Readers of this column are no doubt aware that some Delaware residents take a keen interest in low-numbered Delaware vehicle tags. A pair of low-digit, Delaware tags sold at auctions this past October; #37 for $282,000 and #426 for $75,000. While Clarence Marshall once owned Delaware Tag 8, the Stanley Model 76 displays Clarence’s Delaware tag 76 making the Stanley unique in Delaware as the only vehicle with its model or series number also used as its registration and license plate number!

In addition to the standard automobile digits-only Delaware tag, there are twenty-three specialty tags issued for use on Delaware registered vehicles. Vanity tags are in addition to a standard motor vehicle registration tag and must be carried in the car while displaying the vanity tag on the rear bumper. The vanity tag or the standard registration tag are the only Delaware tags that may be legally displayed on the front of a vehicle with the provision that the vehicle’s issued vanity tag is displayed at the rear of the vehicle.

Delaware’s population is slightly over 990,000 residents as of October 2021. There are nearly as many Delaware motor vehicle registration tags issued as of October 2021 as there are residents. How many total motor vehicle registration tags have been issued to Delaware residents, businesses, corporations, including the state and county vehicle issued tags?



Vintage Marshall music machines are displayed by the Friends in the Marshall Steam Museum. Those who tour Auburn Heights mansion experience the angelic sounds of the Regina Music Box. If you haven’t heard the Regina, check out this YouTube LINK of the Auburn Heights Regina being played.

The Regina Music Box was developed in Germany in 1889 by Gustave Brachhausen and Paul Riessner of the Symphonion Company. A few years later, in 1892, they relocated their music box business to the United States forming the Regina Music Box Company. Collectors have determined an estimated 100,000 units were shipped between 1894 and 1919. Some units automatically changed discs sequencing through a series of discs automatically.

While the Regina Music Box generates musical tones by plucking the tuned tines of one or two metal combs, an earlier design of music box relied on reed organ technology. These mass-produced units, manufactured by the Autophone Company, became known as ‘corn cob organs’. Where and/or how did the moniker ‘corn cob organ’ come into common parlance?

The Cane plant has been used for thousands of years to fashion reeds to produce a musical tone when a thin sliver of the plant’s stalk is set to vibration. Any material, when formed thin enough and of specific proportions, can be made to create a tone by setting it to vibrating mechanically. The pump organ, also known as a reed organ, is an example of an instrument were a series of brass reeds, each tuned to resonate at a specific pitch, produce music. In the 19th century, millions of reed organs were produced and found use in homes, churches, and other settings where hand-pumped pipe organs were not practical.

In the late 1880s, the Autophone Company in Ithaca, NY developed the ‘Gem Roller Organ”. These inexpensive hand-cranked music boxes were sold through Sears & Roebuck Company’s catalog and various retail outlets. Consisting of twenty, tuned, brass, free-vibrating, reeds (the notes starting with D below middle-C were: D G A B C C# D E F# G G# A B C C# D E F# G A) providing nearly three octaves of tone. The roller organs were tuned to the ‘scientific pitch’ of A=430 (concert pitch or A=440 in common use today wasn’t introduced until the 1920s and became standardized in 1936).

When the unit’s crank is turned, a set of bellows in the base of the unit generates a slight vacuum in an enclosure above the bellows. The reeds, mounted in a wooden block in two rows of ten, make up one side of an enclosure that is maintained at a vacuum from the bellows. When a valve external to the enclosure opens, atmospheric air rushes in the opened valve-hole to a small chamber beneath a reed The air continues past the reed to the enclosure under vacuum. This quick-moving airflow rushes around a narrow slit between the reed and the reed’s holder causing the reed to vibrate at its resonant frequency producing a tone.

Instead of a tin disk similar to what the Regina employs, the Gem Roller Organ relies on a 6-3/8” by 1-3/4” wooden cylinder held by a pair of shafts mounted in a cast frame. The wooden cylinder is encircled with 0.036” diameter pins standing 0.1” off the surface such that the pins push open the valves as the cylinder rotates about its axis to open and close the valves. As the cylinder rotates when the unit is cranked, a cylinder surface revolution of 0.1” opens and closes a valve. Pins sequentially spaced at 0.1” keeps a note playing until the last pin passes the valve playing. As the cylinder rotates it also moves axially requiring the pins be arranged in a spiral rotation about the cylinder’s surface. A song plays for forty seconds requiring three complete revolutions of the wooden cylinder. Click this LINK to hear a restored Gem Roller Organ playing.

The wooden cylinder, or ‘roller’ as the instructions referred to them, and the spiral rows of pins determining which valves should be open and for how long, gives the appearance of a corn cob and hence these music boxes soon were referred to a ‘corn cob organs’. Production in the late 1890s and early 1900s exceeded 10,000 a month with Sears selling them for $3.45 in 1902. Collectors have identified over 1,000 different song cobs available. Cobs sold for $0.18 each through Sears. A patented machine made the cobs in batches of twelve by duplicating a master song cylinder. In 2002 several collectors constructed an automated machine to produce new cobs relying on computer technology and modern mechanical designs.


Currently adorning the Marshall Steam Museum is a collection of vintage pedal cars. From a private collection, they are on loan to the Friends of Auburn Heights while the collection awaits auction in the late fall. While there are no Stanley, White, or Doble steam pedal cars on display, we are wondering if any pedal cars might have been mass produced that were modeled after one of the major steam car manufacturers?

