WAVES OF ETHER IN YORKLYN

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?

Answer
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.

OLD MAIDS, MUSHROOMS & BUTTERFLIES

Popcorn has been around for centuries. Ceremonial wreaths, necklaces, and ornaments on the statues of Aztec gods contained ears of popcorn, corn kernels, and popped flakes Native American dance rituals of various indigenous peoples included corsages and headdresses made with ears of popcorn, corn kernels, and the flowery petals of popped kernels. The Iroquois and other tribes believed that quiet, contented, spirits lived within each kernel. These spirits become angry when their peaceful kernel home became too hot. Exhibiting their displeasure, a popcorn spirit danced aggressively, resulting in the spirit’s kernel home jumping about. Eventually the corn kernel exploded as the outraged spirit exited his home in a flash of smoke (steam water vapor) to seek a more comforting kernel home.

Later this month, on January 21st at 7 PM, the first program of 2021’s Behind the Steam series will occur. The topic is the Cretors Steam Popcorn Popper and how Charles Cretors’s first steam-powered peanut roasting machine, constructed in 1885, became the start of a family-owned business into the 21st century. Pictured right: an electric Cretors Popcorn Machine at the F.G. Lindsay Store circa 1925, Washington, D.C. (Shorpy Photographs).

The worldwide popcorn market, including both ready-to-eat and pop-it-yourself categories, is projected to reach $15 billion by 2023. The popcorn we enjoy today is grown to ensure very few “old maids” (unpopped kernels) and that the endosperm (soft core material) within each pericarp (shell) explodes into the largest butterfly or mushroom shape possible. Americans love to lather on butter, caramel, salts, and seasonings to enjoy this tasty snack.

Without the benefit of Cretors’ machinery that revolutionized the consumption of popcorn, how did Native Americans and even early American settlers prepare popcorn?

 

Answer
Before the introduction of Charles Cretors’s machinery, popping corn was not a simple task. Ideally a harvested kernel stripped from a corn cob needs to contain around 14% moisture. A kernel’s typical popping temperature is near 350° Fahrenheit. As the kernel’s temperature rapidly rises past 212° Fahrenheit, the encapsulated endosperm moisture transforms to steam and pressure builds within the pericarp. When the steam pressure within the kernel reaches approximately 130 pounds per square inch, the shell violently ruptures while the steam entrapped within the endosperm explosively expands the soft endosperm material forming the classic mushroom or butterfly shape. A popped kernel is referred to as a “popcorn flake.”

Due to the pericarp’s impervious characteristics, the eating of unpopped popcorn kernels may break teeth and do not digest in our stomachs, resulting in intestinal pain and discomfort. Native Americans placed kernels in a mortar and crushed them with a pestle to form a flour. Sifted through coarse cloth to remove shell fragments and debris, the flour can be mixed with milk, honey, fruit, and similar flavorings and served as a morning meal. Popcorn soup made from the popped kernels was enjoyed by the Iroquois and other tribes. Popcorn flour was dried and mixed with honey to form a biscuit for consumption on hunting trips providing quick nourishment similar to a shack.

Native Americans formed large shallow flat clay pans that they could set on rocks atop a hot bed of embers. The bottom of the pan was lightly covered with corn kernels followed by covering the kernels with a thin layer of coarse sand or fine gravel to insure uniform heating of the kernels. An earthen or bark cover kept the kernels from leaving the vessel upon popping. Once the last of the ‘spirits’ vacated the kernels, the pan was removed and the popped corn kernels were picked out, the sand/gravel blown off, and eaten. Alternatively, a couple ears of corn might be placed in an earthen crock filled with coarse sand or fine gravel where the kernels popped on the cob (pictured).

While only the wealthiest American settlers might have access to one of Benjamin Thompson’s (inventor of the thermos bottle as well!) early 1800’s stove designs, cast iron stoves became widely available in the mid-19th century, consuming wood or coal for fuel. For most Americans, cooking was performed at open hearth fireplaces or at a classic campfire-type configuration until the 1900s. Popcorn was often cooked over an open fire, including a cabin fireplace heating the structure, in enclosed wire baskets. Where covered pans were used, in place of sand or gravel, animal derived oils of the day such as bacon fat, lard, or tallow were used. Cretors’ invention was based around a steam engine continuously agitating the corn kernels at a controlled temperature in a pan containing special blend of fats, oils, and ingredients. The cooking aroma from Cretors’s secret blend of bacon fat, butter, salt, and seasonings transformed popcorn from a novelty to a mainstream snack food. Cretors graduated popcorn to being about the sights, sounds, and smells of it being prepared as well as the taste of the salty flakes.

Today we have all sorts of flavorings to enhance our popped flakes. Southwest Native Americans, such as the Navajo, Hopi, and Ute, gathered peanuts, which were heated along with the corn kernels in the sand-filled pans. A small blend of roasted and shelled peanuts, placed in a stone mortar, were ground to a butter-like consistency with a pestle. Added to the mortar’s peanut butter might be honey or Boxelder Tree sap (a southwestern native of the Maple Tree with a unique taste more reminiscent of caramel than maple), ground rock salt, and other finely ground native plant seeds, berries, and leaves. As the popcorn flakes and peanuts were picked from the popping pan, they are dipped in the mortar’s “flavoring” before eating.

