Amazing Collection of QSL Cards and Photographs from 1924-1978
will want to see this. Collecting thousands of QSL cards and photographs
of their Ham radio operators and radio equipment is a monumental accomplishment
today, but it was even more of a challenge in the early and middle part
of the last century. You must actually make contact with the station
to legitimately collect a QSL card, and then the remote operator must
be willing to absorb the cost of mailing you a card. Mail service, particularly
from some overseas locations, was no guarantee of successful delivery.
A large portion of radio installations were cobbled together by their
operators from scrap parts and had marginal functionality, even into
the 1960s and '70s, so contacts were more difficult.
early as 1924, Don Retzlaff's grandfather, Thomas "Tom" Russell Gentry
(W5RG) began the process where over a span
of more than half a century he acquired more than 5,000 QSL cards from
all over the Earth. Many of the countries do not even exist today. Don
has posted a huge collection of his grandfather's Ham radio QSL contact
cards and accompanying photos of fellow operators and equipment
(their "shacks" and "rigs") on his website.
Dropdown lists are available for perusing according to call
sign (5,100+), city in the USA
(1,100+), and year
(1924-1978). I estimate the quantities
page. It took an enormous amount of work to put this resource together,
so you might take a moment to submit a
(click button at top of page) of appreciation.
of the earliest QSL cards is from EK-4EUV in Dresden, Germany, in 1924.
That was in the decade between the two World Wars. Many of the cards
were collected during World War II. Grandpa Gentry served in the
U.S. Army Air Corps (commissioned in 1924)
shortly after the end of World War I. A 1968 QSL card from Moscow
Ham operator UW9DZ listed his country as U.S.S.R.
(which might be in the process of being re-established
based on the current situation in
Crimea). I searched for probably half an hour for a QSL card
dated December 7, 1941, but never found one. Conspicuously absent are
QSL cards from 1942 through 1945 during the period of World War II
that the War Emergency Radio Service (WERS) prohibited amateur radio
operations except for special exceptions on the 2½ meter band.
Notice the address on the February 1942 QSL card from W3IJN
(to the right), where Mr. Gentry used the
moniker "Ex-Amateur Radio Street!"
course any Ham is going to be interested in looking over the très-cool
radio gear sitting on benches and in racks (not
much mobile gear shown), but it is also quite interesting to
look at what is in the room around the gear - pictures, books on shelves,
board games and model car kits, clothing being worn
(or not worn in some cases), furniture,
etc. Some of the postage stamps on the QSL cards might have collector
value. As a lifelong airplane aficionado, I particularly appreciate
the posting of a huge number of what must be one-of-a-kind biplane photos.
Some Hams really "ham" it up with their QSL card designs by using fancy
drawings, or as with JA1WOE (to the left),
by superimposing a scaled down image of himself over the front panel
of his radio.
the extensive list of call signs represented by the QSL cards, I decided
to search for a few of the more
famous Hams, like Walter Cronkite (KB2GSD),
Bletchy Park (GB2BP of ENIGMA machine fame),
Hiram Percy Maxim (W1AW
- contacted the station but not HPM), etc. Interestingly, the
call sign W5CY (to the right), which according
to many sources belonged to Howard Hughes, is in Mr. Gentry's collection
that was submitted by Gordon Ash, of Dallas, Texas. Could Gordon Ash
have been an alias of Mr. Hughes?
Be prepared to spend a lot of time on the website. I just spent
all morning writing this short essay!
Posted March 5, 2014
1996 - 2018
BSEE - KB3UON
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