Milestones:First Wireless Radio Broadcast by Reginald A. Fessenden, 1906
On 24 December 1906, the first radio broadcast for entertainment and music was transmitted from Brant Rock, Massachusetts to the general public. This pioneering broadcast was achieved after years of development work by
Reginald Aubrey Fessenden (1866-1932) who built a complete system of wireless transmission and reception using amplitude modulation (AM) of continuous electromagnetic waves. This technology was a revolutionary
departure from transmission of dots and dashes widespread at the time.
January 1906: Rotary-spark transmitter and first two-way transatlantic transmission.
Using his rotary-spark transmitters, Fessenden made the first successful two-way transatlantic transmission, exchanging Morse code messages between the station at Brant Rock and an identical one built at Machrihanish in Scotland. (Note that Marconi had only achieved one-way transmissions at this time.) However, the transmitters could not bridge this distance during daylight hours or in the summer, so work was suspended until later in the year. Unfortunately, the Machrihanish radio tower collapsed, abruptly ending the transatlantic work.
December 21, 1906: Alternator-transmitter used for wireless telephony.
Fessenden gives a major demonstration of his new high frequency alternator-transmitter at Brant Rock, showing its utility for point-to-point wireless telephony, by interconnecting his stations (at Plymouth and Brant Rock) to the Bell telephone network. Prominent experts, Elihu Thompson and Greenleaf Pickard, together with others, witnessed the event. Refer to an article entitled “Experiments and Results in Wireless Telephony” published in The American Telephone Journal. On January 26, 1907. See URL Experiments and Results in
1906: Three days before Christmas Eve (Helen Fessenden’s book, p. 153)
Reginald Fessenden plans to give two radio broadcasts, on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Station staff notifies the ships of the US Navy and of the United Fruit Company to listen. These ships had previously been fitted with radio receivers.
December 24, 1906: Alternator-transmitter and the first radio broadcast.
Landmark broadcast of transmission of ordinary speech and music from Brant Rock to ships sailing along the Atlantic coast. A repeat broadcast performance was given on New Years Eve. Reception is confirmed by the listeners.
The historical site is located at Blackman’s Point, Brant Rock, in the County of Plymouth Massachusetts. Blackman’s Point is a few miles from the center of Marshfield. The Town of Marshfield is approximately 30 miles south-east of Boston. The remaining concrete foundation built to support Fessenden’s wireless tower, is in a trailer park owned by the Blackman family.
References Provided with the Nomination
1. John S. Belrose, “Reginald Aubrey Fessenden and the Birth of Wireless Telephony”, IEEE Antenna’s and Propagation Magazine Vol .44, No. 2, April 2002.
2. James E. Brittain, “ Scanning the Past: Reginald A. Fessenden and the Origins of Radio”, Proceeding of the IEEE, Vol. 84, No. 12, December 1996, pp. 1852-3.
3. Reginald A. Fessenden, “Recent Progress in Wireless Telephony”, Scientific American, January 19, 1907.
4. Mark Schmidt, “Radio’s First Voice”, The Marshfield Reporter, June 16, 2006.
5. “Wireless Station at Brant Rock has been in touch with Egypt”, Boston Globe, June 26, 1910.
6. S.M. Kintner, “Pittsburgh’s Contribution to Radio”, Proceeding of the Institute of Radio Engineers, Vol. 20, No. 12, December 1932.
7. US Patent 706,737, Wireless Telegraphy. August 12, 1902.
8. US Patent 706 747, Apparatus for Signaling by Electromagnetic Waves. August 12, 1902.
9. “Fessenden Wireless ‘Phone”, New York Times, 23 December 1909.
10. S.M. Kintner, “Wireless Telephony”, New York Times, May 21, 1914.
11. L.A. Geddes, “Remembering Fessenden”, IEEE Spectrum June 1992, p.6.
12. John S. Belrose, “ More on Fessenden”, IEEE Spectrum August 1992, pp.11, 70.
13. Helen Fessenden, Fessenden: Builder of Tomorrows, 1940. Selected pages available upon request.