Electrolysis, electric cars and electrons, oh my: the Perham History Files

Submitted by Catherine Mills, Project Archivist, History San Jose

Live Wire invitation
“Live Wire” San Francisco Electrical Development League Invitation, January 1921
The Perham History Files are one of the five manuscript collections in the Perham Collection of Early Electronics that History San Jose promised to catalog and make available for researchers as part of our year-long Council of Library and Information Resources grant. The Perham History Files were first created by Douglas M. Perham and continued by the Perham Foundation and Foothills Electronics Museum. The collection served as a quick reference file regarding people, companies, apparatus, and events relating to the history of early radio and electronics.

All fifteen feet of this mixture of ephemera and original documentation have now been cataloged, with the majority of records and accompanying images available for searching through PastPerfect Online.

The collection covers not only early wireless communication and electronics, but also the history of electrical apparatus, electric lighting, and electric power. A large portion of the series is comprised of trade catalogs dating from the early 1900s through the 1950s for radios, radio components (batteries, vacuum tubes, headsets), electric apparatus (motors, generators, testing equipment), automatic telephones and intercommunication systems, motion picture lamps, arc lighting, electric equipment for medical purposes such as electrolysis, and sound reproduction and surveillance equipment. In addition, catalogs and magazines directed at the amateur radio operator, as well as radio broadcasting schedules, are included.

Federal Telegraph Company
Federal Telegraph Company, Palo Alto, ca 1921
Bay Area companies represented in the History Files through ephemera or corporate publications are Dalmo-Victor Manufacturers, Heintz and Kaufman, Federal Telegraph Company, American Radio Stores, Atlas Wireless Telephone & Telegraph Co., Dwyer Wireless Telephone and Telegraph Company, Coney & Kuchel Electric Works, The McCarty Wireless Telephone, Union Iron Works, Ampex, Lenkurt Electric Co., Inc., and Kaar Engineering Co.

1904 World's Fair souvenirIn addition, there is a small amount of Lee de Forest material, including news clippings, correspondence with Douglas Perham and Marie Stewart, Radio News articles, and De Forest Radio catalogs and manuals (1914-1920), including the De Forest Radio Receiving Apparatus Catalog “D” (1920) and the Deforest Wireless Telegraphy brochure (circa 1904).

Listed below are only a few of the items in this collection that I’ve found interesting, with links to the PastPerfect Online records and images. There are many, many more!

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