January 1947 Radio-Craft
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Craft,
published 1929 - 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
"The squeaky wheel gets the grease,"
is an old saw that has
long been true when it comes to government policy, applying to common citizens and
paid professional lobbyists alike when attempting to influence laws and regulations.
Tactics range from letter writing, to peaceful town hall meetings and outdoor public
gatherings, to court challenges, to large organized terrorist groups destroying
property and livelihood (and often bodily harm). Some causes are unarguably righteous,
peaceful and honest, while others use subversive methods to coerce policy makers
into adopting their ideas. Such has been the case throughout history in all nations.
Amateur radio operators have had a mostly amiable relationship with the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) since its inception in the early days of Marconi.
However, due to the perceived needs (real and imagined) of wartime and commercial
radio success, amateurs' privileges have been encroached upon numerous times, and
it required the action of citizens to re-claim lost or prevent impending loss of
spectrum and/or operating freedom. Magazine editor, engineer, prolific author, designer,
amateur radio operator, and electronic product manufacturer Hugo Gernsback originated
what is believed to be the USA's very first organization of radio amateurs (Hams)
Wireless Association of America (WAA). Having been created in 1909, it predated
Hiram Percy Maxim's
Relay Association (ARRL), which began in 1914. Gernsback's stated purpose for
creating the WAA: "The Wireless Association of America has been founded with the
sole object of furthering the interests of wireless telegraphy and aerophony in
America." He wanted comrades to give heft in his efforts in defending the sport.
First Radio Association: Wireless Association of America
The above is a reproduction from the January, 1909, issue of
Modern Electrics. Illustration in the center is the first radio association insignia:
a lapel button of that time.
By Hugo Gernsback'
Some time during the early fall of 1908, when wireless was booming, the writer
became convinced that it was necessary to band together the wireless amateurs into
a national body. Accordingly, he set out to launch an association. The chief reason
at that time was to organize a national body to ward off adverse legislation against
the wireless amateur.
In those heydays there was no radio law. Anyone who had a transmitter just helped
himself to whatever wavelength he took a fancy. Obviously, such a condition could
not continue for long, and already there were rumbles that Congress intended to
do something about it.
Everyone feared that the amateur might be put off the air entirely. It was the
writer's thought that if a national body of amateurs existed, they could make their
voice felt in Washington, which indeed they did when the first radio law was enacted
To give the proposed association a solid standing the writer, in October, 1908,
wrote a number of letters to well known radio personalities. Even in these early
days Dr. Lee de Forest was easily the outstanding radio figure in this country.
For that reason the writer proposed to de Forest to become the first president of
the first national wireless association. Late in October, 1908, Dr. de Forest accepted.
The other founders, all well-known radio personages, were John S. Stone of radio
fame, who became Vice President; William Maver, Jr., author of one of the first
radio engineering books, was Secretary; the writer was Chairman and Business Manager.
The league finally was organized in November, 1908. The, first announcement of
the new body "The Wireless Association of America" appeared in the writer's publication
Modern Electrics, in the January, 1909, issue, which was on the newsstands in December,
1908. This was the first national radio association anywhere in the world.
By the end of 1912, the Association had some 14,000 members scattered all over
the country and each member was given a lapel button to wear.
The Association also printed a book with the names and addresses of the members.
Its title was: The Wireless Bluebook; it also was the first radio association membership
book in print.
It is significant that Dr. Lee de Forest, who has so many firsts
attached to his name should also have been the first President of the first Wireless
More important than this is the fact that the Father of Radio clearly saw the
great future of radio, even at that early date, and was willing to lend his name
to radio amateurism then. Dr. de Forest proved himself a most staunch friend of
the amateur, because it was he also who, in those pioneering days, set aside many
of his Audions which were sold to the wireless amateurs.
The following description of the Wireless Association of America was written
by radio historian Clinton de Soto, in his book Two Hundred Meters and Down, the
Story of Amateur Radio, published by the A.R.R.L.
"The Wireless Association of America was a child of Hugo Gernsback, publisher
of Modern Electrics. After the first few months of its existence, Gernsback announced
a membership totaling 3200. By November, 1910, he claimed 5 this number had jumped
to 10,000. It was easy to recruit members for such an organization; there were no
dues and no obligations. Youthful electrical-experimenters signed up in swarms,
attracted by the famous names in the honorary membership group and the ease of becoming
a member. The membership represented a fairly accurate index of national interest
in radio, although not, of course, of the number of active transmitters. Even so,
the number of worthwhile amateur stations on the air had, according to conservative
observers, increased from perhaps one hundred and fifty in 1905 to five or six hundred.
The number of small spark coils in use was several times that figure.
