Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Fascinating QSL Card Sent by Killian Van Rensselaer Langsingh of Elderwood Avenue in 1924


The nearly one hundred year old QSL Card depicted below reads like a coded message which, in a way, it was.  Killian Van Rensselaer Lansingh of 226 Elderwood Avenue in Pelham Heights mailed the card shortly after a significant event on December 21, 1924.  It reads, in part:

"This crd fm 2ATF Dec. 21, 1924 . . . 
Wud appreciate a QSL on my sigs if QRB is over 1,000 miles, or if u r outside the continental U.S.A.  Vy best 73's"

An image of the QSL Card appears immediately below.


QSL Card Sent by 2ATF (Killian Van Rensselaer Lansingh)
Shortly After December 21, 1924.  NOTE:  Click on Image
to Enlarge.

This is an early QSL Card that says a great deal about the history of the little Town of Pelham.  A QSL Card is a postcard mailed to confirm "either a two-way radio communication between two amateur radio stations or a one-way reception of a signal from an AM radio, FM radio, television or shortwave broadcasting station," among other things.  See "QSL Card" in Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia (visited Oct. 15, 2018).  Indeed, according to one source:

"During the early days of radio broadcasting, the ability for a radio set to receive distant signals was a source of pride for many consumers and hobbyists. Listeners would mail "reception reports" to radio broadcasting stations in hopes of getting a written letter to officially verify they had heard a distant station. As the volume of reception reports increased, stations took to sending post cards containing a brief form that acknowledged reception. Collecting these cards became popular with radio listeners in the 1920s and 1930s, and reception reports were often used by early broadcasters to gauge the effectiveness of their transmissions."  Source:  Id. 

This QSL Card was prepared by Pelham Ham Radio Operator Killian Van Rensselaer Lansingh of Pelham Heights.  At the time he sent this QSL Card, Lansingh was a college student attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  He was home on Winter Break.

According to the Bureau of Navigation Radio Service, U.S. Department of Commerce and its "Amateur Radio Stations of the U.S. 1924-26," Killian V. R. Lansingh had a 500-Watt Ham Radio Broadcasting station at his home (actually, that of his parents), as indicated on the QSL Card, at 226 Elderwood Avenue in Pelham.  See Department of Commerce Bureau of Navigation Radio Service, Amateur Radio Stations of the United States -- Edition June 30, 1924, pp. 40 & 58 (Washington, D.C.:  Government Printing Office, 1924).   

With this QSL card, Lansingh was acknowledging receipt of a signal from a station the call signal of which was 3BDO.  That station was owned by Russel U. Waite of North West Avenue, Vineland, N. J.  Waite owned a small 25-Watts Ham Radio Broadcast Station at that location.  See id., pp. 69 & 89.  Lansingh noted that he received the signal from Waite's station, about 140 miles away, at 2105 Greenwich Mean Time on December 21, 1924 (5:05 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, December 21, 1924).  

The card itself is fascinating.  At first blush, it seems to be a card printed for use by two stations with the call signals of 2ATF of Pelham, New York (Killian V. R. Lansingh) and 1BAN of Wellesley, Massachusetts.  The latter call signal might seem to belong to a friend or acquaintance of Lansingh who shared the cost of printing the card.  That, however, was not the case.  Lansingh actually operated a second less powerful 100-Watts Ham Radio Station from a second location in Massachusetts.  According to the same Department of Commerce source cited above, Lansingh operated the station at  245 Bellevue Street (actually the address blacked out on the QSL Card) in Newtown, Massachusetts.  See id., pp. 9 & 28.  The card, with the blacked-out 245 Bellevue Street address, indicates the station as located at 18 Abbott Street (about 11 miles away).  

The logo design at the top of the card shows that Lansingh was a member of ARRL (American Radio Relay League, a worldwide organization of amateur radio operators founded in 1914).  Beneath the log is the reference "QRK?"  Posed as a question, this is a reference to the "QRK" signal reporting codes for use in Morse Code / wireless telegraphy.  It is, in effect, the question "What is the intelligibility of my signals?"