WRENCHES: OLDER THAN SPANNERS

For FAH volunteers who have worked on one or more of the collection’s Stanleys, it is learned early on that some of the screw and bolt fasteners used on various parts of the engine and body are not standard thread sizes found in common use today. In checking the author’s copy of List of Parts Used to Make a Complete Model 735 Car,  issued by the Stanley Motor Carriage Co. of Newton, Massachusetts, on April 1, 1918, we find various lengths of #5-32 Round Head Machine Screws and ¼”-30 Fillister Head Machine Screws listed (the first number is the diameter, the second number is the threads per inch). Today, the common sizes in use would be #5-40 or #5-44 and ¼”-20 or ¼”-28.

Pictured below is a Craftsman Vanadium-series open-end wrench or spanner, as it is referenced in Britain. Sears Roebuck & Company (owned by Stanley Black & Decker since 2017) contracted with various tool manufacturers to produce the Craftsman line sold through Sears-branded catalogs beginning in 1927. In 1932, Craftsman introduced “Vanadium Steel” wrenches that tested 50% lighter yet 200% stronger than their previously offered wrenches.

Note that the open-end wrench pictured below is marked 3/8 W and 7/16 W. A quick check using a ruler reveals the openings physically measure 11/16″ and 13/16″ wide, respectively. While the wrench and others in the set were produced long after Stanley steam car production ceased, what sort of fastener is the wrench designed for?

Answer
In the 1800s, as the Industrial Revolution was taking hold worldwide, screw and bolt fasteners were manufactured by any number of ironworking shops. One can only imagine the diversity of screws and bolts produced. The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, at the urging of Congress, released a report in 1861 defining a set of fastener standards based on the work of William Sellers that the U.S. Congress adopted as the “United States Thread” standard. The U.S. Navy, as well as many of this nation’s railroads, converted to using only United States Thread-compliant screws, bolts, and nuts by 1870. The great advantage being that compliance ensured screws and bolts, and their associated nuts, were interchangeable between manufacturers.

After World War I, it was realized that while a standard existed, there were issues that needed addressing. The National Screw Thread Commission was established by an Act of Congress in 1918 and by 1921 issued a preliminary report of the Commission’s recommendations. As a result, the “American National Standard” form of screw thread was born based on the existing standard. The American National Standard includes two series: National Coarse-Thread and National Fine-Thread, both in use today. In 1948 the National Standard Thread was changed to the Unified National Standard Thread, when the U.S. standard was adopted by Britain and Canada for use on war equipment.

In developing the National Standard screw thread, the Commission adopted many of the principals and specifications of the Whitworth Thread, which was used by British railways and industry. The Whitworth system, defined by Joseph Whitworth in 1841, became the world’s first screw thread standard and was the British standard until replaced with British Association Standard Thread. A difference not adopted was maintaining Sellers’s 60-degree thread angle instead of the 55-degrees used on Whitworth threads. Whitworth rounded the peaks and valleys of the thread, which Sellers left flat. The rounded edges and corners reduce stress points where fractures often originate providing Whitworth threads superior fatigue strength. The Whitworth thread was a preferred choice for many American locomotive builders for firebox stay bolts in the 1800s and early 1900s due to strength advantages while Sellers threads were extensively found throughout the rest of the locomotive.

The wrench pictured in our question is for Whitworth bolts! The Whitworth system defines a bolt based on the diameter of the bolt shaft and not the dimensions across the flats of the bolt’s head or matching nut, as is current practice in the United States. Thus, the wrench pictured will work for either a 3/8″ or 7/16″ diameter Whitworth Thread bolt. The U.S. National Standard would use a 9/16″ wrench (the distance across the flats of the bolt’s head or nut) for a 3/8″ diameter bolt with either National Coarse or National Fine threads.

STATE ROADS AND KING’S HIGHWAY

The image below was broadly circulated in the Diamond State a century ago as a proposal for a Delaware roadway. Who originated the proposal, and was the roadway ever constructed?

Answer
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Delaware’s roads were considered some of the worst in the nation. As most of the state consists of a flat plain of sandy soil not much higher than sea level, the land does not dry quickly, especially a century ago when large stands of timber covered vast stretches of the state. There were several north-south roads established as “King’s’ Highways” by the Levy Courts in the late 17th century. Delaware typically called north-south routes a “State Road” or King’s Highway and east-west routes a ‘”County Road.”

In the late 1800s, with the development of the steam carriage, electric carriage, and eventually the motor carriage, the need for improved roads became increasingly important. The Roosevelt administration pushed for federal aid in constructing better roadways throughout the country. In 1911 the National Highways Association was established with Board Chairman T. Coleman du Pont leading the organization. The organization established a national “good roads everywhere” movement with a vision that the U.S. would have a network of well paved roads, including Delaware.

