Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Radio Club of America

The Radio Club of America club was founded almost a hundred years ago. It's the oldest radio club in the world. It would eventually absorb other radio clubs becoming a huge national organization and eventually an international juggernaut.

It began with a group of boys in Jersey. They were model plane enthusiasts, members of the Junior Aero Club and slowly things moved toward radio. It was a very new hobby at the time, and one that seemed to exist in the realm of science fiction. they began tinkering independently then together.

And then in 1909 they decided to form a club. Head of the Aero Club Mr. W. E. D. Stokes, Sr., gathered members at the Hotel Ansonia in New York City. (Stokes owned the hotel) Many of these early members went on to significance in radio. You will recognize some of these names.
  • Director General- W. E. D. STOKES, SR.
  • Honorary President- Miss E. L. TODD
  • Consulting Engineer- PROF. R. A. FESSENDEN
  • President- W. E. D. STOKES, JR.
  • Counsel- MR. SEYMOUR
  • Vice-President- GEORGE ELTZ
  • Recording Secretary- W. FAITOUTE MUNN
  • Corresponding Secretary- FRANK KING
William Earl Dodge Stokes Sr. was a real estate magnate, railroad owner, a horse breeder and owned some big money in copper. He was a millionaire who woudl eventually be shot by two women trying to blackmail him over an illicit affair. That's where the money came from. I love how radio is always dirty... Anyway the money had to come from somewhere. In that era a radio was not an appliance available at retail. It was a cobbled mess of copper wire and scrap wood.

Sr.s money also got Jr. some serious face time. He had a full page spot in the New York times. hHe testified before congress. Which is not to downplay the kids accomplishments. Clearly the kid was bright, well-educated and very confident for a child. It's not every 12-year old that can handle adressing a political party from the house floor.

So dad wanted to help the kid out. He had a genuine interest in radio and he nurtured it. So April 28th 1910 Stokes Jr. speaks before congress to speak against a bill introduced by Senator Chauncey Mitchell Depew of New York. Depew's bill would have restricted access to the airwaves. He was also the president of a railroad company competing with dad. Try not to read into that. The bill really died on it's own merits and Depew was not reelected in 1911. IN 1912 a similar bill was introduced to congress and the club attacked it as well.

Over it's life span the club has dedicated itself to perpetuating radio as a hobby and profession./ they've consulted with governing bodies on engineering matters, reducing interference, improving communications, and legislation. Stokes Jr. became less and less involved with the club as his family descended in to chaos. Sr. became a little mad, he mailed his wife's bedroom door shut, and installed 47 live chickens into their apartment. He then tried to divorce his wife Helen by paying men to testify that she had committed infidelity. He also got his son (her step son) to make a similar claim. Their 1922 trial was a melodramatic media circus.But in that era radio was getting all the more exciting and there was much more for the other members to to accomplish in his absence.