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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Don't Touch That Dial: 1921

Don't Touch That Dial: 1921

November 10, 1921. "Radio switchboard" somewhere in the vicinity of New York City. View full size. 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Affirmative, Dave, I read you.

Here we see Dave maintaining the Shorpy Information Blog 9000.


Those panels were usually made from slabs of dark-grey slate, bolted to metal's all open behind the panels and made for easy access when wiring or changing bits of equipment.

Contactors for switching high voltages were always carbon/copper arrangements, with the carbon contacts being the fixed component and the copper being the moving component. When those things dropped out they'd draw a bright blue-green arc.

One of the worst things about these slate 'boards was that they would often develop cracks - particularly if they held heavy switchgear. Eventally a carbon track may build up between two adjacent fixed contacts and KA-BLEWY!
You didn't want to be near the baord when that happened!

Paging "MacZad" ...

You gotta wonder if the people who post these comments ever see the replies.

[As a matter of fact, I do wonder. - Dave]

Radio Related ?

This photo is only distantly related to radio, if it is at all related. It says "Radio Switchboard," but everything in sight is power gear. Big switches, big circuit breakers, wheel-type knobs (never used on transmitters). There is no evidence of RF transmission lines coming out of the top of any of the gear anywhere in the room. Tim Hughes comment above about being the power plant for an Alexanderson alternator is the only radio related possibility for 1921, and this huge room full of gear seems overkill even for that.

[This was a transmitter powerhouse owned by Radio Corporation of America. Below: Antenna masts, 410 feet tall, behind the building, and a pair of 200 kw General Electric alternators. Click to enlarge. - Dave]

Yes! Yes!

He vas my boyfriend!

Goober Pea

Transmitting station

This picture predates high power valve transmitters. I suspect power plant for an Alexanderson alternator.

Power station?

These look more like a power station control panels than a transmitter. All I see are switches, relays, rheostats and meters. While transmitters had these, they also had large glass tubes visible through windows or mesh screens so the operator could see if they were arcing or over-heating. I see nothing like this here.

Westinghouse relays

I can tell you that the two devices (under the horizontal meter) in the farthest right/top cabinet are Westinghouse time-delay relays. That model relay was still being used in transmitters through the early 60s.

I love the look of

I love the look of 'old-fashioned' technology. It really blows me away.

[I agree. This one has kind of a Frankenstein vibe. - Dave]

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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