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/

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

Continue reading “1970s London Archaeologist Culture”

Open Access: Kangaroos and California, Peanut Butter and Jelly

The University of California Press has made all their journal articles freely available for the month of April.

UC Press, which is celebrating their 125th anniversary, publishes California History, where you can read Kangaroos and the California Gold Rush by Cyler Conrad. The first kangaroos arrived in California in 1850 in the form of rugs, or skins; it wasn’t until 1852 that a live kangaroo made the voyage over from Australia.

kangaroo
Source: Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash

Other journals are Journal of the Society of Architectural HistoriansHistorical Studies in the Natural Sciences, The Public Historian, and Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies, which recently published  a history of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Source: Evan-Amos [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
References:

Conrad, Cyler
2017 Kangaroos and the California Gold Rush. California History 94 (3):62-65.  DOI: 10.1525/ch.2017.94.3.62

Estes, Steve
2017 PB&J: The Rise and Fall of an Iconic American Dish. Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies 17 (2):5-15.

The Rocket Car “Moon Girl” of 1929: A History

Hungerford Rocket Car

The New York State Library’s Instagram feed just reminded of this book from 2013 (freely available from the New York State Museum): Daniel and Floyd Hungerford: Rocket Power, Interstellar Travel, and Eternal Life, by Geoffrey N. Stein.

Yes, it’s a rocket car. Yes, you could legally drive it on New York roads. Yes, the name of the rocket car is Shirley Lois “The Moon Girl.”  Yes, Buck Rogers himself told Daniel and Floyd that they “were doing humanity a real service.”

OK, so pictures of the Hungerford Rocket are all over the internet –like on the Hemmings blog, and there’s more on io9-but Geoffrey Stein has produced what will likely be the definitive (and probably the only) history of it and its creators.

The Hungerfords were automobile mechanics and airplane builders and repairers in Elmira, New York,  in the early days of aviation.  Floyd had “the personality of a dumpling” and Dan claimed to have psychic powers.  They built the Moon Girl in 1929, using an eight year old Chevy chassis, wood, cardboard (for easy egress in case of emergency), and an iron rocket.

After building and driving their rocket car, they set their sights higher:  “we considered trying to build a rocket ship which might reach the Moon, but we never got any further on this than having a picture painted by a sign painter we knew.” (p. 21)

Download the pdf at the New York State Museum

Edited from and originally posted on Adequacy.

History Program at the New York State Museum

Upcoming Great Places and Spaces history event in Albany this Saturday. From the press release:

Representatives from state historic sites and cultural institutions will provide educational hands-on activities, unique artifacts to explore, and information about upcoming events during the annual “New York State’s Great Places and Spaces” program on Saturday, January 14 from noon to 4:00 p.m. at the New York State Museum. 

Visitors can learn about New York State history through activities and information provided by over 20 state historic sites, museums, and libraries. In addition, The Iron Jacks, a singing group that specializes in songs about U.S. sailors of the Civil War era, will perform at noon and 2:00 p.m. There will also be a guided tour of the Hudson Valley Ruins exhibition at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. and a “hands-on” cart of Native Peoples reproduction objects where visitors can get first-hand experience with materials used by the Iroquois in the past and present.

Participating institutions include the Adirondack Museum, Albany Institute of History & Art, Albany Pine Bush, Burden Iron Works, Civil War Round Table, Crailo State Historic Site, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum, Historic Cherry Hill, Guilderland Historical Society, Johnson Hall State Historic Site, Knox’s Headquarters State Historic Sites, New Windsor Cantonment, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, Olana State Historic Site, Saratoga National Historical Park, Saratoga Racing & Hall of Fame, Schenectady Historical Society, Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site, U.S. Grant Cottage Historic Site, and U.S. Naval Landing Party.

Admission is free. Further information about programs and events can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the Museum website at www.nysm.nysed.gov.

International Scout: The Encyclopedia

1976 IH Scout II
1976 International Scout II. Source: blog.hemmings.com

So two guys wrote an encyclopedia about International Harvester’s Scout SUV/truck/jeep competitor and it’s 384 pages long. On of those guys is 4WD historian Jim Allen, and the other is John Glancy, a Scout collector who also owns the rights to the Scout name (?!?).

The book is International Scout Encyclopedia: The Authoritative Guide to IH’s Legendary 4×4   More on the book here.

International Scout
Source: https://octanepress.com/book/international-scout-encyclopedia