Archives:Sources in Electrical History 2: Oral History Collections in U.S. Repositories

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Sources in Electrical History 2: Oral History Collections in U.S. Repositories is the second in a series of guides published by the IEEE-Rutgers Center for the History of Electrical Engineering. It joins the first volume, Archives and Manuscript Collections in U. S. Repositories (published by the IEEE in 1989), in providing a ready reference of primary sources to the researcher of the history of electrical, electronic, and computing technologies. This volume summarizes the contents of over 1,000 taped interviews, stored in 64 repositories, as well as listing basic information about the interviews, such as the interviewee, the interviewer, the date and place the interview was conducted, the length of the interview, and details about the existence of a transcript and index for the interview.

Many of the interviews listed in this volume were conducted as single components of large oral history projects. These projects are surveyed in the first 57 entries of this guide. In these entries, the motivation for the project, a list of the people interviewed who are relevant to electrical technology, and a summary of the subjects covered is provided. In some cases, when enough information about a single interview conducted in association with a project was available, a separate entry for that interview is listed. These are found in the main body of the guide, organized in alphabetical order by name of the interviewee. The name of the project is given above the name of the interview subject. The balance of the entries are for interviews with figures of note in electrical history, conducted by independent scholars for their own research and deposited in a welcoming repository. These are also listed alphabetically, by interviewee.

Each entry in the guide, whether for a single interview or a project, is assigned its own entry number. This number is the first data field, preceding the large, bold name of the interviewee. The two indexes refer to entries by their entry number. Hence, the number 347 in the subject index means interview number 347, which is on page 45. Entry numbers are assigned in ascending numerical order, but their sequence is not continuous. There are several gaps in the numbering of the entries. For example, although entry number 347 follows number 346, it is itself followed not by number 348, but by number 349. There is no entry number 348. This unusual system is an artifact of the editing process and should not hinder the easy use of the guide.

Please note: Interviews listed in this guide may not be open to researchers.

There are many reasons why access to an interview might be restricted; some interviews are closed, or partially closed, at the request of the interviewee, some are closed because permission forms have not been signed or processing is incomplete, some interviews may have other conditions on their use. These conditions change, however, and in preparing this guide we hoped to not withhold mention of interviews that, while currently unavailable, might be open in the future. Any researcher interested in examining an oral history listed in this guide must consult the archivist at the repository in question to determine whether the interview is available. There are other good reasons to call an archive before visiting. Information about business hours, special costs, or other facts relevant to a planned research trip can help the researcher avoid wasting time. Also, advance notification gives the archive's staff time to retrieve off-site materials, obtain permissions, and make other advance preparations. Archives are often unable to assist the unannounced researcher. The repository index at the end of this volume gives addresses and phone numbers of the repositories cited in this guide.

Sources in Electrical History 2: Oral History Collections in U.S. Repositories was prepared over a span of several years by the staff of the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering. The fundamental work of researching this book was primarily the job of Edward Sowders. Helping him with this, and with the compilation and composition of the results, were Joyce Bedi, Debra Braskett, Charles M. Dwight, Ronald Kline, and Craig Semsel. Editing, indexing, and proofreading of the manuscript was the responsibility of William Aspray, Michael Ann Ellis, Andrew Goldstein, David Morton, and Christine Skwiot. Andrew Goldstein prepared the pages for printing. Generous support for the center came from IEEE, Rutgers University, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the IEEE Foundation-Life Members Fund, the IEEE Foundation-General Fund, the Electro-Mechanics Company, The Environmental Research Institute of Michigan, the KBR Foundation, Sematech, the Microwave Theory and Techniques Society of the IEEE, and the Friends of the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering.



This is a series of 10 interviews that include Adair's recollections of his studies in communications at the Naval Postgraduate School and his service as a radio officer in destroyer squadrons from 1935 to 1938.


Beirne talks about his early experiences in the Western Electric Company's maintenance shop, communications workers during the Depression, the origins of the Communications Workers of America, its role in the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), and the unification of the American Federation of Labor and the CIO.


Drake, founder of Data Card Corp., discusses his career from his employment with the Engineering Research Associates (ERA) to his work with Data Card. He remembers employment with ERA from 1947 to 1952 and his growing frustration with the firm after it was sold to Remington Rand in 1952. He credits James Rand with considerable vision for business applications of computers, but criticizes Remington Rand's management for failing to coordinate ERA's activities with an earlier acquisition, the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Co. He also discusses the circumstances surrounding the formation of the Control Data Corp.


Forrester discusses work leading to the development of the Whirlwind computer at MIT. He begins, however, with his work in the MIT Servomechanisms Laboratory on an aircraft stability analyzer. This leads to a discussion of the Whirlwind computer, computer architecture, and computer storage technology.


Although this interview is primarily concerned with the history of Morgantown, W.Va., Hall mentions the Bell Telephone Company, the Westinghouse Company, electrical engineering, the West Virginia Traction and Electric Company, Union Utilities Company, Elkins Power Company, General Electric Company, and the West Virginia University electrical engineering department.

Hughes discusses the early history of Spokane, Washington, including his recollections of an early electric cable car system.


Knudsen worked at Bell Laboratories as a researcher in acoustics with Harvey Fletcher in the 1920s. He was later a consultant to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios on motion picture sound, as well as a designer of broadcasting studios.