By 1910 there were nearly 1,000 registered vehicles in Delaware. The image above was generated in 1912 as T. Coleman du Pont’s vision for a boulevard he was willing to fund and construct the length of the state. Du Pont is quoted in a 1912 Scientific American article as desiring the road to be “constructed of water bound macadam or concrete base, on top of which will be laid asphalt and stone mixed; or a surface composed of water bound macadam with a half-inch covering of asphalt and trap rock to make it dust and water proof.” An objective of du Pont’s boulevard would be the elimination of “twists and sinuosity” of most existing roads by following the principal that a “straight line is the shortest distance between two points.”

Du Pont’s new company, Coleman du Pont Road Incorporated, would acquire a 200-foot right-of-way through each of Delaware’s counties (later reduced to 60-foot). After constructing the boulevard, each 10-mile segment completed was to be turned over to the state to maintain. Eventually known as the Du Pont Highway, it was designated U.S. Route 13 north of Dover and U.S. Route 113 south of Dover. Fully completed in 1923, it became the nation’s first divided highway.

For more photos and a detailed history of the Du Pont Highway’s construction, the U.S Department of Transportation’s National Transportation Library has “Historic context for the DuPont Highway U.S. Route 113, Kent and Sussex County, Delaware” (https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/40800 ) from which the images were obtained.

HIDDEN STORIES

During Steamin’ Days and private tours, we often tell visitors that laid out before them is the evolution of the automobile from birth to maturity. The museum’s story revolves around the Stanley Motor Carriage Company, but a similar story might be told for any number of other manufacturers of the era. Once pointed out, visitors begin noticing lighting evolving from removeable kerosene lamps to carbide to acetylene gas lamps and finally to electric. They notice the evolution from wood bodies to aluminum and steel, from tillers to right-hand steering to left-hand steering. But there are many more stories hidden away within the Marshall Steam Museum yet to be told.

For example, every vehicle in the museum (with the exception of the Penny Farthing currently on display) has a minimum of four wheels. Perhaps in the future, a temporary display might detail the evolution of the automotive wheel and tire. In 1916 an estimated 6,470,832 wheels, tubes, flaps, and tires had to be produced for the 1,617,708 steam, electric, and internal combustion-powered horseless carriages manufactured that year. Estimates also indicate that due to the lack of robust rubber tire construction, not to mention the deplorable condition of American roads, the 3-million-plus passenger vehicles in use in 1916 consumed an average of eight tires per year! The result was American industry produced upwards of 20 million tires annually in 1916 to keep pace!

While the 1914 Ford Model T included in the collection highlights one of the three primary technologies vying for supremacy during automotive adolescence, future investigations might highlight the impressive impact Henry Ford and the Model T provided in multitudes of ways. People think of the Model T as the first mass-produced, mechanically complex commodity manufactured but rarely recognize Ford’s insight in taking the fundamental operation of a meat packing plant and reversing it (put something together instead of cutting it apart as a series of operations or steps) for mass production of almost any manufactured commodity.

Now step back a bit further to realize that every Model T from 1908 until 1927 required four wheels with tires (and perhaps a spare). Ford’s suppliers, such as Firestone, had to maintain large-scale, efficient, high-volume production operations not only to supply Ford but Stanley, Rauch & Lang and their competitors as well! The adolescent period of the automobile not only introduced mass production but the need for standardization of products, which provides yet another opportunity for interpretation and display.

The first vehicle to move under its own power (steam) on American streets, and the world’s first amphibious vehicle, was constructed by Oliver Evans of Delaware and demonstrated on Market Street and the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia in 1805. The first sale of an American-built self-powered vehicle was a steam car constructed by S. H. Roper of Massachusetts, which sold in 1889. Soon to follow was an electric car sold to J. B. McDonald, which William Morrison of Des Moines, IA, constructed in early 1892 and exhibited on the streets of Chicago in September of that year. The Stanley twins constructed their first car in 1897, a year before the first internal combustion car was sold by Alexander Winton to Robert Allison of Port Carbon, PA, in 1898.

The first public car show was held in Madison Square Garden, New York City, in 1890, where 34 makes were exhibited. Only 3,700 cars of all makers were produced in 1899, rising to 11,000 vehicles by 1903, with Locomobile/Stanley the top seller for 1900 through 1903. A total of 44,000 vehicles valued at $93.4 million were produced in 1907, followed by 85,000 cars of all models in 1908. Production climbed steadily upward, reaching 485,000 cars in 1913 and just prior to World War I. Automotive historians suggest this output was muted from what it might have been. The Marshall Steam Museum’s Model T represents that story as well.

What factor, event, or otherwise was responsible for muting American horseless carriage production, especially for internal combustion engine powered vehicles, right after Alexander Winton sold his first Winton in 1898?

