Strays – Traffic, 200, and 20

Relaying in the DX Age In spring 1926, Fred Schnell resigned as ARRL communications manager after six years in the job, which included holding its former title, traffic manager.1 He was leaving to join the C. F. Burgess Laboratories in Madison, Wisconsin, well known for its batteries and other radio apparatus. Citing the “faithful, efficient and progressive manner” in which Schnell worked as a League official, the ARRL Board extended its appreciation and best wishes for his future endeavors. F. … Continue reading

North Again

As ARRL traffic manager Fred Schnell was beginning his voyage to the southern hemisphere with the US Navy,1 arctic explorer Donald MacMillan2 announced he would once again sail north with shortwave radio aboard the Bowdoin.3 The trip would begin in June 1925, and this time he planned to explore the north polar region using airplanes to determine whether any land existed there. The Bowdoin would be accompanied by a second ship, the Peary, captained by Commander Eugene F. MacDonald, Jr., … Continue reading

Army Vacation or Navy Cruise

In the fall of 1925, the US Army worked out a plan for transmitting amateurs1 to take part in a cooperative operation in support of Regular Army, National Guard and Reserve units, to handle traffic and provide communications in times of emergency, provide a reserve of trained operators, and exchange ideas about radio.2 Those interested (Official Relay Stations of the ARRL’s Traffic Department were already interested, with 80% responding in a survey) were asked to send a station card (not … Continue reading

Call and Card

CQ, usesd as a general call for initiating a contact, took time to become an acceptable practice in the early years. Serious operators frowned on its use, mostly because it had been used to excess in the old days among the “little boys with squeak boxes,” usually in exceedingly long and sparsely identified calls. In March 1921, QST announced an operating event called the “ARRL CQ Party,” to be run on April Fools Day.1 The writer (unnamed) asserted that CQ … Continue reading


On the evening of 27 November 1923, a mother in Connecticut sent Thanksgiving greetings to her son who was a great distance away, via radio.1 She paid nothing for this service since her message was handled entirely by amateur radio operators. Impressively, it arrived only six minutes after she dictated it to a local ham on the telephone, traveling more than 6,000 miles to reach its addressee. Since her son happened to be aboard a ship that was frozen motionless … Continue reading

The Fourth Time’s the Charm

After the initial thrill of being the first to hear transatlantic signals, Paul Godley’s next thought was of making contact, and a helpless frustration at not having equipment to transmit a reply.  And now, emboldened by the successful second set of transatlantic tests in December 1922, many amateurs were talking about the possibility of a first two-way contact across the ocean. In fact, in early 1923 US hams were already informally running two-way tests with Leon Deloy, French 8AB (one … Continue reading

High Latitudes and Low Wavelengths

Donald B. MacMillan, an experienced arctic explorer and geologist, visited Hartford in early 1923 to discuss amateur radio with Hiram Percy Maxim.1 Among his various scientific investigations, MacMillan was planning to study the aurora borealis.  No one yet understood what the aurora was, but he had experienced it on previous trips and noticed that he could hear long wave radio signals through it. On his next expedition, besides photographing the aurora, he wanted to experiment with shortwave radio signals to … Continue reading