Articles from the USA

The following article appeared in the NEW YORK TIMES on Wednesday October 4 1899. It is interesting to think that a Qualtrough was involved in the assessment of early transmissions of messages while here we are in 2001 involved in using the high-tech version of this early communication process to transmit messages round the globe to bring the QUALTROUGH family back together.

The introduction is taken from the History of Communications-Electronics in the United States Navy, Captain Linwood S. Howeth, USN (Retired), 1963, pages 25-36:


Following Marconi's successful radio reporting of the Kingstown Regatta, off Dublin, Ireland, in 1898, James Gordon Bennett invited him to report the 1899 America Cup Race, between the Shamrock and the Columbia, for the New York Herald. The invitation was accepted

Following Marconi's arrival in New York on 21 September, arrangements were made with him for a group of naval officers to witness the operation of his equipment during the conduct of the races. The Navy Department designated a group of observers, sometimes known as the Marconi Board, which consisted of Lt. Comdrs. J. T. Newton and E. F. Qualtrough, and Lts. John B. Blish and G. W. Denfeld, USN. All four were electrical experts and were well qualified to pass judgment. In order that each officer could thoroughly investigate the operation of the system, the instructions required them to exchange posts and each to submit his own observations on the nature and operation of the Marconi equipment.

On 7 October, Qualtrough went to sea on the Grand Duchesse and witnessed the working of the equipment.

The races were successfully reported. Almost as much publicity was given Marconi and the reporting media as was given the winner. The potentialities of this new mode of communication for maritime purposes was well impressed upon the American public. Scientific interest was heightened which later resulted in increased effort on the part of U.S. scientists and engineers.

The naval observers noted the workings of the equipments, both afloat and ashore, but were limited in their observation by the actions of Marconi and his assistants. Following the first day of the races, Qualtrough exuberantly commented to a Herald reporter:

If we could only have had this last year, what a great thing it would have been. When we landed marines in Guantanamo, the ships were unable to lend assistance, for the reason that the enemy could not be located, and firing at random would have placed our forces in danger. With the aid of the Marconi system, the men ashore would have directed the fire. The English sent a Marconi apparatus ashore with every landing party. In the Philippines, the system would right now be of great service to us.

See at the end of the article for further information on Lieut.Commander Qualtrough.

Lieut.Commander QUALTROUGH

Present At A Test of

The Marconi System

Bulletins of the Race sent from the Scene by Wireless Telegraphy.

During the race yesterday there was an interesting and exhaustive trial of the system of Wireless Telegraphy invented by Signor Marconi. The test was made under the direction of Signor Marconi himself and under the auspices of The New York Herald, which had chartered the steamship PONCE to conduct the experiments. The results of the trials were eminently satisfactory, both to the inventor and to his patron. The Herald, one of the editors of which said last night that the usefulness of Signor Marconi’s device had been fully demonstrated.

The PONCE followed the yachts as closely as possible, and from time to time, bulletins written by The Herald’s reporters were sent by Signor Marconi and his assistant over the apparatus rigged on one of the vessel’s masts. These messages were received at Navesink, whence they were transmitted over the wires of the Postal Telegraph Company to The Herald Office. This "relay" involved an expenditure of time, which the inventor thinks was unnecessary, but with the drawbacks, bulletins were received at The Herald’s office and displayed on the bulletin board within sixty seconds after they were sent.

For instance, the unofficial time at which the COLUMBIA rounded the first turning point was 1:38 and at 1:39 this fact was bulletined in front of The Herald Building.

The Ponce was reported as having transmitted approximately 2,500 words during the first day. These words were only partially "code" and the test was practically that of sending complete words. The messages were sent at a rate of fifteen words a minute.One speed test produced 31 words in 1 minute and 50 seconds, or about 17 words per minute. Qualtrough estimated that the extreme distance at which messages were sent and received was about 17 miles. Another estimate stated 17 miles with a 120-foot antenna and 24 miles with a 150-foot one. During the course of the races it was claimed that 1,200 messages containing an approximate total of 33,000 words were transmitted and received.

In addition to sending bulletins on the progress of the race a number of private messages were sent for persons aboard the ship, and telegrams were received from the Navesink Station advising those aboard of the state of the stock market at 10.30 o’clock. When compared with the figures as given by the tickets they were found to correspond exactly, thus proving the accuracy of the system.

Among those on board the PONCE were Lieut.J.B.Blish, Lieut. Commander QUALTROUGH*, and Lieuts. Denfield and Newton of the Navy, who were enthusiastic over the results of the trial. These officers will have a conference with Signor Marconi today to arrange for a series of tests of the system on behalf of the United States Government. Capt Wildman of the Signal Corps of the Army was also an interested observer of the tests.

*Lieut.Commander Qualtrough was Edward Frank QUALTROUGH who at 18 was a midshipman in the US Navy. Later in his naval career he was a commander of the flagship of the US Navy’s Great White Fleet which sailed the Pacific and elsewhere in the early 19th century. He was born in New York State, possibly Rochester, in 1850. As well as being a naval officer he authored and published THE SAILOR’S HANDY BOOK and YACHTSMAN’S MANUAL. A street in San Diego, California is named for him. He died in 1913.

See Article 16 

© 2021 by Malcolm Qualtrough, Elizabeth Feisst and the late John Karran Qualtrough.
Hosted by Ask Web Design, Isle of Man.