 

Answer

Our Founding Fathers realized that if this country was to prosper, a means to protect intellectual property was needed. Thus in 1790 President George Washington signed the bill creating America’s patent system. A patent doesn’t grant the right to make, sell or use a product incorporating a patented idea, but rather permits the person(s) having the idea to determine how they wish their idea to be used (license, sell, assign/transfer, gift, etc.) while excluding others from making, selling, importing or otherwise creating an equivalent for some period of years. It was the U.S. patent system that inhibited the rapid expansion of early automotive ideas and designs.

In 1879 George B. Selden of Rochester, NY, applied for a patent for a gasoline-powered engine that might be used in a 4-wheeled vehicle. This was long before anyone thought it worthy putting an internal combustion engine in a carriage, thus rendering it “horseless.” Selden had conceived the idea and constructed a prototype so that he could file a patent application (with George Eastman, no less, as witness!). For the next 16 years, Selden kept updating his application and using similar legal patent regulations to keep the patent application alive until 1895, when he allowed the patent to be issued (Patent 549,160, November 5, 1895). Today patents expire in 20 years; however, in Selden’s time, it was 17 years. Selden effectively stopped the construction and sale of most gasoline-engine powered horseless carriages until 1912 unless a royalty was paid.

The Stanley twins ran afoul of patent law as well, but not Selden’s. They had patented (Patent 663,836) their rear axle differential and later granted sole use to the Locomobile Company when they sold their early steam carriage business. When the twins re-entered the horseless carriage business and introduced a re-designed Stanley Steamer in 1902, it retained a chain drive similar to what they had sold Locomobile but with a re-designed differential. A court case soon developed over the differential’s design, and instead of suffering the expense of a court battle and possibly losing, the twins moved their steam engine to a rear-axle mounting and direct gear drive between the crankshaft and differential, thus avoiding the claimed patent infringement of the twins’ licensed patent to Locomobile!

Selden sold all rights for his patent in 1900 to the Electric Vehicle Company, which enforced it rigorously. Alexander Winton’s Winton Motor Carriage Company was one of the first targeted. As a result, the Manufacturer’s Mutual Association, which later became the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers, was formed to fight both Selden and Electric Vehicle Company. Having lost the patent challenge, manufacturers were forced to pay a royalty fee for every gasoline-powered vehicle manufactured. Thus, at the start of the automobile age, every gasoline-powered horseless carriage sold included a licensing fee that raised the catalog price and effectively limited the desire of gasoline-powered carriage manufacturers to risk expanding with new models and features.

The Selden patent became a thorn in Henry Ford’s plans when his Ford Motor Company was denied a license to use the patent in 1903 after forming his company. That didn’t stop Ford, and he continued with plans for the production of his Model T. Ford’s Model T debuted on October 1, 1908, and within weeks the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers filed a patent infringement case against Ford Motor Company. Nearly a year later, Ford lost his case, similar to others who challenged the Selden patent.

Unfazed, Ford appealed, which none of the others had previously attempted. For the appeal, Ford dove into the intricacies of Selden-patented gasoline-powered engine against the Ford-designed engine. Selden’s engine was based on the Brayton thermodynamic cycle (constant-pressure engine similar to a jet engine but using pistons) and not the Otto thermodynamic cycle (relies on varying pressures to operate) Ford had embraced. Ford easily won the appeal in January 1911, and with only a year left in the patent’s life, further contesting by the Association was not pursued. In 1912 the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers quietly changed their name to the Automobile Board of Trade and by 1914 were known as the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce with the purpose of promoting all horseless carriages. A look at automobile production records reveals that for 1912 and subsequent years, automotive production roughly doubled annually until World War 1.

Next time you visit the Marshall Steam Museum, take a moment to look beyond all that is displayed and let your mind wonder to how it all happened. The Marshall Steam Museum is more than a collection of steam cars and a few era artifacts. Hidden about are stories related to automobiles, the industrial revolution, banking, dealerships and selling automobiles, railroads, steam power, electrical power, galvanized sheet, clay mining, working conditions, and so much more.

UNSEEN FOR HALF A CENTURY, MAYBE LONGER

On occasion a visitor to Auburn Heights brings with them an item they no longer wish to keep but surmise it may be of interest to someone they know who volunteers. Such was the case recently during the August Volunteer’s Day at Auburn Heights. I was presented with a pair of original boxes containing glass plate negatives by a retired individual who volunteers with the AVRR. To paraphrase, “These probably came from a house in Cedars (near Greenbank) in the 1960s and have been in my parent’s basement since then. They may be of interest, and you’re free to do what you think best.”
 
One of the exposed 5” x 7” glass plate negatives the individual thought I might find of interest. While I don’t own a proper digital scanner for large glass plate negatives, I am able to perform a rough scan with my flatbed scanner using room ambient light to see what visual wonders the century-old glass plates might reveal. I digitally scanned each of the plates and converted the scan data to a positive image. As the plates were originally just lying loose in the boxes, they were more properly repacked with paper dividers and cushioning as they will eventually be added to the Thomas C. Marshall Collection at Hagley Museum & Library, where high-quality digital scanning equipment exists.
 
