager, National Electric Signaling Co., files, National Electric Signaling Co.).
    11 Ibid.
    12 Ibid.
    13 Ibid.
    14 Ibid.
    15 Muzzey, op. cit., p. 601.
    16 It is possible that this was the result of a "behind the scenes" maneuver by the U.S. Department of State to force the Senate to take action on the Berlin convention. This contention cannot be supported by evidence, but it would appear unlikely that an invitation once issued, in full knowledge that the U.S. had not ratified the treaty, would be withdrawn.
    17 Electrical World, op. cit., vol. 59, No. 10, 9 Mar. 1912.
    18 "Hearings Before the US. Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs on Ratification on the 1906 Berlin Radio Telegraphic Convention" (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1912).
    19 Ibid.
    20 Electrical World, op. cit., vol. No. 15, "Ratification of the Berlin International Wireless Telegraph Convention."
    21 Electrical World, op. cit., vol. 59 No. 17, 27 Apr. 1912.
    22 Journal of the American Society of Naval Engineers, vol. XXIII, No. 11, November 1911, p. 1096.
    23 "Report to Accompany S 6412, 6 May 1912" (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1912), pp. 2-3.
    24 "Hearings on S5334, Radio Communications, Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Commerce, U.S. Senate, 1 Mar. 1912" (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1912).
    25 Ibid.
    26 The changes in attitude between the oral testimonies and the filed briefs, which had been prepared earlier, were occasioned by the realization that the Senate would ratify the Berlin Convention.
    27 App. G.
    28 "Public Law 264, 62nd Congress," (Washington. Government Printing Office, 1912)
    29 Electrical World, op. cit., John Bottomley, "Commercial Wireless Telegraph Development," vol. 63, No. I, 3 Jan. 1914, p. 25.
    30 Journal of the American Society of Naval Engineers, December 1912, D. W. Todd, "The International Radio Conference of London," p. 1330.
    31 Ibid., p. 1330.
    32 Ibid., p. 1333.
    33 Ibid., p. 1340.
    34 Ibid., p. 1342.
    35 Ibid., p. 1334.
    36 Ibid., pp. 1346-1351.
    37 Ibid., pp. 1345-1346.
    38 Ibid., p. 1351.
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