Radiotelephone Service to Europe and Beyond: The Pole Farm in Lawrence, New Jersey

Paramaribo, Willemstad: detail of Antenna map at the Pole Farm, Mercer Meadows.
Last Pole Standing, viewed from the Reed/Bryan farm.

The original telephone system connected phones by copper wire strung up on poles. These “land-lines” faced a problem when confronted with obstacles like the Atlantic ocean, so it was not possible to connect the phone systems of distant countries. In the 1920s, AT&T developed a way of using short wave radio to transmit telephone signals over long distances without wires. In 1928, AT&T bought several farms in Lawrence, New Jersey, cleared the land, and began building a vast antenna array for trans-Atlantic telephone calls. The facility, officially called the American Telegraph & Telephone International Radio Telephone Transmission Station, was only responsible for calls originating in the United States. A separate facility in Netcong, New Jersey, received incoming calls from overseas.

The Lawrence station became known as the Pole Farm because the rhombic antennas that AT&T installed at the site were arranged in a diamond-shaped pattern on wooden poles up to ten stories tall. Each antenna covered 10 acres and connected New Jersey and the rest of the U.S.A. with a single city in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, or South America. Hundreds of these poles were arranged over the 800 acre facility. Open areas between the poles were leased to farmers, who had to plow around the many antennas.

Fewer than 50 calls were made on an average day in 1929, in part because a three-minute call to England cost over thirty dollars. The station, however, allowed almost instantaneous communication across the Atlantic Ocean (once trained telephone operators had arranged the connection). By the 1960s, however, international calls were more affordable and over 16,000 telephone calls were transmitted daily through the Pole Farm.

The Pole Farm shut down in 1975, replaced by undersea cables and satellites. Where once there were hundreds of wooden poles, there is now only one. That pole, which once transmitted phone calls to Israel, survived because the farmhouse next to it used it as a lightning rod.

The last pole.

Two buildings, imaginatively named Building One and Building Two, bracketed the antenna field. Both buildings have been demolished, but a memorial to the facility, built over Building One, includes a large concrete and stone map set into the ground, showing the layout of the antennas around the time of World War II. Each antenna is labeled with the city to which it transmitted phone calls.

Berlin, Reykjavik, Moscow, London: detail of Antenna map at the Pole Farm, Mercer Meadows.

The Pole Farm is now part of the Mercer Meadows county park and features restored grasslands, nature trails, and interpretive signs.

Reference:

Yearley, Alexandra
2013 “Pole Farm” remembered in Mercer Meadows plans. https://communitynews.org/2013/02/01/pole-farm-remembered-in-mercer-meadows-plans/

Albany Rural Cemetery

Founded in 1844, the Albany Rural Cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I don’t normally seek out cemeteries, but this is the second major rural cemetery I’ve visited in the last month or so.

President Chester Arthur is the most famous resident. New Jersey governor and U.S. Supreme Court justice William Paterson (namesake of the university in New Jersey) is also buried here.

Albany Rural Cemetery, Menands, New York.
Tomb of President Chester A. Arthur. Arthur benefited from political patronage and machine politics, but when he became president after the assassination of James Garfield, he threw his support behind the civil service reform movement. The 1883 Pendleton Act would lead to civil service jobs being awarded based on merit, not personal connections.


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Biking Route 66

The Adventure Cycling Association and other groups are developing a bicycle trail along the route of historic Route 66.

Stephanie Garber owns an RV park in Carthage, Missouri, along USBR 66. Although most of her customers arrive in motor homes or towing campers, so many cyclists now pass through that she created tent camping spaces specifically for them.

But making the route suitable for cyclists was no small task, and choosing the roads to include on the route meant balancing safety, tourism, and history. In addition to assessing factors like traffic volume and speed limits, staying close to the original highway and its Americana was paramount.

See the rest at Get Your Kicks Biking Route 66

The Kaleva Incident and the Death of Henry Antheil, Jr.


Antheil Family Tombstone, Riverview Cemetery, Trenton, NJ

The name Henry Antheil, Jr, is on a tombstone in Riverview Cemetery, but he is not buried there. Henry, the younger brother of avant-garde composer George Antheil, was a Trenton, New Jersey native who joined the U.S. Foreign service as a cipher clerk and was posted in Helsinki, Finland, at the beginning of World War II. Henry Antheil, Jr., could be considered an early American casualty of both World War II and the Cold War.

Henry Antheil, Jr. Source: Killed in Finland. Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/2006680357/

As the Nazis advanced on Paris, the Soviet Union moved towards taking over the Baltic country of Estonia. On June 14, 1940, the 27 year old Antheil was sent to pick up several diplomatic pouches from the American legation in Estonia’s capital. He then board a Finnish commercial airplane, the Kaleva, to return to Finland. Less than ten minutes after the Kaleva took off from Estonia, two Soviet bombers intercepted it and shot it out of the sky. Almost immediately, a Soviet submarine arrived at the crash location and seized the diplomatic pouches. There were no survivors. The plane has never been recovered. Continue reading “The Kaleva Incident and the Death of Henry Antheil, Jr.”

Touring Riverview Cemetery in Trenton, New Jersey

Trenton’s Riverview Cemetery has its origins in a Quaker Burying Ground established overlooking the Delaware River in 1685. This was later incorporated into the Riverview Cemetery when it was created in 1858.

Mysterious door references Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”
Her Last Words. “O Lord Help my Spirit Heavenward.”

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1970s London Archaeologist Culture

Archaeologists on a tea break in London, 1974. Source: Hobley’s Heroes.

Hobley’s Heroes is an online archive that shows something of life as an archaeologist digging in London in the 1970s and 1980s, including dig site photos and an fanzine-like comic/workplace newsletter. Brian Hobley, Chief Urban Archaeologist, was their boss. It’s a fascinating repository that includes some far out field fashion and a glossary of the digger’s argot (“If in doubt, rip it out” was in use at least as early as 1974).

Hobley’s Heroes, Issue 1. 1975. Source: Hobley’s Heroes

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Site of the First (Mostly) Complete Dinosaur Skeleton: Haddonfield, New Jersey

In 1858, William Parker Foulke was shown some large bones that had been dug out of a marl pit in Haddonfield, New Jersey, two decades earlier. Foulke and Joseph Leidy then dug up more bones from the site and named the dinosaur Hadrosaurus foulkii. Some earlier, more fragmented dinosaur remains had been found earlier in the nineteenth century, but Hadrosaurus was the first more or less complete dinosaur skeleton.

The original dig site is now in a park in Haddonfield. A plaque, interpretive sign, and a picnic table with toy dinosaurs you can play with commemorate the find. A statue of Hadrosaurus can be found a few minutes away in downtown Haddonfield.

Super Cub is Back in the U.S.A.

Honda Super Cub
2019 Honda Super Cub C125

Honda is releasing the newest version of one of the most iconic and best-selling motorcycles in the world,  the Super Cub C125, in the United States.

Available only in a red, white and blue colorway, the Super Cub has a four-speed semi-automatic transmission, 125cc engine, and more style than most bikes twice its size.

2019 Honda Super Cub C125

The Super Cub, in various formats, has been around since 1958, but hasn’t been sold in the U.S. since the 1980s (when it was called the Honda Passport). The Super Cub also was the inspiration for one of the most significant advertising campaigns, introduced in 1963:

The Super Cub, and its variants, have been sold continuously in other parts of the world. The U.S. version will be released in 2019 and has a list price of only $3,599.