The image below was described by the giver as believed to be inside Marshall Brothers Paper Mill. After scanning, the image was studied in greater detail, and our belief is that the image is more than likely the #1 Fibre line in the #1 Fibre Mill at Marshall’s National Fiber & Insulation Company at Yorklyn. The image is definitely not the industrial rag paper process in Marshall Brother’s Mill as originally suggested. The puring tanks in the background are part of a fibre-making process and not a papermaking process. We have glass plate negatives of the Insulite Mill’s prototype endless fibre machine, and the steam heated rotating can driers in the foreground are configured differently than those of the Insulite Mill (and paper mill as well). We believe it may be the #1 Fibre Line because the configuration of equipment is very similar to Israel Marshall’s patent and what was developed in the Insulite Mill starting in 1900.
 
 
While the photographer is unknown, the fact that the glass plate negatives were manufactured by the “Stanley Dry Plate” division of Eastman Kodak Company reminds us of the many boxes of Stanley Dry Plates in the Thomas C. Marshall Collection at Hagley Museum & Library, which includes a few images similar to the above. The Stanley twins sold the dry plate business to Eastman Kodak in January 1904, which places the images after that date. For the image to be the #1 Fibre Mill, it would have to be after 1906-07 as that is the time period that the #1 Fiber Mill began operation.
 
Some archivists and historians, based on one image, would not agree a strong enough case has been presented to conclude the boxes of images might have been taken by Clarence Marshall. Other images, which we’ll share in the answer, indicate that if the photographer wasn’t Clarence Marshall, it was someone closely related to the family.
 
The image below is from another of the glass plate negatives and provides positive proof the images, if not the glass plate negatives themselves, are of Marshall origin. The building pictured is undeniably related to the Marshall family. What is the building pictured, and how is it related to the Marshalls?
 

Answer
The second image of this month’s question is where the Marshall industrial rag paper involvement began – Thomas S. Marshall’s Homestead Paper Mill at Marshall’s Bridge, Kennett Township, PA. This is the mill where Israel and Elwood learned the papermaking trade from their father! Documented photos in the T. Clarence Marshall Collection at Hagley Museum & Library as well as photos in the Charles S. Philips Collection at the Chester County Historical Society confirm the mill’s identity.

A similar image dating from sometime in the 1880s has been displayed in the Marshall Museum and used for various publications. In that image the mill is definitely in operating condition as there is not the uncut growth of plants and grasses around the building. In this image, which has to be post 1904 due to being in in the Stanley-Kodak box and the timeframes of the other images, the mill looks more unused and neglected. While we don’t know the exact year when the Marshalls stopped making paper at the Homestead Paper Mill, indications are it was in the first decade of the 1900s. Marshall paper mills at Wooddale and Yorklyn were steam-powered, efficient, and offered more capacity than the primarily water-powered Homestead Mill.

The dirt road in the foreground is Creek Road (Route 82). Center right is where the road makes a sharp right heading to Old Kennett Pike. Where the road goes behind the mill it crosses the Red Clay Creek to become what we know as Marshall Bridge Road today.

Sharing several of the other glass plate negative images, the photograph below includes the date “August 4, 1915” written on the edge of the glass plate, along with the caption “Marshall’s Meadow, Yorklyn, DE.” The photo, taken from the area where the water tower now stands, shows the West Chester, Kennett, and Wilmington Electric Railway tracks in the foreground. Benge Road is to the left, and Auburn Mill Road is just beyond the row of trees. While we’ve been amazed at the flooding of the Red Clay in recent years, especially twice in one week this past August, it is obvious from Clarence’s photography of multiple floods, the creek swelled above its banks a century ago!

Tom Marshall wrote about the building featured below. Folks today often see the door in the white stone wall on Creek Road as you approach Yorklyn Road’s Iron Bridge and wonder what it was for. It was the door to the spring and ice house for the Snuff Mill Superintendent’s home (a Mr. Durham according to Tom), which was built in the latter 1800s. Becoming known as the “Boarding House” when it was operated by the Jackson family, in 1937 it was razed. Tom, in his writings, noted that the porch frequently collected the occasional stray autocarriage of the era! One of the Garrett Snuff Mill buildings is at the right edge of the image, the remnants still standing close to a paved Creek Road today.

Our final image is of Yorklyn a century ago, taken from atop the high hill across from Auburn Heights. In the foreground is Lower Snuff Mill Row which were snuff mill worker’s homes. The Garrett mansion (behind trees) and 1904 constructed superintendent’s homes are center right. The Garrett Snuff Mills are in the foreground center left with Marshall’s National Fibre & Insulation mills in the distance with their water tower and tall smokestack dating the photo to sometime in the late nineteen-teens or later.

AVRR TRIAL RUNS

Tom Marshall left the Friends of Auburn Heights with a rich history of the Auburn Valley Railroad as detailed in his weekly writings beginning in early 2001.

