Guide to the Paul G. Watson Collection
NMAH.AC.0104

Administrative Information

Repository Information

Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 1991

P.O. Box 37012
 Suite 1100, MRC 601
 Washington, D.C., 20013-7012
 Phone: 202-633-3270
 archivescenter@si.edu

http://americanhistory.si.edu/archives/

Conditions Governing Access note

The collection is open for research use.

Researchers must handle unprotected photographs with gloves.

Conditions Governing Use note

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.

Custodial History note

The collection was transferred to the Archives Center from the Division of Electricity (now the Division of Work and Industry) in 1984.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

No acquisition paperwork is extant.

Processing Information note

Processed by Robert Harding, archivist, 1991; revised by Catherine Keen, archivist, June 2010.

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Summary Information

Repository
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Creator - Creator
Watson, Paul Gray, (naval officer), 1917-1971
Title
Paul G. Watson Collection
ID
NMAH.AC.0104
Date [inclusive]
1960-1965
Extent
1.00 Cubic feet, 2 boxes
Language
English
Abstract
The collection documents the early development of radio apparatus.

Preferred Citation note

Paul G. Watson Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

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Biographical/Historical note

Paul Watson (1917-1971) was a retired naval commander and collector of electron tubes and material documenting them.

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Scope and Contents note

The collection consists of five 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 also includes 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 the National Electric Signaling Company (NESCO) 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 miscellaneous materials consists of one folder of advertisements for various radio vacuum tube manufacturers and complete photographs of Watson's private tube collection.

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Arrangement note

The collection is arranged into one series.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

Materials in the Archives Center

George H. Clark Collection of Radioana (AC0055)

Materials at the National Museum of American History

Electron tubes related to Watson are in the Division of Work and Industry.

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Controlled Access Headings

Genre(s)

  • Correspondence--1930-1950
  • Photographs--Black-and-white photoprints--Silver gelatin--1950-2000
  • Sales catalogs
  • Technical literature

Subject(s)

  • Electric equipment
  • Electron tubes
  • Vacuum-tubes

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Collection Inventory

Box Binder

Historical Notes Covering the Invention and Early Development of the Electron Tube, Volume 1, undated

1 1

Historical Notes Covering the Invention and Early Development of the Electron Tube, Volume 2, undated

1 2

Historical Notes Covering the Invention and Early Development of the Electron Tube, Volume 3, undated

1 3

Historical Notes Covering the Invention and Early Development of the Electron Tube, Volume 4, undated

2 1

Historical Notes Covering the Invention and Early Development of the Electron Tube, Volume 5, undated

2 2

The Arlington Naval Radio Station, Its Early Years, 1909-1924, 1965

2 3
Box Folder

Miscellaneous materials, undated

2 1