According to multiple sources, the child’s pedal car dates back to the 1890s. As there were both wooden and metal horses mounted on wheels for children to ride in the 1800s, once actual motor carriages began to appear, the evolution of a toy motor carriage propelled by little feet followed suit. The first cars were simply moved by the child’s feet on the ground and bending at the knees to move the toy about. In the 1890s the idea of changing the rear wheel axle shaft to a crankshaft configuration, adding rods with pedals ‘under the hood’ so the toy car might be propelled by the child riding it was a natural evolution. Thus began the pedal car as we know it today.

Pedal cars were available through the Sears, Montgomery Ward, and other catalogs and were shipped as freight to the local railroad station where they might be picked up. This limited pedal car availability to affluent families at the start of the 1900s thus vintage pedal cars are rare and expensive for collectors. In the 1950s, mass production and the ability to ship crates of cars to department stores reduced prices and increased availability making pedal cars very popular. Toledo, Ohio became the ‘Detroit’ of pedal cars with American National Company absorbing several pedal car manufacturers in the 1920s to become the world’s largest children’s vehicle manufacturing company by the 1930s. The company’s ‘Skippy Line’ featured pedal cars patterned after the major car models of the era.

The Great Depression nearly stopped all pedal car production and production did stop during World War II as all non-essential metal use was prohibited. After the war, the ‘drive train’ for some manufacturers changed to a bicycle chain between sprockets making the cars easier to pedal. To attract sales, pedal-vehicles changed to include trucks, locomotives, airplanes, and even boats. The era of the all-metal, rider-pedaled, pedal car ended in the 1970s with Louis Marx & Company’s Big Wheel all-plastic tricycle and its safety features. By the end of the 20th century the classic metal pedal car was replaced by the plastic, electric motor powered, toy car!


To the best of our research, no Stanley, White, or Doble pedal cars were ever commercially mass produced. There are two Stanley pedal cars in existence. Both were one-of-a-kind custom built. Photos of each are shown on this page. If you’re wondering the value of a vintage pedal car it is similar to an actual vintage automobile or even an antique item. Generally, there are five major considerations; age, condition, percent original, demand, and rarity. While most pedal cars trade owners for three- or four-digit figures, a few have commanded a five-digit auction price!


The Hockessin-Yorklyn area is dotted with quite a number of old homes, some possibly having replaced log cabins dating from before the era of William Penn. There are the Dixon homes as documented by Scott Palmer on is Mill Creek Hundred History Blog dating from the late 1700s after they purchased large tracts of land from William Penn. The Horatio Gates Garrett home that Israel Marshall lived in before construction of Auburn Heights is documented by the National Register of Historic Places as “Built in the mid- to late eighteenth century as a one-room-plan, two-story fieldstone dwelling” with the description indicating the home “was substantially enlarged by Horatio Gates Garrett in the first decade of the nineteenth century”. A second Garrett home built in the middle of the 1800s sits across from the former snuff mill site.
These old homes, where they’ve been left largely unaltered, offer unique insights as to how early generations of colonists and later Americans lived. While visiting one of the oldest homes in the Hockessin-Yorklyn area we came across the item pictured below. Many of the area’s oldest homes might have had a dozen or more of these items in use. For reference, forged of wrought iron by a blacksmith, they can vary from two to nearly three inches in overall length with the rod section of the shaft roughly one-quarter inch in diameter. What do you think this item was used for, or where might the item might be found? Hint: This and others like it were found on Auburn Valley State Park property.

For those that read this far, you may be thinking the item is some form of key because of its general shape. That would be a good analysis and, in a way, it does form part of a locking system. Before we reveal the item’s function, we will share that the item was spotted in use at multiple locations within the fieldstone home we visited. Upon seeing it, the item’s functionality became obvious. What was unexpected is that upon seeing the object, it answered a question that we’d had from earlier decades. For those with growing suspense anxiety, the following photograph comes from the farmhouse at Oversee Farm where quite a number of colonial-period window sash pins were in use!

The purpose of a window sash pin was to lock together upper and lower window sashes in their tracks so that either window could not be opened from the outside to gain entry into a residence. A simple rocking motion, clockwise and counter-clockwise, eases the pin into or out of the hole drilled though the inside sash frame and to a depth in the outside sash frame of about three-quarters the thickness of the outside sash frame. These pins were often affixed to the widow with a short leather strap (missing in the Oversee Farm window installations) so they’d not get misplaced when removed.

The first sash windows that slid in tracks came into use in the early 1600s in Europe. These early sash windows slid horizontally instead of vertically as commonly encountered today. It wasn’t until the mid-1600s that vertical sliding window sashes were developed in France. Towards the mid-1700s locking hardware similar to what we still use today, made of cast iron or brass, were devised that relied on levers and rotating components for locking window sashes together to prevent entry. Hand forged, wrought-iron pins made for a simple, inexpensive sash lock in the colonial times of William Penn when metals such as copper and tin were in limited supply.

The window sashes in the oldest sections of the Oversee Farm farmhouse are drilled for sash pins and those pins are still in use for a number of the windows. While County deed records note the property changed owners in 1820, the farmhouse and barn could date to the late 1700s. The wooden peg construction of the roof beams of the house and barn, coupled with window, floor, and fireplace molding details, and the finding of the sash pins, make us wonder if the Oversee farmhouse and barn weren’t built about the same time as the Garrett house on Benge Road which has been dated to the mid-1700s. Additionally the fieldstone barn displays marriage markings nearly identical to those documented in the Phillips Barn (constructed 1760s) off Old Wilmington Road as dated by the Historic American Buildings Survey.

