A minor disaster leads to this post on radio equipment, of all things

I had a long, (and brilliant!) intricately plotted, two-part post all written in my mind but I screwed up the scan of the key photograph this afternoon and didn’t realize it until just now. Rather than give in to despair, though, I will show you something cool. I discovered this cool stuff while I was doing the work for the original post. In fact, the most likely reason I screwed up the scan is that I got distracted by these pictures, which are tangentially related to my intended topic, which I will get back to eventually. Still, I know that I have readers who dig this kind of thing, so what the heck.

One of the most important families in Rice’s early history were the Autry’s.  James L. Autry was the general counsel of the Texas Company and he and his wife, Allie, were prominent supporters of the Institute. Autry House was largely funded by and then named in honor of James Autry when it opened after his death. Autry Court was later named for Mrs. Autry, a very big booster of Rice athletics. Both of their children, James (Jimmie), ’21, and then Allie May, ’25, graduated from Rice. (More on all this later.)

The radio equipment here belonged to Jimmie, who died in 1922 at the age of 23. He had been a zealous radio enthusiast and built what was according to several sources one of the best amateur wireless sets in Texas. He was also the founder of the Houston Radio Club and remained the main force in that group until his death.

I don’t really understand what all this equipment is, of course. Any help is appreciated.

Bonus: While I was looking at these I noticed another envelope called “Planes,” so I took a peek. I can’t see any obvious way to ties these photos to Rice but since things have already kind of gone to hell tonight, I’m just going to put them up. The only label on them was “Ellington Field.” I know it looks bad, but I’m pretty sure no one was hurt as there are pictures of four or five different guys mugging for the camera amidst the wreckage.

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5 Responses to A minor disaster leads to this post on radio equipment, of all things

  1. Gloria Tarpley '81 says:

    My dad is a ham radio enthusiast, age 90, and as he looked over the photos, his comment was “oh, this is all obsolete”. He was not really sure what most of the equipment in the first two pictures was, but he did say the antenna was a vertical antenna, but the wire on it looked as if it might lead to another pole, thereby making it a “di-pole” antenna (one with a wire between two poles). The vertical and the di-pole antenna were both used to receive and transmit the ham radio signals — the taller the antenna, the further the reach. Apparently this pictured antenna would have been a really tall one which would have worked amply well with the equipment of the time. Today, one uses a large directional antenna instead.

    In addition, you might find it interesting to know that at the time I was at Rice (1977-1981) the University had a ham radio club. My home was in Mexico City, and phone calls home were very expensive. As my dad was a ham radio operator, he asked that I check with the ham radio club at Rice to see if they could patch us in, as opposed to having to call long distance all the time. One very faithful ham radio operator and fellow student at Rice, Stuart O’Dell, patiently would tie me in to talk to my parents at various times, and I’m still grateful to him for that. Obviously, those days are long gone……

  2. effegee says:

    Probably couldn’t get away with putting a metal tower that close to overhead electric power lines these days, although depth of field (or lack of it) makes it hard to tell exactly how far away the tower is from the power line. All of the horizontal wires appear to attach to the power pole.

  3. The plate on the close-up photo identifies the rig as a Chicago Radio Laboratory Long Distance Radio Apparatus. It appears that Chicago Radio Laboratory became Zenith Radio:


    In the photo of the desk, that is an awesome “mad scientist” double-pole knife switch at the far right.

    The Smithsonian has a couple of Chicago Radio Laboratory catalogs from that period:


    Also, dipoles work just fine and are still the most popular amateur antenna. I have one on my roof and yesterday I talked with someone on top of a mountain in Idaho.

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