While, to the layman, deep mystery surrounds wireless telegraphy a dozen Newport, R. I., lads are running practical plants of their own manufacture. Some of the boys are high school students, but the more ingenious electricians do not boast such extensive learning. The two showing the best working plants, in fact, are but sixteen years of age and belong to families that can ill afford to spend money for whims. Hence equipment that had to be purchased at market prices is a rarity with them.
Still, with this difficulty facing them, their plants have been developed and proved to be of such practical value that the attention of the Navy Department has been attracted to them, because of their ability to cause serious interference with the powerful plant at the U. S. Torpedo Station, which has cost thousands of dollars to install and is costing hundreds of dollars each month to operate.
The boys are not inventors, perhaps, but they show inventive genius in manipulating such defective equipment as they are able to secure, either by manufacture or purchase.
Their crude plants have been inspected and reported upon by Commander Albert C. Gleaves, U. S, N., of the Torpedo station. His report to Washington speaks of the boys as most ingenious in their work. They have proved conclusively that fairly effective wireless outfits may be made to sell for not more than $50, with good profit to manufacturers; that small, as well as larger vessels may have wireless outfits, if they can afford operators; that, on shore, the army and civilians may make use of the wireless means of communication, where the cost of the construction of pole lines has been considered too great for the service desired.
Aside from the fact that the boys have set up plants which send, as well as receive, the ingenuity which they have shown is, perhaps, the most interesting part of their work.
For tuning coils, glass jars, mailing tubes or even curtain rollers, wound with wire, with a sliding contact, have been made to serve.
For receivers, bits of arc-light carbons, with ordinary sewing needles laid across them, have rendered effective service, though a more sensitive one and one less troublesome when constructed is the acid receiver, which they have now introduced.
They take an incandescent electric lamp socket, fix it to a table and connect with the outer pole, then take a lamp, preferably of the long finger type, cut off the upper end and remove the carbon, but leave the platinum wires. Then they pour in nitric acid, adjust another platinum wire from the top, and seal up the tube. This done, they have only to make their connections, listen at their telephone receiver and catch the wireless talk, provided that the wave detector is properly adjusted and the rest of the apparatus in proper order.
While most of the boys are obliged to hold the instrument to their ears while receiving, one of them has arrived at the stage where his receiver is audible in all parts of the room. An old telegraph key connected with a spark coil, sometimes with a spark thrown between two nails driven into a board, serves as a sending apparatus in lieu of something more elaborate.
This far the boys have not been able to send more than two or three miles, but they have received messages sent at a distance of forty miles. They are increasing their sending powers and hope, at no distant day, to have plants as powerful as those operated on the Fall River steamers.
The two boys who lead the others in the eyes of the professional operators are Charles Fielding, Jr., a Postal Telegraph messenger boy, and Lloyd Manuel, who spends most of his time in his station, which was, until recently, a hen house. It is to these two that the other boys go, when in need of technical advice. They read all the wireless literature that they can lay their hands on and are well versed in the history and construction of the several systems.
For some time the families of the young experimenters looked askance at the work they were doing. But when the attention of the government experts was attracted, their elder relatives decided that possibly, after all, the boys were not entirely wasting their time. Both young Fielding and Manuel are devoting their best energies to the attempt to discover improvements on the present apparatus. Neither of them has any desire to work as a wireless operator for more than a few months. Their ambition is more soaring than that. By making some invention of importance to the art, each of them expects, to reach not only fame, but wealth. Their future careers will be watched with great interest by many people who like to see boys display energy, enthusiasm and ingenuity. 1
Charles Fielding, Jr
What became of Charles Fielding? In 1906 it was reported that he was to enter Wireless School and left on March 2nd to present himself for admission to the wireless school at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. 3
Then it was reported on March 5th, 1906 that although he was able to pass the enterence exam he was not allowed to enter the school because he was only 16 and navel regulations required him to be 21. 4
In the long run however, Commander Gleaves who had initially taken an interest in Fielding intervined and helped to convince the Navy to let him enter the wireless school. 5
This ends up the start of a career for young Fielding. In 1947 he is promoted to Rear Admiral in charge of Narragansett Bay and New Bedford defences which were headquarted in Newport. 6
Early in his life, Charles was a telegraph messanger boy and joined the Navy with another famous Rhode Islander, Edward A Donahue, Beavertail Lighthouse keeper for over 30 years.
It should be noted that he was not an uninformed tinkerer. "My arrangement is modeled according to the Massie system." This is a reference to the commercial station PJ in Point Judith, Rhode Island, operated by The Massie Wireless Telegraph Company. In 1910 Massie was one of only ten wireless telegraph and telephone companies operating in the United States. He had also read a description of the Marconi system in a book from the public library. But, it was still impressive that young Lloyd could interfere with a station that cost the government thousands of dollars each month to operate. (A sum of $1,000 in 1906 would be equivalent to about $25,000 today, taking into account inflation.) 2
Lloyd Manuel, Rhode Island’s First Ham ?
By: Domenic M. Mallozzi, N1DM
The first actual ham in Rhode Island may never be determined due to the lack of regulatory licensing prior to 1912. But, Lloyd C. Manuel who went from Newport schoolboy to local radio businessman is a good candidate.