In 2006, Tom told us about his father, Clarence, buying castings in 1941 from Little Engines to construct a ¾-inch-scale 4-8-4 locomotive and tender. That locomotive, a ¾-inch-scale live steam model carrying a Lackawanna livery, is displayed in the museum. Having completed the construction of this locomotive in 1945, Clarence literally redoubled his efforts for his next project by purchasing the castings for a Little Engines 1½-inch-scale 4-8-4 locomotive and tender. As one of the first of a handful of machinists to purchase the castings in 1950, Tom tells us his father spent more than 7,500 hours constructing AVRR locomotive 401.

With 401 nearing completion, in March 1950 Clarence and Tom worked with Everett Hollingsworth to layout the original AVRR right-of-way around the Marshall Steam Museum and Auburn Heights Mansion. It was a simple, single loop of track following existing contours of the property. Tom writes that after constructing several passenger cars, the Auburn Valley Railroad debuted with the first passenger trains operating on T. Clarence Marshall’s 75th birthday, celebrated on August 5, 1960.

While the August 5, 1960, date represents the first time the AVRR carried passengers, anyone familiar with steam knows test runs are a necessity, especially for steam locomotives and automobiles that have never run or are returning to service from a rebuild. When did AVRR #401 make its first of several test runs on the newly laid tracks of the AVRR?

 

Answer

Searching Tom’s writings, we are unable to find mention of when AVRR 401 first ran on the then simpler track route around Auburn Heights. Tom does share that track-laying started at the turntable, a simple wooden truss back in those days, and proceeded around the property. Tom further writes that with 401 fired up on the turntable, he could make short test runs between a trestle that was still under construction behind the museum and the area of the present pond.

We recently stumbled upon an article in an archived copy of Steam Automobile magazine (Volume 2, Number 4, Summer 1960) that documents what we believe is the first running of AVRR 401 on the completed Auburn Heights track loop around the property, approximately two months after track layout and construction started!

73-YEAR FACELIFT

T. Clarence Marshall took an interest in motorized carriages and specifically steam carriages in the early 1900s, becoming a dealer of Stanley steam cars at Auburn Heights. Partnering with his son-in-law Norman Mancill, a dealership was established in Wilmington selling Paige and other brands. By the late teens, Clarence had discovered trapshooting and formed the Yorklyn Gun Club, operating from 1921 until 1950. Tom Marshall’s Weekly News articles, archived and available for reading on this website (http://auburnheights.org/weekly-news-archive/), document many of his father’s activities related to trapshooting and automobiles.

In 1940, Clarence acquired a Stanley steamer he had sold in 1913 as a dealer. Now, occasionally referred to as the “Becker car,” the Stanley Model 76 touring car is a cornerstone of the Marshall collection and a favorite of this writer. Clarence continued to host events at Yorklyn Gun Club in the 1930s and 1940s, but his interests were evolving towards collecting steam cars. With World War II recovery in full swing and additional Stanley cars and parts purchased during the war, the Carriage House was full. Wanting to further expand the collection, Clarence established his “museum” in a new custom-built structure on the Auburn Heights property.  

While we often say that Clarence “built” the museum, the actual construction was performed by a family relative. What Marshall family member was responsible in 1947 for the physical construction of the building now known as the Marshall Steam Museum?

 

Answer

The Marshall Steam Museum building, as originally constructed, is of simple design. Constructed on sturdy concrete footers under the lawn are reinforced cinder block walls. Steel trusses, constructed in an “attic truss” design, support the roof while permitting much of the second floor to be open space for storage (and future use by FAH). This design offered another advantage that Clarence insisted upon; there are no posts on the first floor to navigate vehicles around! Tom Marshall mentioned on several occasions that the Marshall Steam Museum was the largest open-span building constructed in Delaware at the time of completion.

Paul Hannum was the Marshall family member who constructed the Marshall Steam Museum for Clarence. Hannum had been the contractor that added “garage” to the Carriage House (the current shop area and where the AVRR engines are stored; see the October 7, 2006, Weekly News article about the addition) in 1937. As the Marshall granite quarry, which supplied stone for the building of the mansion, Carriage House, and the additions to both, was nearly played out, the Marshall Steam Museum would be constructed primarily of cinder blocks. The burning of coal generates cinders as waste. Francis Straub in 1911 realized that cinders mixed with cement led to a different way of making concrete blocks. Differing from concrete blocks since a cinder block will take a cut nail, Straub patented the cinder block in 1917 (Patent 1,212,840). No doubt the recycling of waste materials for the new building pleased Clarence.

To understand the family connection, we start with Thomas Smedley Marshall, Clarence’s grandfather. Thomas S. Marshall, the 5th child of Robert Marshall and Mary Hoopes, established T. S. Marshall & Sons, making industrial rag papers on the family farm at Marshall’s Bridge in Kennett Township. Thomas S. Marshall and Mary Way raised three children: Israel Way Marshall, Mary E. Marshall (Mitchell), and Thomas Elwood Marshall. T. Clarence was the fourth child of Israel W. and Elizabeth Cloud Mitchell.

