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Triptych: 1917

Arlington, Virginia, circa 1917. "Radio." Masts for the Navy's wireless station, built in 1912 at Fort Myer. Harris & Ewing glass negative. View full size.

Arlington, Virginia, circa 1917. "Radio." Masts for the Navy's wireless station, built in 1912 at Fort Myer. Harris & Ewing glass negative. View full size.


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San Diego tower sisters

I was in San Diego and watched a similar set blown up in the 90s. They were the ones that had recieved and passed on the news from Pearl Harbor.


The Arlington, Va. towers sent out a regular time signal from the clock at the National Observatory. Weather reports were also broadcast. Permitting others to synchronize with an official time was significant. Time of day is a subtle empire thing. You just cannot imagine the difficulty created when there is no settled arbiter to declare the top of the hour.

["Subtle empire"? - Dave]

What a rare treat ! I love this!

I am the radio System Manager for Arlington County, Virginia, and I needed to thank you for the photos at Fort Myer, in San Diego, and the newspaper article from 1911! To be able to peer into 1917 and see those towers is a gift. We cannot build towers in our urban Arlington any longer, but must use existing office buildings for our radio sites. Thank you for this, it is meaningful in so many ways. I only wish my grandfather were here to ask if he remembered them!! A big thanks to my co-worker, Paul, who found this site.

VLF transmitters

Very few are left. There's one preserved in Sweden, still used one day every year.

War of the Worlds!

Three machines, striding across the misty landscape and the leader, with arms outstretched, about to tromp on an unsuspecting household.

Wireless Telegraphy

The Navy's wireless communiques transmitted over the Fort Myer and Chollas triatic antennas, and well as ship to shore, were all sent with telegraph keys using Morse Code and naval encrypted telegraph codes. For the inaugural commissioning ceremony at Chollas Heights, a special sterling silver and ebony telegraph key was created by a local jeweler. Voice and other forms of data transmissions between these stations would come much later.

Old Faithful

A concise history of early Navy wireless.

The signal from NSS at Arlington was audible across the country. I used to hear it easily in Kansas.... the rhythm of dah-dit dit-dit-dit dit-dit-dit remains in my memory like a favorite song.

[I think you linked to the wrong article. - Dave]


Could it have been in contact with the Titanic, or was it too early? How about the Lusitania or other ships in distress? Was it used in WWI? What were its accomplishments?

Fort Myer's Twin Sister

In 1917 the triatic antenna at Fort Myer was linked to a series of similar wireless station antennas that allowed the Navy to communicate with Pearl Harbor and the Philippines. San Diego provided the transcontinental relay to Hawaii with the Navy's 600-foot triatic antenna at Chollas Heights (a few miles east of San Diego Bay), seen here in a San Diego Historical Society "Journal" image. On Dec. 7, 1941, the Chollas antenna relayed the news from Pearl Harbor to Fort Myer, and remained in use until the 1970s. It was demolished about 8 years ago to make way for a naval housing project. The three 600-ft. towers supported a solid copper wire, the actual antenna element, suspended vertically between them from the top level down to a radio room on the ground. Those little horizontal catwalks at the top of each tower in both photos were 32 feet wide.

Naval Dreams

Navy Will Erect a 600-Foot
Tower at Fort Myer

A powerful wireless telegraph station of the navy, capable of communicating with naval vessels 2,000 and possibly 3,000 miles distant from Washington, will be erected at Fort Myer.

The high-power plant will be designed to keep the headquarters of the American navy in close touch with war vessels in the Atlantic Ocean. It has been the dream of naval officials for years to erect such a station in the environs of the National Capital.

At one time it was suggested that a wireless mast for the purpose be constructed on top of the Washington monument, but strenuous objections were raised to the proposition, and several sites have been suggested since and discarded.

Washington Post, Mar 27, 1911

Will Build 3 Towers

U.S. Wireless Plant at Arlington to Eclipse Monument

The construction of three wireless towers to be erected on the government reservation at Arlington by the Navy Department will mark a new era in electricity.

The towers will be arranged in the form of an isosceles triangle, the central one being at the apex and standing 600 feet over all. The other two towers will be each 450 feet in height and self supporting; that is, there will be no guy ropes of any kind reaching from one tower to another. Some idea of the massiveness of the frame work in the towers may be gathered from the fact that 900 tons of steel will be used in the construction. Notwithstanding this fact, they will not be bulky, but will present a pleasing appearance of a delicate cobweb tracery against the skyline. The original plan called for towers of reinforced concrete, but as one of the structures will be higher than the Washington Monument, patriotic naval officials decided that a change of idea would be necessary to avoid detracting from the memorial to the first president.

Washington Post, Jun 13, 1911

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