WSUI History Vignettes
In the September 26th, 1913 issue of The Daily Iowan
, plans are laid out for installation of a new transmitter at the State University of Iowa. "The electrical engineering department of the university is shortly to install a complete wireless set, costing in the neighborhood of $500 — It will be one of the largest in the state, possibly the largest in the state. It will be able to communicate with the Rock Island arsenal station over the Mississippi river, and there are a number of private stations in the state with which it can talk. The Ames set will be able to receive the signals from Iowa, the same as most low powered station[s] can, but its transmitting apparatus is small and unable to send messages this far."
The 1916 issue of The Transit
, the technical journal of the University of Iowa College of Engineering, reveals that by 1916 a rather conspicuous aerial stretched from the "Hall of Physics" to the Old Capitol dome for the use of the SUI wireless station, 9YA. The transmitter was a 2 kilowatt Clapp-Eastham (spark) device operating at 400 kHz, and the receiver utilized an Audion vacuum tube similar to the one invented by Lee De Forest in 1906.
"News of the University of Iowa is now [in October, 1916] sent out regularly by wireless from the station operated by the department of electrical engineering. Students in journalism furnish the news and students in engineering send it on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. ... On Wednesday brief bulletins giving important news of general affairs at the University are sent, while on Saturday the results of football games and other athletic events are 'wirelessed.' " — The State University of Iowa News Letter, Vol.2 No.2, October 4, 1916
Special Collections University Archives, Records of University Relations ( RG-23-05-02 )—The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa
In November, 1916, The State University of Iowa announced in a press release
that, "Now man may go to school by setting up a wireless outfit, learning code, and listening at the stated times. There is no tuition, no registration, laboratory, gymnasium, or graduation fee ... Hereafter on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:15 the University radio station will send lessons of about 300 words each designed to give amateurs a practical and technical course in wireless telegraphy."
"Wireless messages from the University's wireless station to the station at Ames, giving a play by play story of today's game [on Saturday, November 22nd, 1919] will be a novel feature of the year's Homecoming. Kenneth Lambert, of the engineering school, will handle the key in the basement of the physics building, where he will receive the play by play story from the field by telephone. Carl Menzer also of the college of engineering will assist Lambert in the unique stunt."
The Daily Iowan, Volume XIX · New Series IV, Number 41, 11/22/1919, page 1
"Our first broadcast transmitter incorporated two experimental vacuum tubes sent to me by a friend and Iowa graduate who is employed by a large electrical firm which was then just starting experimental work with vacuum tubes. They required 500 volts direct current which, in those days, was hard to come by. We drove four direct current motors as generators. With all the attendant difficulties, we did get our 500 volts until the transfer circuits in the Physics Building broke down. ... [T]he microphone after 5 minutes' use used to become too hot to touch so we switched to a second microphone to allow the first to cool off. The quality must have been terrible but those who listened with earphones and cat-whisker detectors thought it was excellent." — Carl Menzer, "Fifty Years of Broadcasting"—The Transit, vol. LXXIII No. 2, November, 1968, p. 21
"In 1921 [Carl Menzer] was asked to become director of the station, a position he holds to this day [as of April, 1951] — In 1921 he was the entire staff of the station. He operated the transmitter, announced the programs, answered the mail, and laid lines for remote broadcasts. As only one example of his many duties, prior to football broadcasts Menzer would have to trace the broadcast lines to the stadium because students were in the habit of removing sections of the line for fishing line. And at this early date the broadcast schedule was interrupted before and after each football game while Menzer made his way between the studio and the field." — Richard C. Setterberg, "Educational Stations of the Nation—WSUI - KSUI", The Journal of the AER, Volume X No. 7, April, 1951, p. 78
When it came time for the State University of Iowa's Diamond Jubilee to be celebrated on February 25th of 1922, the university radio station was prepared to broadcast the proceedings and speeches for those who could not attend. The March, 1922 Iowa Alumnus
tells of an alumnus and owner of an Iowa City Buick garage who, with a friend, devised what must been one of the first car radios, and listened to broadcast while driving. Other reports of hearing the broadcast came in from as far away as Wisconsin. — View Iowa Alumnus March, 1922 story ...
"[T]he experimental work [1919 through 1921] came to the attention of President Walter A. Jessup, Dean William G. Raymond, and Professor A. H. Ford. These educators realized that although crude in delivery, the programs were popular and demonstrated feasibility of advanced work in the field. Accordingly a broadcast license was applied for and granted June 26, 1922. The call letters WHAA were received and the station was authorized to operate on a frequency of 834 kc with a power of 1000 watts ... reduced to 200 watts [in November]. In September the equipment was completed and a series of experimental transmissions were conducted ... October 17, 1922, the first official broadcasting station at Iowa was dedicated, and a talk by President Jessup and Dean Raymond commemorated the occasion. More than 75 letters were received in response to the transmission. It was a gala occasion." — Sylvanus "John" Ebert, "Radio History at Iowa"—The Transit, vol. XLII No. 5, February, 1938, p. 3