Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America
The Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America (commonly called American Marconi) was incorporated in 1899. It was established as a subsidiary of the British
During World War One the United States government assumed control of the radio industry. After the war government officials balked at returning the American Marconi stations to the original owners, distrusting British control of radio communication due to national security concerns. Lead by the U.S. Navy, the government pressured the Marconi companies to transfer American Marconi to a U.S. owner. The American Marconi assets were purchased by
On July 20, 1897, the Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company, Limited, was founded in London to promote the radio inventions of Guglielmo Marconi. (The company's name was changed to Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company, Limited in March 1900, and was commonly referred to as "British Marconi".) Looking to expand their efforts worldwide, a roster of subsidiary companies was established, holding regional rights to the Marconi patents. The Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America was incorporated in New Jersey on November 8, 1899 as the first subsidiary company. It was granted the "sole right to use and exploit the Marconi patents in the United States of America, the Hawaiian Islands, Philippine Islands, Cuba, Porto Rico, Alaska and the Aleutian Islands".
In the opinion of the Marconi companies, they were the only legitimate radio communication providers, as they asserted that all their competitors provided inferior offerings that infringed on the Marconi patents. Following standard Marconi policy, prior to 1912 American Marconi would not sell equipment, instead leasing it, while supplying operators who were loyal company employees. The most controversial early company policy was the standing order that, except in the case of emergencies, Marconi shore and ship stations would refuse to communicate with vessels employing radio equipment manufactured by other companies. This unwillingness to communicate with other systems would eventually be prohibited by international treaties, beginning with the first International Radiotelegraphic Convention held in Berlin in 1903. In the United States, the
American Marconi's growth in the United States was initially limited due to some unusual factors. Its largest potential customer was the U.S. government, and in particular the U.S. Navy, which rapidly developed plans to equip its vessels with radio transmitters. However, the Navy would have a contentious relationship with the company during most of its existence. An early source of friction was a Marconi station installed on the Nantucket Shoals light-ship by the
Naval officials also wanted to purchase radio equipment outright, instead of leasing it, something American Marconi would not agree to prior to the 1912 policy change. They additionally felt the prices American Marconi wanted to charge were exorbitant. Thus, the Navy instead turned to other manufacturers, in particular, the German firm Telefunken. The Navy also contracted with domestic firms to produce equipment according to designs specified by the Navy, and produced additional equipment in its own shops.
On the commercial side, American Marconi's primary early competitor was the American DeForest Wireless Telegraph Company, which in late 1906 reorganized as the
Faced with these barriers, American Marconi initially concentrated on establishing a small number of high-powered land stations, which provided transatlantic communication in competition with the existing undersea telegraph cables, in addition to serving passenger vessels making the Atlantic crossing. As late as early 1912, the company had only five land stations and forty marine installations.
John Bottomley, a New York attorney, had primary responsibility for setting up American Marconi, and after a 1902 reorganization served as the new company's general manager, secretary and treasurer. In 1913
American Marconi also branched out into some ancillary activities. In 1911, the Wanamaker department stores contracted to have radiotelegraph stations, providing two-way communication, installed atop their Philadelphia and New York City stores. The next year a manufacturing plant was established in Aldene, New Jersey; previously equipment had been imported from Great Britain. Beginning in 1912 the company published a monthly magazine named The Marconigraph, which a year later was expanded and renamed The Wireless Age, and in 1912 it also took over United Wireless' The Aerogram magazine, relaunching it as Ocean Wireless News. One of the more ambitious projects involved tests installing radio communication equipment aboard Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad trains, conducted in 1913. In late 1915 the company announced the formation of the National Amateur Wireless Association (NAWA), an organization oriented towards