Ham Radio & Canda: USESCO, Lee De Forest & Von Arco: Marine Radio in the Atlantic Part 3

German Inventors

Ferdinand Braun, Adolf Slaby and George von Arco, three German inventors, were working with two separate companies both of which were pursuing the same goal. A commercially successful radio system-in competition with one another as well as with Marconi.

George von Arco/ CREDITS to Bundesarchiv

Their fierce rivalry was ended in 1903 by the intervention of the Kaiser when they merged together to form the Telefunken system
which concentrated its ruthless drive against
Marconi and other non-German companies.

USESCO

With powerful political support, the system quickly became an important force in the field of radio communication. Meanwhile in the United States, a different group of competitors had developed.

In 1897 the first American radio company was established
The United States Electrical Supply Company
(USESCO)
-by a Canadian, William Joseph Clarke.

Incorporated a day before Marconi’s first firm in
England, on 19 July 1897, USESCO was manufacturing spark transmitters and receivers for sale in 1898.

Clarke took responsibility for demonstrating the capabilities
of the company equipment at electrical shows,
learning meetings and other public forums including the 1899 Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. Together with Marconi, he reported America’s Cup yacht races of 1899 using his system in addition to Marconi’s.

Positive Publicity

The positive publicity coming from these demonstrations and others which for an example, ultimately led to a few commercial sales to the U.S Army Signal Corps.


During the same time, another Canadian working in the United States, Reginald Fessenden, was employed by the U.S. Weather Bureau to develop “a network of wireless stations on the eastern seaboard for the exchange of meteorological data”

Reginald Fessenden


After leaving there in 1902, he formed the National Electric Signalling Company with two businessmen from Pittsburgh named Given and Walker. He then set out to prove not only that his system could provide transatlantic radio communication just as well as Marconi’s had, but that he could accomplish feats that Marconi had not imagined. Referring to wireless or radiotelephony.

Lee De Forest

In 1901, Fessenden had patented a very high-frequency alternator and in 1904, his company was advertising radio telephone sets using a combination of high-speed alternator and quenched spark
gap for sale with a guaranteed range of 40 kilometres.

At this time, Lee de Forest was at work in the United States. He came into direct competition with Marconi in 1901 when they both attempted to
report the international yacht races at New York by
radio.

Lee De Forest

Failed

Both of them could not tune his apparatus, the attempted transmissions interfered with one another and the whole demonstration was a failure.

Continued On

Lee, however, continued with his research
despite the setback and went on to form a series
of companies including the De Forest Wireless
Telegraph Company which, after a few years, had
won two important awards for radio, proved
the viability of long-distance radio over land under
certain conditions, and had competed successfully
against Fessenden and Telefunken for important
U.S. Navy contracts.