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Early Communication


We are living in an age of information. Facebook, Twitter, email, blogs, all of which can be accessed by a variety of instruments, from an available computer in a library, to your own personal smart phones.

On this date in 1924, the Portland Republican reported that the city of Portland, North Dakota, was discovering its own method of instant communication. In an attempt to transmit radio concerts to Portland’s Opera House, the mayor, J.M. Wesley, had “one of the finest Western Electric Radio Receiving Sets” installed in his store, along with a three stage loudspeaker.

Wesley, along with City Engineer Albert Aamold, strung a wire from the three stage amplifier approximately five hundred feet to the Opera House, and they tested it after “the Moving Picture Show” was over at about 10:00 in the evening: “…the juice’ was turned on and Mr. Wesley ‘Tuned in’ on the concluding number broadcasted by the Sweeney Automobile School at Kansas City and proved conclusively that the efforts, although not entirely satisfactory on this first test, would be so after a few more times,” the newspaper reported. “The test however proved that in the future the public may look forward to some good Radio service.”

Portland had a problem with radio interference, especially in the early part of the evening, due in part to some generators, namely “the large 75 horsepower type ‘Y’ Fairbanks Morse Engine and the large dynamo in the City Power Plant.” This did cause some problems during the first testing of Mayor Wesley’s radio receiver, but once the engine was stopped, at 11:00, the radio receiver worked exceedingly well, to the delight of radio enthusiasts throughout Portland.

The receiver was to be used for all sorts of programming—including, since it was an election year, speeches and the like “by the Nation’s most prominent men in the large cities,” said a proud reporter, who was also in on the experiment.

And Wesley was already working to assemble another set, to pick up any radio station from across the country during the summer with the least amount of static. It was a way to spread information and provide recreation in a time when electronic communication was just emerging.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker


The Portland Republican, March 20, 1924