Perhaps as part of the State’s future plans for Oversee Farm, historical research by professionals can trace back previous owners and identify construction techniques used in the farmhouse and barn to better define the earliest history of the structures on the property. The fact that the property includes a Spring & Root Cellar with what is believed to be a summer kitchen and a separate stable and carriage house, suggests wealthy owners of the property originally.

We mentioned earlier that seeing the sash lock pin in place suddenly answered a question from decades ago. In Scott’s history blog an article discusses the history of the Ward-Dudkewitz home once located in Milltown (intersection of Limestone, Milltown, and McKennan’s Church Roads). That home dated from the early 1700s and was where Washington held a meeting of his officers according to legend. The home and surrounding farmland served as my grandparent’s home where my mother grew up starting at age 13 after they moved from Richardson Park There were holes in the window sashes of that home but evidently no pins so the hole’s use remained elusive to a young teenager Upon seeing the Oversee Farm farmhouse sash pin photos, my mother realized 83 years later, what those holes were for in the window sashes of her parent’s home!


By the start of the 1890s a number of inventors were seeking to replace the horse and wagon with what at the time was termed a “motor carriage”. The power of liquid water, long used to turn waterwheels for powering mills, when heated to its gaseous state where it’s power could be increased more than one hundred-fold, was harnessed in the 18th century with the steam engine. By the late 19th century, the steam engine’s well understood technology was a natural choice to serve as a mobile power source for motor carriage propulsion. Unfortunately steam engines and their associated boiler were massively heavy and not easily utilized for mobile power applications as evidenced by the steam traction engines in use at the time.

The properties of electricity and magnetism were beginning to become well understood in the middle of the 19th century. Masses of moving electrons had been harnessed to generate power within the electric motor and when electron movement was restricted in a controlled manner with a thread of vulcanized and carbonized cotton, the kerosene lamp was replaced by the incandescent lamp.

Roughly in parallel with understanding electricity and magnetism, the steam engine had been mechanically modified with a different valve arrangement and the addition of an electrically generated spark to create power from a combustible liquid fuel that could be vaporized. These hit-and-miss internal combustion engines became popular in the late 19th century replacing waterwheels and steam engines as power sources as these internal combustion engines harnessed the power of a liquid fuel directly without conversion to steam or relying on gravity.

With continued improvement of steam engines and the development of electric motors and internal combustion engines, the replacement of a horse team moving a vehicle became an interesting problem to solve. Applying a more economical and powerful mechanical power source to a moving wagon might lead to the retirement of horses as power sources. While Nicolas Joseph Cugnot built a prototype steam powered vehicle in 1769, it was not a vehicle for practical use. Oliver Evans of Newport, DE developed the high-pressure steam engine and used it to power an amphibious vehicle in Philadelphia by 1805 demonstrating a more useful harnessing of steam power.

Both Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz, working independently in the early 1880s, applied internal combustion engine designs to wagons and are credited as inventing what we term the automobile. As both the hit-and-miss internal combustion engine and the steam engine and boiler came with severe weight penalties in their application, ‘accumulators’ (what batteries were initially called) and electric motors were lighter weight power sources becoming the most practical and logical solution to power a vehicle.

The first electric cars were publicly demonstrated in the early 1880s in Paris, France. William Morrison of Des Moines, IA demonstrated a six-passenger electrically propelled wagon in 1891. In 1895 Andrew L. Riker’s Riker Motor Vehicle Company of Elizabeth NJ introduced the first electric powered tricycles in the U.S. At the very beginning of the 20th century, in 1901, Ferdinand Porsche combined the idea of an internal combustion hit-and-miss engine with batteries, and electric motors powering each of the vehicle’s wheels, to invent the first hybrid powered car.

The electric car reigned as the #1 technology choice for the first decade of the 1900s. The first car rental businesses in the U.S. were electric car rentals where drivers could rent an electric car for a few hours, by the week or month, or by the mile driven. Taxi services in cities such as Boston, New York, Trenton Philadelphia, and Washington DC operated fleets of vehicles within city limits where company depots could swap out a tray of discharged lead-acid batteries; replacing them with a freshly charged tray in a few minutes. Charging stations were abundant at hotels, and other locations around a large city. Maps, similar to the 1923 Edison Electric map pictured, indicated locations for public charging station locations and were prominently available.

In the U.S. in 1900 there were 4,192 vehicles registered. Steam powered Locomobiles accounted for a majority of the 1,681 steam vehicles registered. In second place were mostly Columbia electric vehicles with 1,575 registered according to the U.S. Census. There were 936 internal-combustion engine powered vehicles, mostly Wintons, registered. While the registration of steam vehicles would maintain steam power as the top automotive technology in use, by 1903 fleets of electric vehicles were being sold to taxi companies and Stanley designed steam cars (Locomobile, Mobile, & Stanley) no longer boasted being the top selling vehicle design. Both increasing electric vehicle registrations, and a few years later, increasing Ford internal combustion engine vehicle registrations, slowly chipped away at steam’s supremacy as the premier automotive power source.

By 1912 the U.S. had the most electric cars in operation of any country with 33,842 registered across the country. In that same year steam vehicles accounted for 40% (13,535) of the registered vehicles in the U.S. Electric vehicles were the second most popular technology with 38% (12,860) of registered U.S. automobiles electric motor propelled. The remaining 22% (7,447) were internal combustion engine powered and fueled with either gasoline or kerosene. With the start of World War I, the internal combustion engine established itself as the preferred automotive power technology. By 1935 both steam and electric vehicles were relegated to storage as a former novelty forms of transportation or had long since been scrapped.

