The Guglielmo Marconi Story
Some History of Marconi in New Jersey
The New Jersey area is rich in the history and the pioneering work of radio communications. Early radio can be said to have been developed, refined, and manufactured in this area. Pioneers such as Bell, Edison, Tesla, Marconi, Fessenden, De Forest, Armstrong, Sarnoff, and a host of others worked and lived in the area. Of particular interest is Guglielmo Marconi. He experimented and manufactured early transoceanic and ship-to-shore equipment in the New Jersey area. Many of the Marconi Chapter 138 members were directly impacted by Marconi, and some participated in his early work. It was felt that Marconi most closely represented the QCWA chapter membership and it would be a fitting tribute to name the chapter after him.
1. Twin Lights at Highlands, NJ, USA (1899-1907)
On the 21st of September 1899, Marconi arrived in New York. He arrived to a wild reception and was obligated to answer hundreds of questions from the reporters who crowded the quayway to meet him and who waited for him at his hotel. The directors of the New York Herald hoped that commissioning Marconi’s services would generate great public excitement for the upcoming America’s Cup race. With scientific interest in wireless, and curiosity about Marconi to add to the sporting enthusiasm, the Herald hoped for first-class publicity. But, the event was upstaged by the triumphant return home from the Philippines of Admiral Dewey, the victor of Manila, who was to be given a hero’s welcome by New York after his successes in the war against Spain. The yacht races were postponed so that they would not interfere with the patriotic demonstrations, and the Herald made an attempt to get Marconi into the Dewey limelight. Marconi hurriedly fitted his wireless to the flagship Olympia so that he could report the event.
The Herald provided stations for Marconi’s apparatus in the Navesink Highlands on the New Jersey coast overlooking the New York harbor; the top of a tall building on 34th Street, New York; and to the cable ship, Mackay Bennett, moored over the New York transatlantic cable which it picked up to provide immediate communications to London and Paris. The Herald also chartered two other steamship to cover all the events with Marconi’s system. Marconi was on board one of the steamers, the Ponce, along with other US Naval officials who acted as observers of wireless. The ‘experiments’ were very successful. The Herald printed a most enthusiastic two column report to the world that Marconi had passed the stage of uncertainty, that wireless was adopted for use at sea, and that its value could not be too highly estimated.
At the Twin Lights site, Highlands, New Jersey, Marconi erected antenna towers to demonstrate the practicality of the transmission of information via "Hertzian" waves. At the invitation of the editor of the New York Herald newspaper, the 25 year old Marconi set up a transmitter in a boat to follow the America's Cup race between the Shamrock of Sir Thomas Lipton and the Columbia II of JP Morgan outside of New York Harbor.
On September 30, 1899, and just prior to the race, Commodore Dewey's fleet was approaching New York Harbor, and the approach of the fleet and Dewey's victory in the Pacific in the Spanish-American war was relayed by radio from Marconi's boat to the Highlands station, and thence to New York and the newspapers. The race was postponed and a naval review and parade was organized to welcome Dewey. Thus, this became the first reception in America of wireless messages.
By mid-October, the celebrations for Dewey were over, and on October 3 the races began. On October 16, the US yacht Columbia owned by J.P. Morgan gained the required 3 out of 5 decision over the yacht Shamrock owned by Sir Thomas Lipton. The five-hour races lasted for 13 days and were pursued to the end, with the Columbia winning, and all the progress and conclusion of the race reported by Marconi's station. The results were immediately printed in the New York Herald and posted in storefront windows in New York City. Some 5000 words in all were transmitted.
"The Twin Lights station became the first one in the nation capable of transmitting and receiving radio messages on a regular commercial basis and remained in use until 1907. These practical demonstrations resulted in the recognition of the value of radio and 'Marconi’s' were required on all commercial ships. This in turn accounted for the rescue of the 705 survivors of Titanic when it sank in the North Atlantic."
[Adapted from exhibit material at the Twin Lights museum]
2. Shark River in Wall Township, NJ, USA (1914-1924)
In 1914 Marconi established a branch of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America in Wall Township. The Wall Township site adjoins the Shark River, a tributary to the Atlantic ocean that is approximately 2 miles to the Jersey coast and 5 miles north of the Manasquan Inlet. On this site the Marconi company built a development laboratory, dormitories, two resident houses, and other facilities. These facilities are listed on the New Jersey Historic Register and some are still in use by the Army.
The Company served as a commercial radio station for transatlantic communications. Along the banks of the Shark River, Marconi erected a number of high towers, approximately 200 feet high, to “string up” a long bronze wire antenna about one mile long. This site was used for reception of the Morse code transatlantic signals. In 1906 Guglielmo Marconi used this station for the first to reliable transmission and reception of commercial transoceanic messages. The Shark River site served as the receiving location and the transmitting studio, although the transmission power station and antenna were remotely located in the New Brunswick, NJ area. The top of one of his towers stands near the Shark River as a memorial. On this site the memorial states:
"Marconi American Wireless Company, 1913-1924, W1GM, First Commercial Transatlantic Communications Installation".
3. New Brunswick , NJ, USA ( -1919)
Forty miles inland in Franklin Township, at what is now referred to as the New Brunswick Station, the transmitting station was built. Morse code telegraphy and control to the transmitting station was remoted from Shark River over telephone lines to the transmitter. Here, Marconi constructed a one mile long antenna made of bronze cable and suspended 400 feet above the ground on 13 towers along the Delaware and Raritan Canal. This antenna was used with a 15 kilowatt high power spark transmitting station.
President Woodrow Wilson’s appeal for the overthrow or abdication of the Kaiser was relayed to Germany and the rest of the Europe from New Brunswick. In 1919 the ‘Radio Corporation of America (RCA)’ was awarded the assets of the British-owned Marconi Company and in 1920 the New Brunswick station became one of RCA’s principal transoceanic stations. A Marconi memorial stands on the site of his former residence in the area. Two cottages remain standing which housed a team of Marconi’s employees on Easton Avenue.
4. Marconi Park Complex, Wall Township, NJ (1914 - 1997)
In 1914, Marconi established a branch of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America in Wall Township, NJ, USA. The Wall Township site adjoins the Shark River and is approximately 2 miles for the Jersey coast. On this site, the Marconi company built a development laboratory, dormitories and two resident houses. These facilities are listed on the New Jersey Historic Register and are still use by the Army. The Company served as a commercial radio station for transatlantic communications. Along the banks of the Shark River, Marconi erected a number of high towers (200 to 400 feet high) to “string up” a long bronze wire antenna about one mile long. This site was used for reception of the Morse code transatlantic signals. The top of one of his towers near the Shark River stand as a memorial. On this site the memorial states "Marconi American Wireless Company, 1913-1924, W1GM, First Commercial Transatlantic Communications Installation".
In 1941 the Marconi site was sold to the US Army Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth, NJ. The site was named after Colonel Paul Wesley Evans, Commander of the 101st Field Signal Battalion in W.W.I. Colonel Evans worked with Marconi on the development of radio transmitters and receivers. The Evans Area covers an area of 258 acres. The Marconi buildings are being preserved, and plans call for a park with walking and nature trails, college campus, recreation areas and a museum. The first part of the complex will be turned over this summer with the remaining about one year later.
Contributions of general information, stories, pictures that can be reproduced, etc., about Marconi activities, especially in New Jersey, would be very greatly appreciated. Information will be published on this page.
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