Recent searches of both the RI Index at the Providence Public Library, old call books and the internet show the first mention of what can be described as amateur radio is directly related to Lloyd Manuel. The first record of Lloyd’s activity was in the English section of the L’Abeille de la Nouvelle-Orleans7 (New Orleans Bee) in March of 1906 where two articles explains him using a true haywire setup that was interfering with his neighbors at the U.S. Navy Torpedo Station wireless station at Newport. Later in the articles it states his ingenuity in constructing his station including a quarter inch spark transmitter with a range of one and a half miles. He indicated that he had been experimenting with wireless four years earlier using information from the local public library. This is quite believable as Scientific American in 1902 had an article by A. Frederick Collins describing a complete wireless station8. In a 1916 article in QST9 Lloyd stated he was the only ham in Newport when he started his wireless career. But six months later an article in Technical World Magazine9 says a dozen lads were active in Newport including Lloyd Manuel and his friend Charles Fielding Jr. In fact the commander of the naval wireless station at Newport complemented the boys ‘inventive genius’.
In a 1916 article in QST10 Lloyd described how he assembled his first station including his father providing money for a commercial Rhumkorff coil from Sears and Roebuck catalog after he had poor luck in getting the high voltage coil in his homebrew transmitter going. This one ‘commercial’ component should not overshadow that his coherer detector was made from a glass bottle neck, corks and filings from some coins. Amazingly, neither the New Orleans Bee article or another similar article in Technical World Magazine9 gave his self assigned call sign. When federal licensing arrived in 1912 Lloyd apparently waited until 1915 he got 1TH. Over the years his call change but he was active through the 20’s when he went into the radio business full time.
Random Thoughts of a Old Timer
Table I - Lloyd Manual Ham Station Information
Many might assume that Lloyd got on the air through some association with the local Navy wireless station. This is in fact incorrect, as in his 1916 QST12 article Lloyd clearly indicates it was with some trepidation that he had his first contact with station PK at the naval torpedo station in Newport. His QSO with the station ended up in some friendships. It is really not hard to believe that he had a contact with a Navy station because in 1908 many Navy stations were open to public correspondence.
The hobby was more than a passing fad for Lloyd who continued to show an amateur license through 1924 under various call signs (including 1MV, 1TH and 1BOG) at different addresses in Newport. He also tried to popularize ham radio as the instigator of a float in then Newport Fourth of July Preparedness Parade for 1916 that included his receiving outfits for amateur stations 1TD and 1TG11.
By 1916 his interest had become serious enough to become an associate member of the Institute of Radio Engineers12 . His activity during World War 1 is not known but when ham radio returned to the air he was there as 1MV. When the broadcast boom occurred in the early 1920’s Lloyd was in the right place at the right time to turn his hobby into a job. In 1923 the city directory13 showed him as in business for radio supplies at 167 Thames Street, which was a commercial ‘fancy goods’ dealer. This was the first reference to Lloyd in the radio business. Previous to this he had been listed in the city directory as a clerk at the local post office. The next year he went into business with William J. Carr, a local optician, who also sold radio supplies out of his business at 169 Thames Street14. They formed Carr & Manuel Company specifically for selling radio supplies. He actually moved his amateur license to this location in 1923 and 1924. (Carr had been the first person in Newport showing a business in radio supplies in an advertisement on page 64 of the 1923 city directory13.) This was the last time Lloyd showed a ham license.
By 1925 Lloyd had moved off on his own, opening the Radio Exchange Incorporated at 30 Broadway15 as the president . He continued with the Radio Exchange through 1928 and by 1929 showed a separate business as a ‘radio man’ at 84 Broadway moving to 124 Broadway in 1930. By 1932 he had moved again to his home at 53 Bridge Street. From 1934 to 1935 he showed he was in the business of radios at Manuel Brother Furniture (moving and storage) at 50 Thames Street. In 1941 the city directory indicated his wife was a widow. From a boy with a radio in a henhouse in 1906 Lloyd had continued his activity (although not as a ham after 1924) into the late 1930’s seeing radio go from spark to CW to AM.
I am indebted to the earlyradiohistory site which led to the info on Lloyd that started this research.
1 Technical World Magazine, September, 1906, pgs 62-63
2 Boy Genius Blocks Navy Wireless
3 Providence Journal, March 3, 1906
4 Providence Journal, March 5, 1906
5 Providence Journal, March 13, 1906
6 Newport Mercury January 3, 1947
7 Toy Stops Wireless:L’abeille de la Nouvelle-Orleans (The New Orleans Bee):23 March 1906:Pg. 5
8 A. Frederick Collions:How to Construct an Efficient Wireless Telegraph Apparatus at a Small Cost:Scientific American Supplement:Feb. 15, 1902:pages 21849-21850
9 Hall, M.W.:Wireless Station in Henhouse: Technical World Magazine:Sept. 1906: pages 62-63
10 Manuel, Lloyd:”Thoughts of the Good Old Palmy Days’:QST:March 1916:pgs.47-48
11 “A Wireless Float”:QST: American Radio Relay League: CT: August 1916:pg. 205
12 Manuel, Lloyd:”Thoughts of the Good Old Palmy Days’: QST American Radio Relay League: CT::March 1916:pgs.47-48
13 The Newport City Directory 1923: Sampson & Murdock Co. 14 Greene Street :Providence, RI 1923
14 The Newport City Directory 1924: Sampson & Murdock Co. 14 Greene Street :Providence, RI 1924
15 The Newport City Directory 1925: Sampson & Murdock Co. 14 Greene Street :Providence, RI 1923, Page 64