Thomas S. Marshall’s brothers, Caleb and John, became the first to commercially manufacture terne plate (iron sheets coated with an alloy of tin and lead, a predecessor to galvanized sheet metal) in America. Brother Abner discovered Kaolin clay (a rich white clay used for fine china and other uses) on his property running alongside Yorklyn Road and began the first commercial mining of Kaolin in Delaware. The middle child of Thomas’s five children, Martha Marshall married Thomas Hannum. Thomas and Martha’s eldest child, nicknamed “Marsh” for Marshall Hannum, was Israel Marshall’s cousin. Marsh’s eldest son, Paul Hannum, was not only a second cousin of T. Clarence, and he was the contractor responsible for actually designing, to Clarence’s requirements, and constructing the museum for Clarence in 1947. In April and May 1922, Paul Hannum was advertising for carpenters and laborers as the Evening Journal ad shows.

For a number of years, Clarence’s museum was packed full of vehicles. Thirty Stanley steam cars have passed through the collection over the years (for a listing see the March 7, 2016 newsletter). There were also White, Doble, Toledo, and Locomobile steam cars that Clarence stored in the museum building. While Clarence was in partnership with Frank Diver selling Packards, Clarence’s car trading included ownership of Pierce Arrow, Ford, Maxwell, Oldsmobile, and Rolls Royce automobiles among a few others. Once Clarence and Tom decided to open the property in April 1961 to raise funds for Historic Red Clay Valley, Inc., the collection in the museum was greatly reduced so that visitors might enjoy the mostly Stanley collection.

The museum building has probably never been totally emptied of vehicles until this past winter when the museum was cleaned out entirely for a facelift after 73 years. While the Marshalls maintained the building in excellent condition and no structural deficiencies required attention, the museum building’s amenities required updating for Friends of Auburn Heights events and use. The continually peeling gray-painted floor has been upgraded with an epoxy coating. An addition adds modern bathrooms, a dedicated room for the Lionel trains, and a lobby area with gift shop.

Stanley steam cars require non-freezing storage in the winter if their boilers and waters systems are not drained. Thus, a minimal heating system had been installed 73 years ago, which has since been upgraded with modern, efficient heat pumps that provide energy-efficient heating for visitors, humidity control, and cooling for the summer months, better protecting the collection. The original 3×2/3×2 windows were removed, restored, and reinstalled. The ceiling has been reinsulated using modern materials and covered with drywall to improve the building’s flammability ratings. For the time being, readers will have to follow our museum improvements virtually. FAH hopes to host limited groups in the not-too-distant future.

GRANULAR CARBON TELEPHONY

The attic of the Marshall Steam Museum became a storehouse for larger household items that three generations of Marshalls no longer needed or used but still held value. Among the historical treasure-trove of artifacts are a pair of Kellogg Switchboard & Supply Company wooden box wall telephones.
 
We know that the first telephone exchange for the Hockessin area was established December 30, 1899, by the Delaware & Atlantic Telegraph & Telephone Company. Located in Ball’s Drug Store, the switchboard initially served six subscribers, and within a couple months served a dozen Hockessin area subscribers, including the Marshall family and Marshall Brothers Company. We believe the pair of Kellogg Wooden Box Magneto-Battery, Grounding Key, Bridging telephones, as they were properly named, one possibly from the mansion and one from the mill office building (constructed 1895), were connected as a ‘private party line’ to the Hockessin Exchange.
 
To place a call to any other phone sharing the party line, all one had to do is turn the crank, which caused all telephone ringers on the party line to sing out. Ringing codes, a series of short and long rings between pauses, were used to signal which of up to a dozen party line phones needed to answer. The caller picked up the handset, and, placing it to their ear, then awaited to hear a familiar voice answer from afar.
 
1800s “telephony,”, as it was referred to in the late 1800s, was very simplistic and involved but few components. A small chamber of carbon granules within the transmitter (component one spoke into) transformed spoken word into an electrical signal. The handpiece held to the ear contained a horseshoe electromagnet to vibrate a disc for transforming the electrical signal back into sound for our ear to hear. Several dry cell batteries supplied power for the speaking circuit to operate.
 
That meant any telephone of the early era, wall mounted similar to the Marshall telephones or a candlestick desk phone, could only function one way. What was this unique operating characteristic of early 20th-century telephones?

Answer
The Marshall Kellogg telephones contain few components: the oak box everything was enclosed within, transmitter (part you talked into), receiver (part of the handset that was held to the ear for listening), induction coil (an audio transformer), magneto (generated up to 90 volts to operate multiple ringers), ringer (containing two saucer bells), batteries (large 1-½ volt carbon-zinc dry cells), hook (switching mechanism the handset (receiver) rested on when not in use). Two copper-coated steel wires interconnected multiple telephones on the same circuit in what was referred to as a “party line.”