These turn-of-the-century vehicles often had colloquial names. Stanley steamers were often called “Flying Teapots” due to their steam vapor trails and speed. Vehicles powered by a hit-and-miss or internal combustion engine were often called “2-bangers”, “3-bangers”, or equivalent number of ‘bangers’ depending on the number of cylinders the engine possessed. What was the colloquial name for an early electrically propelled carriage?


The commutating of carbon brushes against copper armature bars within a DC motor gave the devices, and hence the vehicle, an idiosyncratic combination of humming and whining sounds that was unique to hear as the vehicle passed by. Electric cars flying past pedestrians on city streets were soon referred to as “Hummingbirds” due to the quiet hummingbird-like sound they produced.

With the advent of brushless polyphase alternating-current electric motor technologies used in today’s hybrid and electric cars, most electric vehicles manufactured before 2019 are absolutely quiet; even quieter than the world speed recording holding flying teapot! This resulted in people stepping in front of moving hybrid and electric cars at intersections and in parking lots because they literally didn’t perceive the vehicle moving towards them. As electric vehicles became more prominent in the 21st century pedestrians stuck by a vehicle accident rates increased dramatically.

In 2010 Congress passed a law requiring the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to define sounds to be emitted by a vehicle anytime it was in motion. People heard an internal combustion powered vehicles and knew they were running and might move at any time. A similar auditory signal would be required of electric vehicles. In 2016 the Obama Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation finalized “Quiet Car” rules requiring all new electric or hybrid cars to emit distinctive sound(s) whenever the vehicle was moving at speeds less than 18.6 miles per hour. This year, 2021, all manufactured cars sold in the U.S. are required to emit cautionary sound(s) when moving slowly, forward or in reverse.

While no automobile manufacturer has chosen to replicate the early 20th century DC motor hummingbird sound, the Quiet Car Rules do allow manufacturers freedom to tailor the sound or sounds they wish to use. The following link provides examples of the various sounds some current manufacturers have chosen.





Throughout much of the 18th and 19th centuries, approximately 375 acres of rich New Castle County farmland, enclosed by Ashland-Clinton, Center Mill, Snuff Mill, and Creek roads, was owned by generations of Chandler, Green, Kane, Sharpless, and Springer families, among others. As these families divided their farms into smaller parcels for descendants and others wishing to settle in the area, at least two dozen smaller parcels had been created by the early 20th century. In 1927 Urey W. Conway began purchasing various land parcels. By 1939 Conway had purchased 14 adjoining properties totaling approximately 175-acres. Four additional parcels were added over the years, bringing Conway’s total ownership to more than 200 acres.

Conway passed away on July 1, 1951. His will decreed the collection of contiguous Yorklyn properties go to his cousin, Adele Conway Mills of Tulsa, Oklahoma, with the former Wilmington Trust Company serving as executor. Eleanor Annette Marshall (1924-1999) was well acquainted with Urey’s property as it was located on the opposite bank of the Red Clay Creek that served as a border for J. Warren Marshall’s Woodcrest property, her father’s home where she grew up. Preferring the name Bonnie, Marshall bought the 206.48-acre property at auction for $80,000 on May 29, 1952, with financial assistance from her mother, Bertha T. Lamborn Marshall. Bonnie’s intent was to see the untouched stretches of forest, freshwater marshes, open fields, and scenic views of Red Clay Creek preserved for future generations’ enjoyment. Bonnie moved into the former Greene family stone farmhouse that Conway occupied. Bonnie named the property Oversee Farm, pictured below in 1937.

On April 18, 1953, Bonnie sold to developer John Alexander 56.67 acres where the land was flat to lightly rolling along either side of a tributary of the Red Clay Creek. The conditions of sale specified in the deed permitted Alexander to construct up to 10 private dwellings with free-standing garages and storage buildings on subdivision lots of 2.5 acres or more. On December 16, 1953, Konstanty Olewnik, an adjoining property owner to Bonnie, purchased 0.522 acres to “square off” his property. Bonnie lived at Oversee from 1952 until shortly after her marriage.

Bonnie met Benjamin Joseph Reynolds (1927 – 1976), a West Grove, PA, native, whom she married on January 2, 1960. Having moved from Oversee Farm to the Reynolds family farm in New Garden Township after their marriage, Bonnie leased her Oversee farmhouse to various tenants. The Reynolds family occasionally harvested Oversee’s meadows of lush grasses for feeding their dairy livestock during the winter. In addition to operating the Reynolds family’s Green Valley Dairy Farm, Ben, a republican, was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1964 and served until 1972. Bonnie’s father, J. Warren Marshall, was involved in Delaware politics and served as Chairman of the Republican State Committee alongside being President of National Fiber & Insulation and National Vulcanized Fiber Company.

In 1966 Reynolds began developing two large tracts of land west of the Delaware-Pennsylvania state line, one owned by Andrew McIntire and an adjoining parcel owned by John and Isaac Jackson. Broad Run Creek and its valley stretched across the properties. The rich in Kaolin and limestone deposits found in the valley during the later 1800s had been mined out by the early 1900s, leaving open pits and tailing hills strewn about. Reynolds thought it an ideal place to build a self-contained private resort community of more than 480 acres.