This interview concerns computer activities of General Electric (GE) and the data communications industry. After describing his early life and undergraduate work in mechanical engineering at the University of Washington, Maguire concentrates on his career at GE. He worked for GE's utility sales divisions in Chicago and Madison, Wisconsin, in the programming department in Phoenix, and as a support specialist to the utilities industry in the Philadelphia field office. Maguire describes the training program for new engineers, the divisional structure of the company, the sales and management philosophy, and the marketing plan, and illustrates them from his personal experiences. He devotes particular attention to GE's attempt to gain the #2 market share in the computer industry and the decision to leave the industry because of their capital commitments to steam turbine and nuclear power technologies. Maguire then reviews his career after GE, first as a product manager with the communications system start-up, Communatype, and later with his own company in the data communications systems business. He provides an overview of the technical innovations, price-performance improvements, and companies that entered the data communications industry.

Mickelson discusses radio news work at WCCO, Minneapolis, Minn., in 1943, CBS in 1950, television coverage of special news events, and news on film.


Packard discusses his efforts to secure municipal ownership of electric power.


On participant in this panel discussion is Joseph Swindler, a former chairman of the Federal Power Commission. No specific information about the interview was available.


Slater was the founder, producer and host of "Hymns We Love," a radio show.

This is a biographical sketch of Swan's life, including a discussion of his experiences starting up a radio station.


Ulam discusses his career at the University of Cambridge in the early 1930s and at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the 1940s and 1950s. He describes his collaboration with John von Neumann at the Institute for Advanced Study and the Los Alamos National Laboratory and explains its relation to computing. Ulam describes how his involvement with electronic computers and computer programming began during his work with Fermi and others on the hydrogen bomb in the late 1940s. He also discusses the impact of computing on the field of science and of Los Alamos on computing developments. He concludes with remarks about von Neumann's thoughts on computers, artificial intelligence, and other matters.


Warwick discusses radio station KGIL. This interview is part of a series of 30-minute radio programs entitled "Our Business is Your Business," hosted by Lincoln Ward (Pacific Telephone Co.) and Joseph Staller (Southern California Gas Co.). Running from 1976 to 1977, the programs consisted of weekly interviews with business leaders of the San Fernando Valley.



Topics include aspects of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project relating to electrical technology and engineering.


This is a set of interviews with the members of the Farm Holiday Association, who discuss its history and activities during the Great Depression. The interviews also include information on the Minnesota Valley Electric Light and Power Cooperative, the Rural Electrification Administration, and New Deal legislation.


The Pacific Northwest Broadcasting Oral History Project consist of a series of interviews with various radio broadcasting pioneers from the region. A variety of subject matters are covered based on individuals' experiences in radio and television broadcasting. The individuals who were interviewed are Leo Beckley, Al Bond, Jack Clarke, Homer Pope, Robert Priebe, and James Wallace.


The Schenectady General Electric in the 20th Century Project contains over 60 interviews, totaling more than 120 hours, with employees of General Electric's Schenectady facility. Interviews will be open to researchers after the summer of 1993.


Several of the interviews in this collection concern topics in electrical history, such as instrumentation, automatic guidance for missiles, the Polaris Program, and nuclear-electric power for submarines. Interviewees include Roy S. Benson (seven interviews including discussions of magnetic exploders, anti-submarine warfare, and submarine tactics), Phillip A. Beshany (the transition from diesel to nuclear power in submarines), two interviews with Arleigh A. Burke (on the Polaris Program and the DEW Line early warning system), John B. Colwell (the Polaris Missile), Slade Cutter (Commander of Submarine Division 32 during the early 1950s), Charles K. Duncan (the Navy's nuclear program), Jack Dunlap (the Polaris program), Daniel V. Gallery (guided missiles), Thomas S. Gates, Jr. (the Polaris Program), Edwin B. Hooper (the Atomic Energy Commission), Andrew M. Jackson (the Grumman F6F Hellcat , the USS Timbalier), Rita Lenihan (a lighting engineer), Waldo K. Lyon (the Navy's Radio and Sound Laboratory, sonar), Kleber S. Masterson (the Polaris Missile), Gerald E. Miller (computers at the Bureau of Naval Personnel during the mid-1950s), Henry L. Miller (antisubmarine hunter-killer task groups), Charles S. Minter, Jr. (antisubmarine warfare), Thomas H. Moorer (Chief of Naval Operations in 1967), Thomas Morton (Commander of the Naval Weapons Laboratory at Dahlgren, Virginia from 1960 to 1961), Raymond E. Peet (nuclear power), Gordon Pehrson (the Polaris Project), William F. Raborn, Jr. (the Polaris Missile), Eli T. Reich (the Tartar, Terrier, and Talos missile systems), Frances L. Rich (V-mail, the Navy's communications department and WAVES), Horacio Rivero, Jr. (an electrical engineer), Edward A. Ruckner (radar in World War II), Carleton Shugg (the Polaris Program), William R. Smedberg, III (the introduction of computers to the order-writing process at the Bureau of Naval Personnel), Henri Smith-Hutton (intelligence), Bernard Strean (operation Sea Orbit), John S. Thach (anti-submarine warfare), Clement Watson (who promoted the Polaris Project to Congress), Robert H. Wertheim (communications officer), Frederick Withington (the Atomic Energy Commission), Joseph M. Worthington (radar in cruiser gunfire control).

Repositories by State

Note: Archives/Special Collections holds historical records of the University of Illinois at Springfield and Sangamon State University (1969-1995) as well as regional history records and manuscripts.