Electro Importing Catalog
Hugo Gernsback was born in Luxembourg in 1884 and he became fascinated with electricity as a boy. While studying electrical engineering at a Technikum University in Bingen, Germany; he built a simple radio transmitter and receiver. Gernsback also developed a powerful dry-cell battery but was unable to patent it in Europe. In February 1904 Gernsback emigrated to America hoping to sell his battery design to automobile companies and had modest success with this. Gernsback lived in a New York City boarding house where he met Lewis Coggeshall, a railroad telegraph operator. They found it difficult to purchase radio parts in New York City so in 1905 they decided to start the Electro Importing Company to sell European-imported radio components and electrical components by mail-order. An early product was a spark-gap telegraph transmitter with a one-mile range that was first advertised in the November 25, 1905, issue of Scientific American and sold for $8.50. Another product featured in The Electro Importing Company was Gernsback's own Telimco Wireless Telegraph, the name of which comes from the letters in the catalog's name. The set was sold starting in 1905, with the lowest-priced option starting at $6.00 The low price caused trouble, however, as Gernsback received accusations of fraud from people who believed the Telimco was too cheap to be a product of actual quality. Upon investigation, Gernsback and Coggeshall were able to prove to a police officer who had come to the Electro Importing Company's office that the Telimco did work as advertised. The Electro Importing Company catalogs soon had 64 pages of products and detailed technical articles on how to use the components offered for sale. The catalog used the title Modern Electrics in 1908 before the magazine was launched. The catalog continued to grow and used various titles. The catalog reached several prominent radio entrepreneurs, including Lee De Forest, who read the catalog while developing his Audion tube, Edgar Felix, who purchased headphones from the store on Fulton Street, and Stanley Manning, a Detroit Broadcaster who traveled to New York to see Gernsback's store.
Gernsback bought Coggeshall's share of the company in 1907. To expand Electro Importing, Gernsback ran a classified ad in the January 27, 1908 New York Times looking for a new investor.
Partner wanted in well-established electrical manufacturing business; good chance for right party; have more orders than can fill; only parties with sufficient capital need apply. H. Gernsback, 108 Duane St.
Milton Hymes answered and with the new capital, Electro Importing moved to a larger building on Fulton Street and later opened two retail stores. Modern Electrics was launched as a magazine in April 1908. The Electro Importing Catalogs continued independently. This is the magazine where Gernsback wrote his first science fiction story "Ralph 124C 41+" in April 1911. Gernsback wanted to start a second magazine, "Electrical Experimenter", so he sold Modern Electrics and the Modern Publishing Company to a business partner, Orland Ridenour. The last issue with Hugo Gernsback as editor was March 1913. The first issue of "Electrical Experimenter" was May 1913. Modern Publishing acquired Electrician and Mechanic and merged it with Modern Electrics in January 1914 to become Modern Electrics and Mechanics. After a series of mergers and title changes the magazine became Popular Science Monthly in October 1915 and is still published today.
Hugo Gernsback frequently formed new partnerships with investors for a new magazine or other opportunity (such as a radio station). The Experimenter Publishing Company was incorporated in March 1915. The corporate officers were Hugo Gernsback, his brother Sidney Gernsback and Milton Hymes. Hymes had worked with Gernsback since 1908 and was an officer in both the Electro Importing Company and the Experimenter Publishing Company. Hymes died in a railroad accident in 1917. Robert W. De Mott replaced Hymes as advertising manager and corporate Secretary.