What is the present-day name of the community that Reynolds initially named “Shangri-La”? For extra credit, what was the name of the lake Reynolds constructed on the property?


After purchase of the former property, Reynolds set to work laying out his community. Broad Run Creek’s valley made an ideal formation for creating a lake. By forming a lake, Reynolds could eliminate the many open mining pits to either side of the creek. Reynolds created an earthen dam from tailings material across Broad Run valley between 1969-’70. He named the new lake that took several years to form Shangri-La Reservoir, today known as Somerset Lake. Reynolds’ self-contained community included cottages, recreation facilities, and shops. Unfortunately, Reynolds died in 1976 and with construction plans incomplete, and the 28-acre manmade lake nearly full, the project ground to a halt. Photos of the area in 1961, in 1968 with Shangri-La Reservoir under construction, and today as Somerset Lake in 1992 and 2020 are below.

Ten years after Ben’s passing, Bonnie sold 350 acres of the Shangri-La property surrounding what was then called Shangri-La Reservoir to Ernest DiSabatino & Sons (now EDiS Company) and Bellevue Holding Company (now Bellevue Companies) for the development of 477 homes. Additional property (~130 acres) was sold to St. Anthony’s Church in Wilmington for development of a summer retreat. From 1987 to 1994, Broad Run Valley was transformed at cost of $115 million into today’s Somerset Lake community of housing developments, with the St. Anthony’s parcel purchased by New Garden Township in 2018 to developed into a public park complex.

Bonnie was a birthright Quaker and maintained a dedication to Quakerism having served on numerous Quaker organizations and committees throughout her life. She received diplomas from Oberlin College, University of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Reynolds dedicated her life to social service work, world peace, and environmental preservation and protection. Her love of travel included her first cruise at age 13 and climbing the Himalayas at age 73, while her love of photography won her awards in various national and international competitions. She cultivated gardens at Green Valley and Oversee farms and was active in numerous non-profit organizations.

Upon Eleanor’s death in 1999, Oversee Farm was held by Wilmington Trust Company while the former banking institution settled the Marshall-Reynolds Trust. Today the Marshall-Reynolds Foundation gifts millions of dollars annually, supporting local environmental and preservation efforts. To settle Eleanor’s estate, the 121.8 acre Oversee Farm was gifted to the Nature Conservancy on December 1, 2003. Subsequently on December 1, 2006, the land was transferred to the State of Delaware, Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC) and added to the administration of Auburn Heights Preserve, now Auburn Valley State Park.

Oversee Farm is approximately 74% forested and 20% grass pasture land. The hilly forested property rises from the creek’s elevation of 155-feet above sea level to a pair of flat-topped hills near Snuff Mill Road, peaking 210-feet higher than the creek. Underground springs feed a 1-3/4-acre pond shaped similar to reading glasses. The Oversee Pond is part of a Red Clay Creek tributary and includes several small waterfalls. An 1800s stone bank barn and matching stone farm house remain on the property. Delaware State Parks maintains the property and has routed a 1.2-mile, figure eight, paved trail, named Oversee Farm Trail, through the lush piedmont meadows and wooded areas. As funds allow, State Parks envisions Oversee Farm Trail connected to Yorklyn Bridge Trail by additional trails and an iron truss bridge spanning the Red Clay Creek1 and Creek Roads (Rt. 82).


On May 20, Behind the Steam will examine the pair of Kellogg Switchboard & Supply Company wooden box wall telephones that were once in the Marshall Brothers Mill office (now the State Parks office) and Auburn Heights mansion. Both telephones were found to be functional, and as part of museum renovations, wiring and space was designated for their installation and use. Subsequently, both telephones were restored and now are functional in the museum (but ONLY between EACH OTHER since they won’t work on today’s modern digital telephone systems). A museum visitor can experience the poor sound volume and quality of an early telephone call, unlike today’s modern devices with reliability and quality similar to having a person thousands of miles away sound as if they were right next to you.

The first telephone exchange for the Hockessin area was established December 30, 1899, by the Delaware & Atlantic Telegraph & Telephone Company. Located in Dr. Ball’s Drug Store, the switchboard initially served six subscribers when made operational. Within a couple months the switchboard served a dozen Hockessin area subscribers, including the Marshall family and Marshall Brothers Company.

Quarterly payments, starting in April 1900, made by Marshall Brothers Company to Delaware & Atlantic Telegraph & Telephone Company vary each quarter as posted to the general ledger. This is no doubt the result of toll calls being made. While the Marshalls had a private line between the mansion and mill office, a call to “central” in Hockessin allowed the family to communicate with any other subscribers connected to the Hockessin switchboard. When Israel needed to call one of the vulcanized fibre companies in Wilmington, it required making a toll call.

Any call from Hockessin to Wilmington or Newark, Delaware, or to Kaolin or Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, would have been a toll call during the first years of 1900. There was a device used by telephone operators to document the duration of the long-distance call that determined the cost of that call. What was the device called, and how did it function? Hint: the device was originally designed and patented for use in billiards halls!


For the earliest long-distance phone calls, an operator would simply look at a clock hanging above the operator’s station and note the time on a toll-call card along with an identification for the person placing the long-distance call. When the call was over, parties were to “ring off” with the operator to let the operator know the call was over. The operator then noted the end time on the toll-call card and handed to the supervising operator for calculation of the time spent on the call and logging against the customer’s account for the current billing period. This process suffered from math errors in time calculation, rate calculations, and even logging a long-distance call against a different account than it should have been. If the callers forgot to ring off with the operator at the end of their long-distance call, time accrued until the operator checked the line to find no one talking and would then log out the call.

