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To add a new posting, send an email to me at with a comment, question, story, photo, observation, etc. It will be posted below, shortly after the email is received. To comment on an existing posting, click on the "comments" command below the posting and type your comment. Your comment will show up immediately.   Pete Stemmer

Friday, January 30, 2009

Tuckerton Wireless Comments - Bob Mathis

I got the following comments from Bob Mathis regarding our January 25th Tuckerton Wireless Blog entry a few days ago and some photos that I had loaned to Bob. His comments are worth reading as they're thoughtful, answer some questions, and raise other questions. He also provides some web links for those who would like to delve into the Tuckerton Wireless subject in more depth.

I have looking over the pictures from the Tuckerton Wireless you gave me.  It's very confusing so I went out on the internet and did some research.  The reason the pictures are confusing is that they are from various times without dates, and as I found out the wireless station went through numerous modernizations and changes.  Apparently, they kept all of them, and the pictures show them in various states of disrepair and cannibalization. (not all parts all there in some cases) 
The reason the 850' tower was insulated, is that it was part of the original antenna.  Which consisted of the main tower and nine or ten smaller 300 ft towers at about a distance of 1500 to 2000 feet from the main tower.  An umbrella of wire overhead, and a buried system of wire underneath the antenna.  Today it would be called a top loaded vertical with a counterpoise, I guess.  There were also, probably at each of the 300 ft towers, a huge tuning coil.  The original RF generator was a Goldschmidt Alternator, installed by the Germans.
When the Navy took over the station in 1917, they had trouble getting the Goldschmidt Alternator to work properly.  (according to the literature it was very difficult to tune and keep that way)  Some of the coils burned up and they held a court of inquiry to see anybody was responsible.  the conclusion was - no one was at fault.  (they probably suspected sabotage)   They replaced it with an Alexanderson alternator.  From the pictures, it looks like they eventually had more than one and different versions.  Another system installed, and maybe several different ones, was a Poulsen Arc transmitter.  This gave much more power output and higher frequencies.  Note:  The Poulsen Arc system required a huge powerful magnet.  I didn't see one in the pictures.  According to one of the references, some of these magnets ended up in the construction of cyclotrons when scientists started looking for atomic particles.  Maybe they went to Princeton ?  The next systems to be installed were probably several vacuum tube systems.   
All in all over the years, the RF generation systems and antenna systems under went  many changes and additions.  Makes it difficult to sort out what is part of what.
Tuckerton was a sister station to one built at Sayville on Long Island.  They worked together as a pair.  One would receive and the other transmit.  This is when the Germans first ran them.  Later when the Navy took them over, Tuckerton, Sayville, Belmar, New Brunswick and Chatham, Mass. were all tied together by land lines to each other and to Washington D.C.
When we declared war with Germany in 1917 it was taken over by the U.S. Military and the German operators were promptly arrested by the and sent to a prisoner of war camp in Virginia.  (Can you say, "GITMO")  :)
Following are some interesting references.  Some are a little technical.  Maybe it will give someone a place to start if they want to really dig into it.

Bob is correct when he says that the Tuckerton Wireless photos can be confusing, as they are not in a chronological order. Placing them in chronological order would be a worthwhile project. Anyone wishing to help out in such an endeavor is encouraged to email the Blog or stop by the Tuckerton Historical Society on a Wednesday. A helping hand or hands are definitely needed and would be appreciated. A knowledge of radio technology would be particularly helpful.

Here are a few more samples of photos in the Tuckerton Historical Societies Wireless collection.

I'm glad that's not me taking this photo. I get vertigo just looking at the photo. (Photo courtesy of Tuckerton Historical Society.)

Some of the equipment inside the Transmission Building. Probably from the RCA era. (Photo courtesy of Tuckerton Historical Society.)

Horse pulling concrete along a railway, in 1912, during the construction of the tower support blocks. It was quite an engineering feat. (Photo courtesy of Tuckerton Historical Society.)

A series of small towers can be seen surrounding the main central tower. (Photo courtesy of Tuckerton Historical Society.)

Additional Tuckerton Wireless photos may be seen at the  following web site . . .

Better yet, stop by the Tuckerton Historical Society some Wednesday from 10 AM to 4 PM and browse through the photo collection in person. Nothing beats a hands on experience.

Pete S


  1. Pete,

    Comments by Bob Mathis posted on your blog date back 5 years, but I just ran across this site today, 7/28/15.

    100 years ago this year my grandfather, Gerald J.C. Eshleman graduated from Penn State in 1915 with a BSEE degree specializing in radio technology and was hired by General Electric and worked at their plant in Schenectady. He was a radio bug even then, as his yearbook bio mentions it. During the same pre-WW1 period he had joined the NY National Guard in Schenectady, so when we entered WW1 his unit was sent to fight in France where he earned a Purple Heart during one of the final battles of that war. Afterward he returned to civilian life and his old job at GE in 1919 and was selected to be one of the charter employees of RCA in 1920. First he was sent to work at the New Brunswick wireless station, then appointed as head honcho at Tuckerton wireless, where except for a temporary assignment to station at Kahuku on Oahu, Hawaii (when Hawaii was still a territory), he remained in charge of the station until it was shut down in 1949. I wish I could help with photos of the station, but the only photos I have pertaining to that period are family photos of grandfather with his children, that being my late father Edwin and his three sisters, but none of him at the station.

    Any info or pictures showing Gerald Eshleman at the station would appreciated, as I'd also be glad to share ones I have of him.

    Also, my Aunt Ann, granddad's youngest daughter was married to Nelson Mathis of Tuckerton until he passed away in 1965 of complications from war wounds sustained in WW2. I wonder if Bob Mathis was any relation to Nelson?

    I was recently vacationing back East and visited the Tuckerton Seaport museum, but did not get time to go over to Mystic Islands and see the remains of the Tuckerton station.

    I'm not much into radio technology, and the only thing I use is an ordinary marine VHF on my boat.

    I'm back at my home in Peoria, Arizona now.


    Steve Eshleman