In order for the transmitter to create an electrical signal that represented the sounds impinging on the transmitter disk, a capsule full of carbon granules was shaken by the attached diaphragm. The transmitter’s diaphragm and capsule’s end plates must be orientated vertically so that the capsule’s electrode ends internally contacted the carbon granules. Attached to the diaphragm, the capsule created a variable resistance reflecting the diaphragm’s vibrations. As the capsule vibrated, creating a constantly varying resistance, a variable electrical signal resulted, representing the vibrations of the diaphragm.

Early 1900s carbon capsule transmitters only operated if they were oriented so that the horn was horizontal! Position the transmitter’s horn vertically (i.e. transmitter horn pointed up or down) instead of horizontally, and the transmitter failed to function properly if at all. When the capsule was oriented horizontally, the carbon granules only contacted one end of the cylindrical capsule and a varying resistance could not be generated as the diaphragm vibrated! That is why candlestick telephones were always picked up using both hands; holding the handpiece to the ear and the candlestick base to the mouth. Wall phones, such as what the Marshalls had, were mounted with the transmitter at mouth height, and the handpiece was lifted off the hook and held to the ear.

Imagine today if capsules of carbon granules were still state of the art technology (they actually are still used for hazardous location microphones) and we could only use our mobile phones if the phone was held vertical! As the telephones aged, the carbon granules did break down by dusting, and the transmitter became less effective, requiring replacement of the transmitter capsule. It wasn’t until the later 1900s that the workhorse carbon microphone telephone transmitter was replaced with electronic microphones that did not rely on carbon capsules.

When the Marshall Steam Museum face lift is complete, and we’re permitted to host visitors at Steamin’ Days, the Kellogg telephones will be one of the new exhibit items to experience. Initially, due to COVID-19 museum touch guidelines, operating the Kellogg telephones will not be possible. Both telephones have been returned to full functionality nearly 125 years after they were originally constructed. Visitors eventually will be permitted to “ring up” the mating Kellogg phone on the museum’s “private party line” and hold a conversation with someone at the second Kellogg phone, much the same as Lizzy and Israel might have done in 1900 when Lizzy rang up Marshall Brothers Office to inform Israel and any guests that she was ready to serve dinner (what we call lunch today) or supper (what we call evening dinner today).  

MAIL BY RAIL

In the 1870s, U.S. mail from Hockessin traveled by the Wilmington & Western Rail Road to Wilmington, Delaware, as Wilmington’s Post Office was the central distribution sorting and distribution location for the city and surrounding Delaware area. How would a letter, addressed to a resident of Kaolin, Pennsylvania, which is two miles from Hockessin, have traveled once it left Wilmington? For extra credit, what railroads would have been involved?

 

Answer

The following article is from the January 30, 1873 Every Evening and describes the route taken by a letter mailed in Hockessin and addressed to a family in Kaolin, PA. A two-mile “as the crow flies” distance involved a 95-mile journey via the U.S. Post Office. After being placed in a canvas bag with other Hockessin mail, the bag heads eastbound on a Wilmington & Western Rail Road coach to the U.S. Post Office complex inside Wilmington’s Customs House (built 1855) at 6th and King streets in Wilmington. To reach Philadelphia from Wilmington, the letter would have traveled on the Philadelphia, Wilmington, & Baltimore Railroad.

While not mentioned in the article, the West Chester & Philadelphia Rail Road would have moved the letter between Philadelphia and West Chester. At West Chester’s Post Office (established January 1, 1804), a change to the Philadelphia & Baltimore Central Rail Road would have routed the letter through Chadds Ford (Post Office was not established until April 1, 1904), Fairville (Post Office established  March 20, 1849), Kennett Square (Post Office established July 1, 1803), Toughkenamon (Post Office established December 8, 1868), on its way to the Avondale Post Office (established December 29, 1828). The Kaolin Post Office (established on December 8, 1868) was serviced from the Avondale Post Office.

While the article cites an easterly route, at the time Landenberg had a Post Office (established November 17, 1848 as Chandlerville Post Office, later changing to Landenberg when the area adopted a new name by 1872.). Mail from the Landenberg Post Office in the 1870s would have traveled either east to Wilmington and on to Philadelphia for the northern states or south to Newark, Delaware, and on to Baltimore for delivery in the southern USA.

Interestingly the letter could have traveled from Hockessin to Landenberg on the Wilmington & Western Railroad. At Landenberg, the Pennsylvania & Delaware Rail Road would have been the mail carrier connecting Landenberg and Avondale. This route would have been approximately 30 miles in length.

Below is a section from a map dated 1871, “Map of the Rail Roads of Pennsylvania and Parts of Adjoining States,” showing the railroads that existed in northern Delaware and southeastern Pennsylvania. It provides a good reference for the railroad routes available at the time of the 1873 newspaper article. A couple interesting observations begin with “the wedge” shown for the intersection of the DE-MD-PA borders. An original proposed route for the Delaware & Chester County Rail Road Company, which was eventually renamed the Wilmington & Western Rail Road Company, was along Mill Creek instead of Red Clay Creek, and this map indicates the Mill Creek route.