Henry Abbott was a watch-smith in New York City. Abbott realized that “elapsed time” had value and that many businesses bought and sold “elapsed time” as a commodity. Abbott had nearly three dozen patents, his first in 1876 detailing a means for a watch stem to both wind a watch as well as move the hands to set the time! Billiard halls of the late 1800s covered their operating expenses by charging to use their tables. It was playing billiards that Abbott realized “time is money.”

Recognizing the issues with hand-tallied time tickets, Henry invented an “Apparatus for Recording Measurements of Time, Space, or Quantity” in 1891 (patent 449192). In 1894 the first Calculagraph was installed by Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company to time long-distances calls between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Six years later he received a patent for the Calculagraph (patent 583320), which quickly found use in telephone exchanges across the country as this device actually printed the time on a standard payroll ticket inserted into the device.

Henry, in 1904, improved on his earlier patent by designing a Calculagraph specifically for telephone use where the device was electrically connected to long-distance telephone lines between city pairs of telephone exchanges. While early Calculagraphs relied on a Seth Thomas #10 eight-day, double-spring balance, mechanical clock movement, later Calculagraphs had synchronous electric motor clock movements. The Calculagraph Company of East Hanover, NJ (today named Control Products, Incorporated) estimates there were more than 100,000 Calculagraphs in operation before rotary dialed long-distance technology replaced the need for long-distance operators and the Calculagraph.

Ben Franklin wrote in his Advice to Young Persons Intended for Trade — “Remember that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day at his labour, and goes abroad, or sits idle one half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only expence; he has really spent, or rather thrown away, five shillings besides,” perhaps the first time the phrase “time is money” may have been used. It is the Calculagraph’s long-distance telephone call use that historians cite for introducing the phrase “time is money” into our mainstream vernacular as the device measured time in terms of money.

Inside Calculagraph in addition to the clock mechanism, are three circular printing wheels powered by the clock mechanism. The left wheel is a clock face with a perimeter rotating arrow indicating the hour and a central rotating hour indicating the minute the call began. The center wheel indicates minutes and the right wheel indicates seconds both with rotating arrows in the center. At the start of the call the operator inserts a toll ticket with the ID of the long-distance line being used and pushes the right handle on the Calculagraph forward to print the starting time (left dial) followed by pulling the right handle back to print just the hollow dial faces for minutes and seconds (no central arrows). The toll ticket is then removed and placed in a holder. At the completion of the call, the toll ticket is returned to the Calculagraph where the left handle is pulled. The arrows for the minutes and seconds dials now print to show the elapsed time in minutes and seconds for the call.


More often than not, entrepreneurs and inventors begin their early careers working in an industry that is very much different than the industry for which they might be remembered. The Stanley twins followed their childhood interests in photography to form the Stanley Dry Plate Company but are perhaps best remembered as a premier steam car manufacturer in the earliest years of the 20th century. The Garretts and Marshalls came from farming backgrounds, became saw/grist mill operators, and established their family legacies making snuff and vulcanized fibre, respectively. Even in the 21st century, we find similar occurrences with individuals such as Elon Musk, who founded X.com, an online bank that he turned into PayPal, a venture that, when sold to eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002, supplied the funds Musk desired to start SpaceX (2002), join Tesla (2004), and start SolarCity (2006). Musk will surely be remembered by future generations for one or more of these company’s achievements more than his early financial efforts.
On April 15, Allison Schell, Public Programs Director for Friends of Auburn Heights, presents the 5th episode of Behind the Steam. The topic is “Luxurious Packards” and features the Marshall Collection as well as the Gilmore Car Museum’s Packards. Clarence and Tom Marshall’s love for the legendary brand is well documented. The Packard brothers, William Doud (1861-1923) and James Ward (1863-1928), first became known for another product before becoming focused on automobiles. What was the Packard brothers’ first business venture?

The Packard Electric Company was formed on June 5, 1890, around the same time as Israel and Elwood Marshall purchased the burned-out woolen mill at Yorklyn. The Packard Electric Company advertised electric bells, burglar alarms, gas lighting, and arc and incandescent electrical lighting plants during the late 1800s, and the Packard Electric name lasted into the mid-1920s. The Packard brothers owned the New York and Ohio Company, which manufactured Packard electric lamps. The plant eventually became the Packard Lamp Division of General Electric.

Of the two Packard brothers, James Ward Packard was the inventor while his brother, William Doud Packard, preferred to concentrate on running their several electrical businesses. Thirteen of the 43 patents the brothers obtained were devoted to electric lamp manufacturing operations. The patents included electric lamp construction techniques and manufacturing equipment, including mercury vacuum pumps, electric lamp sockets, and fuse-wire holders for circuit fusing.

The earliest Packard patents are dated in the late 1880s, with later Packard lamp patents assigned to the Westinghouse Electric Company. One of the difficulties that competitors to Edison encountered was developing a lamp that didn’t infringe on the original Edison patent. Competitors looked for manufacturing process advantages as well as design feature differences to avoid infringement on Edison patents. James Packard’s various patents addressed both the design and manufacturing processes of lamp manufacture.

Packard electric lamps became very well known and widely used, and the Packard lamp design, manufactured though Westinghouse, was a major competitor to Edison’s electric lamp business. The Packards worked with George Westinghouse, who promoted Tesla’s polyphase alternating current (AC) power system against the Edison/General Electric direct current (DC) power system. Without the ability to offer an electric lamp that did not infringe on Edison’s patents, Westinghouse and Tesla would not have been able to compete.