"In early 1910 the first Wireless Blue Book of the Association appeared dated
1909. It listed ninety U.S. amateur stations who were members of the Association
together with the call letters used, approximate wavelength in meters, and the spark
length of the induction coil. Stations were listed in the following states: Massachusetts,
New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Missouri, California, Texas, Rhode Island,
Oregon, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, West Virginia,
Montana, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Maine. Wavelengths ranged from 32
to 950 meters. The average spark gaps were from 1/2 to 3 inches. Two stations had
the exceptional length of 10 and 14 inches, respectively.
"The second Blue Book appeared June 1, 1910. Meanwhile the number of copies of
Modern Electrics printed had increased from the initial 2000 to 30,000. The Wireless
Association of America continued to send out more and more gaudy membership certificates,
and the cumulative numbers on the membership rolls mounted higher and higher."
Wireless Association of America
Under the Auspices of "Modern Electrics"
Board of Directors
Dr. Lee de Forest President
John S. Stone Vice-President
Wm. Maver, Jr. Secretary
Hugo Gernsback Chairman & Business Manager
The Wireless Association of America has been founded with the sole object of
furthering the interests of wireless telegraphy and aerophony in America.
We are now on the threshold of the wireless era, and just beginning to rub our
intellectual eyes, as it were. Sometimes we look over the wall of our barred knowledge
in amazement, wondering what lays beyond the wall, as yet covered with a dense haze.
However, young America, up to the occasion, is wide awake as usual.
Foreign wireless experts, invariably exclaim in wonder when viewing the photographs
appearing each month in the "Wireless Contest" of this magazine. They cannot grasp
the Idea that boys 14 years old actually operate wireless stations successfully
every day in the year under all conditions, but they are all of the undivided opinion
that Young America leads the rest of the world wirelessly.
Even Dr. Lee de Forest, America's foremost wireless authority, confessed himself
surprised that so many young men in this country should be in the possession of
such well constructed and well managed wireless stations, which is only another
proof that the clear headed young men of this country are unusually advanced in
the youngest branch of electrical science.
So far America has lead in the race. The next thing is to stay in the front,
and let the others follow. In fact he would be a bold prophet who would even dare
hint at the wonders to come during the next decade.
The boy experimenting in an attic today may be an authority tomorrow. However,
not even the cleverest inventors or experimenters always have the opportunity of
making themselves known to the world, and it is right here that we are confronted
with a mystery so far unsolved. Out of 100 per cent of young" wireless experimenters,
90 per cent are extremely bashful. Why this should be so is a mystery.
As stated before the new Wireless Association's sole aim is to further the interests
of experimental wireless telegraphy and aerophony in this country. Headed by America's
foremost wireless men; it is not a money-making institution. There are no membership
fees, and no contributions required to become a member. There are two conditions
only. Each member of the Association must be an American citizen and must own a
wireless station, either for sending or for receiving or both.
The Association furnishes a membership button as per our illustration. This button
is sold at actual cost and will be mailed to each member on receipt or 15 cents
(no stamps nor checks).
This button is made of bronze, triple silver-plated. The flashes from the wireless
pole are laid in in hard red enamel, which makes the button quite distinctive. The
button furthermore has the usual screw back making it easy to fasten to buttonhole.
The lettering itself is laid in in black hard enamel. Size exactly as cut.
On account of the heavy plating it will last for years and be guaranteed not
to wear "brassy."
Its diameter is 3/4 inch. This is a trifle larger than usual, the purpose being
to show the button off so that it can be readily seen from a distance. The reason
is obvious. Suppose you are a wireless experimenter and you live in a fairly large
town. If you see a stranger with the Association button, you, of course, would not
be backward talking to the wearer and in this manner become acquainted with those
having a common object in mind, which is the successful development of "wireless."
The Association furthermore wishes to be of assistance to experimenters
and inventors of wireless appliances and apparatus, if the owners are not capable
to market or work out their inventions. Such information and advice will be given
Somebody suggested that Wireless Clubs should be formed in various towns, and
while this idea is of course feasible in the larger towns, it is fallacious in smaller
town where at best only two or three wireless experimenters can be found.
Most experimenters would rather spend their money in maintaining and enlarging
their wireless stations, instead of contributing fees to maintain clubs or meeting
rooms, etc., etc.
The Board of Directors of this Association earnestly request every wireless experimenter
and owner of a station to apply for membership in the Association by submitting
his name, address, location, instruments used, etc., etc., to the business manager.
There is no charge or fee whatever connected with this.
Each member will be recorded and all members will be classified by town and State.
After February 1st, 1909, members are at liberty to inquire from the Association
if other wireless experimenters within their locality have registered. Such information
will be furnished free if stamped return envelope is forwarded with inquiry.
To organize the Association as quickly as possible it is necessary that prospective
members make their application at once, and without delay.
If you are eligible fill out application sheet and state particulars as follows:
Full name; town; State; age; system and apparatus used; full description aerial.
Posted June 21, 2020