Oddly, although the Federal Government listed Lansingh's Pelham station as 500 Watts, on the QSL Card he lists it as 200 Watts within the following reference:

"Receiver:  3 circuit eso step AF.
Transmitter:  200 watts input, CW [struck out] es
ICW, in Coup. Hart circuit.  
Usual QRH abt 75 m."

Lansingh closes his communication in two places with the reference "73's".  The number "73" in Morse Code is an old telegraph code that means "best regards" and is a regular part of the language of Ham Radio.  

This QSL Card provides a fascinating glimpse of an important time in the history of Pelham.  The Roaring Twenties were well underway.  Affluent Pelhamites were fascinated with the relatively new technology of radio broadcasting that was beginning to gain broad consumer acceptance.  Indeed, I have written about Pelham's fascination at the time with the new technology.  See:

Mon., May 22, 2017:  Early Radio in Pelham:  Pelham Firefighters and Business at Pelham Picture House Installed "Radiophone" in 1922.  

Thu., May 22, 2014:  The Earliest Days of Radio in the Town of Pelham

Wed., Jan. 22, 2014:  Pelham Becomes Enthralled with the New-Fangled Entertainment Medium of Radio.

Killian Van Rensselaer Lansingh, of course, went well beyond installing a simple radio receiver in his home.  He built two Ham Radio broadcast stations -- one in Pelham and one in Massachusetts.  He clearly was an early and avid Ham Radio enthusiast.  He was born in Chicago on April 3, 1902, a son of Van Rensselaer Killianse Lansingh and Marian Love Miner Lansingh.  He married Velma A. Ahlstrom on November 8, 1930.  They had three children.  He died at the age of 71 on May 16, 1973 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico of cardiac arrest during a bout of hypostatic pneumonia and is buried at Panteon Colonias, Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico.

Interestingly, only a few months after Lansingh sent this QSL Card, his Ham Radio station became somewhat controversial in the Town of Pelham.  At the time, radio receiver aficionados who were trying to listen to radio broadcasts were experiencing radio interference that made it difficult for them to pick up broadcasts on their expensive radio receivers.  Pelhamites began to point the finger at the Ham Radio broadcast station maintained by Lansingh on Elderwood Avenue.

By February, Lansingh had had enough of the accusations and wrote a letter to the Editor of The Pelham Sun.  Shortly thereafter, the newspaper published an article on the first page of its February 27, 1925 issue entitled "Radio Trouble In Pelham Not Due To Lansingh."  It turned out that shortly after Lansingh sent this QSL Card, he had returned to college as of January 4, 1925.  His transmitter had sat unused since that time while he was away at school, as the article explained.  The article further noted:

"Mr. Lansingh claims he suffers the same interference the others do in Pelham.  He suggests he would be glad to help any who believe they suffer due to undue interference if they will call him up when he is in Pelham.  Owners of single circuit receivers in Lansingh's opinion, not only have not done their share in getting rid of interference by using a sharp tuning receiver, but are causing a large share of the interference from which the other broadcast listeners suffer."


Recent Photograph of the Home at 226 Elderwood, Built in
1910, Where Killian Van Rensselaer Lansingh Maintained
Ham Radio Station 2ATF During the Mid-1920s.  NOTE:
Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *

"Radio Trouble In Pelham Not Due To Lansingh
-----
Transmitting Station On Elderwood Avenue Has Same Interference As Other Pelham Radio Operators
-----

Killian V. R. Lansingh of 226 Elderwood Avenue, Pelham, in a letter to the Pelham Sun, denies he is responsible for the large part of the interference suffered by Pelham radio broadcast listeners.  He has a radio transmitting station at his home, but tells us he has been away at college since January 4th, and his station was inoperative from that date until February 23rd.  

Mr. Lansingh claims he suffers the same interference the others do in Pelham.  He suggests he would be glad to help any who believe they suffer due to undue interference if they will call him up when he is in Pelham.

Owners of single circuit receivers in Lansingh's opinion, not only have not done their share in getting rid of interference by using a sharp tuning receiver, but are causing a large share of the interference from which the other broadcast listeners suffer."

Source:  Radio Trouble In Pelham Not Due To Lansingh -- Transmitting Station On Elderwood Avenue Has Same Interference As Other Pelham Radio Operators, The Pelham Sun, Feb. 27, 1925, Vol. 15, No. 52, p. 1, col. 3.  

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