Westinghouse’s use of “stopper in a bottle” lamp construction got around the Edison patent, which allowed inventors such as James Packard to add features producing lamps superior to what Edison offered through General Electric. One of Packard’s patents added an intermediate support means for long fragile carbon filaments inside a lamp thus limiting a long filament’s tendency to vibrate and break from mechanical flexing fatigue. The addition of Packard’s filament support greatly increased lamp life for railroad, trolley, and automotive applications that subjected lamps to constant vibration. The glass enclosures were frosted to more evenly disperse the filament’s incandescence and made with ribs for decoration as well as to add strength to the glass.

The 1892 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago was lit using Westinghouse AC power system, which employed more than 200,000 Westinghouse-built Sawyer-Man stopper electric lamps in the lighting fixtures. The success of the Westinghouse demonstration at the Exposition is considered a watershed event that proved Tesla’s polyphase AC power distribution systems were in fact superior to the Edison-General Electric DC power distribution system. The Packard Electric lamp patents used by Westinghouse for the display, including on carousels and other rides, demonstrated superior life expectancies against competitor’s lamps further proving Westinghouse and Packard Electric produced superior lamps to Edison/GE.

Lamps of the 1890s only had a few hundred hours operating time, and often the electric used during a lamp’s short lifetime was more costly than the lamp’s purchase. The brighter the bulb the shorter it’s lifetime generally. As Westinghouse lamps were of the “stopper” design, the company’s rebate program returned burned-out lamps to the factory. Stoppers were removed from the glass envelope, the filament replaced, and the stopper returned to the bulb envelope once the envelope had been cleaned inside. This greatly reduced the cost of a Westinghouse lamp to that of an Edison-GE lamp.

Packard electric lamps were easily identified by the paper tag that was placed in the cement which held the base to the glass. The script “Packard” as their logo along with the bulb’s candlepower and operating voltage were printed on the tag.


Later this month, on March 18, the Friends of Auburn Heights presents Behind the Steam: Mountain Wagons at 7pm online. Featured contributors will be the Collection on Palmetto in Clearwater, Florida, and the Seal Cove Auto Museum of Mount Desert Island, Maine. For this month’s question, we researched the early history of the Marshall Steam Museum’s Stanley Mountain Wagon.
Tom Marshall has written extensively about the use of the Stanley Mountain Wagon while owned by the Marshalls. Clarence, traveled to Cochituate, Massachusetts, to purchase the 1915 Model 820 Mountain Wagon from George Monreau for $1,700 in 1946. The vehicle had originally been owned by the Litchfield Shuttle Company of Southbridge, Massachusetts.
While we don’t have detailed records of exactly how the Model 820 was used by Litchfield Shuttle Company, we know that the term mountain wagon was first used to describe shallow wooden wagons pulled by horses that featured of multiple bench seats for hauling passengers. These wagons were well-sprung for a comfortable ride and included a canvas top as a sunshade.
How do you think the Model 820 Mountain Wagon might have been used by Litchfield Shuttle?

If you are a reader of Tom Marshall’s writings, you may remember Tom writing that when the Mountain Wagon arrived at Auburn Heights, it came with angled side boards and had been used to haul logs out of New Hampshire. During Auburn Heights tours, we often mention that the Mountain Wagon started life as a lumber vehicle in New England.

Litchfield Shuttle Company was founded in 1843 by Pliny, Festus C., and Leroy Litchfield for the manufacture of loom shuttles! Initially known as the L.O.P. Litchfield and Company, in 1878 the company was granted incorporation under Massachusetts law as the Litchfield Shuttle Company. The initial capital investment was $21,000, and by the start of the 1900s, Litchfield had become the largest shuttle and shuttle-iron manufacturer in the country. Litchfield made shuttles for weaving cotton, wool, silk, linen and jute, along with bobbins. With changing weaving technologies, wooden shuttles were no longer in demand, and the company closed down in the early 1950s after the factory contents were sold at auction.

According to company history from the Quinabaug Historical Society, Litchfield initially made shuttles from Persimmon Wood due to its hardness. The company eventually changed to Dogwood before settling on Applewood for its superior hardness, tight grain, and ease of machining qualities for making shuttles. There are references to combing the New England states for quality Applewood that would be sorted through and premium prices paid.

Litchfield might have used the Mountain Wagon for hauling high-quality Applewood to their plant in Southbridge, Massachusetts. Additionally, one can envision the Mountain Wagon loaded with wooden crates of finished shuttles being taken to the railroad station for shipment a short distance from the factory.


On Thursday, February 18, the FAH Behind the Steam program examines the Westinghouse Model RC Regenerative Radio currently on display in the Marshall Steam Museum. Known as the Radiola RC when Radio Corporation of America began selling the model, this radio was a collaboration between Westinghouse Electric Company and General Electric who commercially developed the “audion” or “valves” (what we refer to as electron vacuum tubes today) used within the radio. Featured guest for Behind the Steam will be Donna Acerra, Professor of Communication at Northampton Community College, discussing the early history of radio. 

