OVERVIEW OF THE COLLECTION
Title: Paul G. Watson Collection
Collection Date(s): 1960-1965
Extent and Forms of Material: 1 cubic foot (2 boxes)
Creator: Paul G. Watson
Abstract: 6 volumes of loose-leaf binders documenting the early development of radio apparatus.
Collection Number: AC0104
Processing Note: Processed by Robert Harding, archivist, 1991; revised by Catherine Keen, archivist, June 2010.
INFORMATION FOR USERS OF THE COLLECTION
Conditions Governing Access: The collection is open for research use.
Physical Access : Researchers must handle unprotected photographs with gloves.
Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use: Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Reproduction permission from Archives Center: fees for commercial use. All duplication requests must be reviewed and approved by Archives Center staff.
Preferred Citation: [Title and date of item], Paul G. Watson Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, box number X, folder number XX, digital file number XXXXXXXX
IN-DEPTH INFORMATION ABOUT THE COLLECTION
Biographical History: Paul Watson (1917-1971) was a retired naval commander and collector of electron tubes and material documenting them. He donated a large number of electron tubes to the Division of Electricity at the National Museum of History and Technology (now the National Museum of American History).
Scope and Content: The collection consists of six loose leaf binders labeled Historical Notes Concerning the Invention and Early Development of the Electron Tube. The binders contain articles reproduced by Watson from the diaries and publications of several radio developers as well as chapters written by Watson himself. Concentrating most heavily on Lee de Forest’s invention of the “audion” electrolytic receiver and amplifier between 1902 and 1907, Watson narrates the story of the electron vacuum tube. The three-electrode tube patented by de Forest combined all of the technology of Edison and Marconi into an extremely efficient and high-frequency-producing radio device. After 1915 transmissions through the air from Arlington, Virginia to both San Francisco and the Eiffel Tower, the age of the electron vacuum tube had arrived. Several companies sought rights to its development, and Watson’s combination of personal insight and original material brings order to these early days of wireless communication.
The collection neatly separates into three distinct divisions: a one-volume book on the Arlington, Virginia radio transmitter; a five volume study of the electron tube’s development; and a folder of miscellaneous materials. The single volume is a 1965 work which tells the story of NESCO (National Electric Signaling Company) and Naval involvement at the Arlington short wave radio transmission station. Built in 1909 by NESCO, this station was originally equipped with a huge 100 kilowatt spark transmitter in an effort to concentrate all Atlantic Naval communication and to provide a means of directly signaling the West Coast. A more effective and compact kilowatt arc or “continuous wave” transmitter was added in 1913, and in 1924 several vacuum tube transmitters superseded both former types. This work is the story of that transition. The five volume set contains an overview of wireless development throughout the twenties and beginning with the vacuum tube development. The first volume discusses de Forest’s life’s work, the manufacture of his “audions”, General Electric radio-receiving tube progress, and selected quotes from de Forest’s letters to Watson. The second volume narrates Watson’s experience with amateur radio, radio in the U.S. Navy, early radio organizations, and General Electric and Westinghouse developments. The third volume provides a list of brand names and manufacturers of electron tubes and a series of photographs of Watson’s personal tube collection. The fourth volume develops de Forest’s pre-“audion” days and discusses his company’s line of radio equipment. The fifth and final volume contains a catalogue of Marconi brand equipment and several illustrated chapters on naval radio in World War I, including the 1915 Arlington experiments. The folder contains advertisements of various radio vacuum tube manufacturers and complete photographs of Watson’s private tube collection.
System of Arrangement: Collection is arranged into one series.
Acquisition Information: This collection was transferred to the Archives Center from the Division of Electricity in 1984. Watson had donated a large number of electron tubes to the Museum in the 1960s, and presumably he donated the archival collection at that time, although no acquisition paperwork is extant.
Related Archival Materials: The Archives Center also holds the George H. Clark Collection of Radioana.