Updated 3-24-2008

April 2008 Column



The Gernsback Story by Ed Raser W2ZI (SK)

The world lost one of it’s greats on September 19, 1967 when Hugo Gernsback died at the Roosevelt Hospital in New York City at the age of 83. It was a shock to most of us, but I had been corresponding with him for some years and his last letter indicated he was not well. I hardly expected to hear from him again.

I first met Mr. Gernsback when he came to Trenton, New Jersey, on the evening of April 25, 1953 at our original Old Timers Nite Round-Up and Banquet then being held at the Stacy-Trent Hotel. It was on that night he was our most honored guest and gave a most interesting talk to the several hundred present on his early wireless career with quite a humorous touch. This delighted the old timer’s in particular who well remembered him, and he was given a standing ovation when he finished. As he seldom appeared in public I recall how any times I had invited him as our guest. After some 5-years he finally accepted the invitation which was quite an achievement for me, being the founder and General Chairman of this affair for some 18 years.

It is hard to write about a man so versatile. His fabulous career began at the age of 6 in Luxembourg. In 1903, then age 20 he came to New York City and a year later established his now famous Electro Importing Company, the first wireless mail order house in the country. In 1906 he marketed the world’s first home wireless apparatus that really worked, which he sold for the unheard of price of $10.00, a complete transmitting/receiving station, then known as the “Telimco” wireless set. This original piece of Amateur Wireless gear now resides in the Henry Ford Science Museum at Dearborn, Michigan.

     He was the “First Champion of the Radio Amateur,” before Hiram Percy Maxim. He founded the “Wireless Association of America” in 1909; the first national amateur wireless organization which claimed some 22,000 members. It was through his efforts that the radio amateur received fair consideration in the Radio Law of 1912, as he had fought single-handed other bills which were inimical to their interests.

For more on Gernsback

Hugo Gernsback: A Man Well Ahead of His Time, edited by Larry Steckler, the retired Editor of Popular Electronics magazine and other Gernsback Publications, has compiled almost 700 pages on Mr. Gernsback. It is reasonably priced and available from Amazon.com


Look inside this book before ordering it.

Mr. Hugo Gernsback (right) presenting his first "Telimco" wireless set, a complete transmitter/receiver marketed in 1906, to Mr. Donald A. Shelley, Executive Director of the Henry Ford Science Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.


John Dilks, K2TQN    125 Warf Road, Egg Harbor Township, NJ 08234-8501   e-mail: K2TQN@arrl.net