Offered between 1920 and 1923, the Radola RC consisted of the Westinghouse RA Tuner and Westinghouse DA Detector-Amplifier packaged in a single enclosure, selling for $130 ($1,800 equivalent in 2020). It is estimated that approximately 145,000 units were produced at the start of the 1920s. Station KDKA of Pittsburgh, PA, the first commercial radio station (owned by Westinghouse Electric), might have been received on the Marshall Radiola RC at the start of the 1920s. Clarence probably chose a closer AM station (commercial FM radio would not happen until 1937) with a stronger signal for listening. What local radio stations might Clarence and Esther have listened to?

It is likely the Westinghouse Radiola RC was a wedding gift to Clarence and Ester in June 1921. There were numerous privately owned amateur radio stations broadcasting during daytime hours (random schedules and times) and at night listeners might tune into distant stations in Canada, South America, and Europe depending on ‘atmospherics’ and the state of the ‘ether’. In radio’s infancy, the ether or atmosphere above the clouds, was described as medium in which radio energy traveled between transmitter and receivers. The physical condition of the atmosphere, or atmospherics, on any given day affected early radio wave transmission and determined the quality and how well distant stations might be received.

In Wilmington, in 1920, the last year of licensed amateur-only radio before licensed commercial radio, there was 3RE operated by Joseph A. Barkley, 3WF operated by Albert Briggs, 3BE operated by Frederick R. Gooding, 3KK operated by David L. Ott, Jr., 3UO operated by Robert K. Pierson, 3NP operated by Leroy H. Ryan, and 3OX operated by Joseph S. Tatnall. These stations operated between 24 and 1,000 watts of transmitting power. Starting with a ‘3’, these stations were all in the nation’s 3rd radio licensing district.

The U.S. Commerce Department began issuing commercial radio licenses in late December 1920 but it wasn’t until 1923 that several northern Delaware radio stations applied for commercial licensing. Wilmington had WHAV, WOAT, and WPAW by June 1923. WHAV and WOAT were 50-watt stations while WPAW was licensed as a 10-watt station. All three were limited-hours operations and short lived.

The closest radio stations ‘as the crow flies’ would have been those in Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ roughly 40 miles distant. These stations would have had the strongest signals (500-watt transmitters or higher) and thus been the easiest to tune in with the early vacuum tube regenerative technology. There were also stations in Baltimore and the nation’s capital which were more distant but still could be received in Yorklyn.

Four Philadelphia stations were associated with large department stores in downtown Philadelphia. Radio broadcast stations were popular with department stores as they supported the store’s radio department and could be used for store advertising. All three AM stations began operations in mid-March 1922 with two still operating today. Perhaps the best-known today is WIP Radio started by Gimbel Brothers atop their Philadelphia department store. WIP was Philadelphia’s first commercial radio broadcast station and lasted in various programming formats and frequencies until 2014 when it transitioned to being an FM broadcast station.

John Wanamaker’s WOO in Philadelphia was perhaps the most widely listened to. The first of two stations the department store chain operated; WOO offered daily programs on the world’s largest pipe organ with an orchestra. WOO is known to have been heard in South Africa, Norway, France, Germany as well as the west coast of the USA. While WOO lasted until February 1929, WWZ in Wanamaker’s New York City store operated until late 1923. Interestingly both of these AM radio stations began as American Marconi Morse Code stations (WHE in Philadelphia and WHI in New York City) in 1911 transmitting and receiving wireless telegraphy messaging of Wanamaker sales information until late 1921.

WDAR began operations in 1922 broadcasting from the Lit Brothers department store in Philadelphia and is now WJMX. The other AM station still existing today is WFI (now WFIL, a Christian based station). WFI’s license was originally granted to Strawbridge & Clothier department store.

Of the non-department store broadcast stations that operated in the Philadelphia and Camden area, one is still broadcasting in 2021. WCAU started in 1922, changed call letters on several occasions (WOGL, WGMP, WPTS) before becoming WPHT. WGL in Philadelphia operated between February 1922 and December 1924 while WRP in Camden, NJ operated from March 1922 until August 1923.

The next closest stations to Yorklyn, DE would have been those in Baltimore, MD (~75 miles distant) and in the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. (~115 miles distant). WKC operated in Baltimore while nine stations were in operation in D.C. between 1921 and 1925; WDM, WDW, WEAS, WIL, WJH, WMU, and WPM. WCAO, and WEAR. Ten stations in New York City and Newark, NJ (~125 miles distant) might have been received by the Marshall Radiola RC including New York City stations WBAY, WDT, WEAF, WJX, WJZ* and WWZ along with Newark NJ stations WAAM, WBS, WDY, and WOR* (* – still operating today).

Pictured is the UV-200 Detector electron vacuum tube (right, upper) and the UV-201 Amplifier electron vacuum tube (left, lower) used in the Westinghouse Radiola Model RC Regenerative Radio. One UV-200 and two UV-201 tubes were required for the Model RC. There were numerous manufacturers licensed to produce these tubes and they went through several mechanical changes (longer pins, change of base material, etc.) during the period they were manufactured. Both tubes were functionally equivalent in internal construction except that the UV-200 had a trace amount of Argon added to improve performance. The UV-201 and its variants was the most popular tube of the 1920s.

Nearly 1,000 products manufactured between 1920 and 1926 used one or both of these first-generation commercial vacuum tube types. They found use in radio frequency detectors and amplifiers and audio frequency amplifiers. Obviously no longer available, radio collectors have constructed modern electronic equivalent circuits that perform similar to two valves. The construction of such valve equivalents, the addition of a horn speaker, outdoor antenna, batteries or DC power supplies, and a sufficient ground connection would be all that is needed to have the Westinghouse Radiola RC sounding as Clarence once heard it.