Warehouse C
Nathan Who?
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Nathan Stubblefield – The Real Inventor Of Radio


By James Donahue


It appears that the American capitalist system has been stifling the work of creative genius for more years than we would like to admit Consider the case of Nathan Stubblefield, the man who built and demonstrated the first wireless communication device in 1892.


“Nathan who?” You may be asking.


Indeed, any American history student knows that Guglielmo Marconi was the man who sent the first successful radio transmission in 1895. and flashed the first known wireless radiotelegraph signal in 1902. And Nikola Tesla, who beat Marconi in production of this same technology by a few months, recently was awarded the patent in a case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court.


According to the approved and accepted books on American history, the concept of the cellular telephone was conceived by D. H. Ring at the Bell Labs in 1947 and the first working cell phone was produced in 1973 when Martin Cooper made a call from Motorola to his rival, Joe Engel of AT&T Bell Labs.


The first cellular telephone network was started in Japan in 1979, and Illinois Bell opened the first commercial cellular system in the United States in 1983. The cell phones have been driving us all crazy ever since.


Stubblefield, a backyard inventor who made his living working as a telephone repairman in Calloway County, Kentucky, amazed a small crowd of people in front of the county courthouse in Murray, Kentucky, on Jan. 1, 1902, when he sent messages from telephones located about 200 feet apart, and were not connected by wires.


Witnesses said Stubblefield and his son, Bernard, who helped in the demonstration, talked to each other and their voices were clearly audible. The demonstration made headlines in local newspapers.


So just what was it that Stubblefield built and demonstrated in that Kentucky courtyard in 1892?


Legal documents show that between 1885 and 1913, Stubblefield invented, developed, manufactured and sold a wired mechanical telephone as well as a wireless telephone system. He did it by founding his own companies and partnerships.


Those companies included NBS Enterprises, the Wireless Telephone Company of America, The Gehring-Fennell-Stubblefield Group, the Continental Wireless Tel.&Tel company, the Collins Wireless Telephone Company and Teleph-on-delgreen.


We know that the development of telephone and radio communications was a long process that utilized the many discoveries of a long list of inventions that probably had their origins in 1860, when James Maxwell of Scotland theorized the existence of radio waves, and German physicist Heinrich Hertz proved him correct. After that, inventors all over the world worked on the concept of sending sound signals over wires, or through the air. Stubblefield was just one of the many people working on this problem. And it appears that he may have gotten there first.


So why don’t we remember Stubblefield for his work? Remember that America is a capitalistic-driven nation. It is that today and it was in Stubblefield’s day. Once the concept of wireless communications was proven, the rush was on among the people with power and wealth to snap up the wealth and stifle efforts by anyone else threatening to get in their way.


As one writer explained it: “the games played by the monopolistic ‘radio’ narcissists during the years before World War I, did keep the Stubblefield version of the wireless telephone off the market for over 80 years. By 1918, various governments took total control of their nation’s wireless telephone industry, selecting choice startup companies to run and operate the single wired wireless monopoly.”


The companies chosen to possess and profit from this technology included AT&T, General Electric, NBC, RCA and the BBC.

Stubblefield, a small-town operator who made his living working as a telephone lineman, never had a chance. He lacked the money and the political connections to beat the big boys in that kind of competition for the great wealth to be made from such an invention.