Tuesday, November 13, 2007

BOOK WEEK Pt. 2 The Radio Boys

Stratemeyer decided that a radio-themed juvenile series could stand on it's own. The first "radio boys" book was not the first juvenile literature book to feature radio at all. That honor belongs to a book that came out in 1911 titled Tom Swift and his wireless message. It was written by Howard Roger Garis under the Victor Appleton pseudonym. It did well and Stratemeyer launched a themed series in 1912 named "the Boys of Wireless." Other competing companies launched similar lines: The Ocean Wireless Boys, Bert Wilson wireless Operator, The Radio-Phone Boys, The Bill Brown books... etc.

There were at least three different series's that used the "Radio Boys" brand. The first series of The Radio Boys was written by Allen Chapman. He pounded out 14 books between 1922 and 1930. The "Allen Chapman" pseudonym was used by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, as early as 1962. "Allen Chapman" books are typically written by John W. Duffield.

A second series ran concurrently written by Gerald Breckenridge producing a total of 10 novels. Another set of books also written concurrently was written by 4 other authors: Frank Honeywell; J.W. Duffield; Wayne Whipple & S.F. Aaron. It produced 8 books only 6 of which were published. making sense of the catalog is a tad difficult. More here.

The Radio Boys on the Mexican Border is the first volume in the Radio Boys series written by Gerald Breckenridge and published by the A.L. Burt Company. In radio's early, experimental days of the 1920s there were two major series of juvenile fiction titled "The Radio Boys." One series was published by Grosset & Dunlap and written under the name Allen Chapman, and this series published by A.L. Burt.

The Radio Boys were unlike other ardio-focused books of that era. They contained a Forward that explained the abilities of radioin the context of modern technology. It somwhat demystified the medium probably to the benefit of the reader in 1922. I'll quote in whole:

"The development of radio telephony is still in its infancy at this time of writing in 1922. And yet it has made strides that were undreamed of in 1918. Experiments made in that year in Germany, and by the Italian Government in the Adriatic, enabled the human voice to be projected by radio some hundreds of miles. Today the broadcasting stations, from which nightly concerts are sent far and wide across the land, have tremendous range.

Estimates compiled by the various American companies making and selling radiophone equipment showed that in March of 1922 there were more than 700,000 receiving sets installed throughout the country and that installations were increasing so rapidly it was impossible to compute the percentage with any degree of accuracy, as the gains even from week to week were great.

When you boys read this the problems of control of the air will have been simplified to some extent. Yet at the beginning of 1922 they were simply chaotic. Then the United States Government of necessity took a hand. The result will be, eventually, that certain wave lengths will be set aside for the exclusive use of amateurs, others for commercial purposes, still others for governmental use, and so on."

In this connection, you will note that in the story Jack Hampton's father builds sending stations on Long Island and in New Mexico. This is unusual and requires explanation.

The tremendous growth of amateur receiving stations is due in part to the fact that such stations require no governmental license. A sending station, on the other hand, does require a license, and such license is not granted except upon good reasons being shown. It would be natural for the government, however, to give Mr. Hampton license to use a special wave length—such as 1,800 metres—for transoceanic radio experiments. Extension of the license to the New Mexico plant would follow."

There are several Radio Boys books at Project Gutenberg that you can download and read for free. http://www.gutenberg.org/