He entered these commercial aspects with some trepidation. By June of the same year he withdrew from the project completely. A few persons managed to discover the reason for his quiet, sudden retreat. Because of his difficulty in instantly stationing his system in New York City, it was suggested that he adopt the method of burying lines to “fake” the operation … if just for the purpose of making a good show. Nathan declined.
Technology is lost at the market place, where inventors meet with astute businessmen of shrewd and cautious intent. There, the confrontation determines future world expressions. Certain businesses simply do not want to revolutionize any thriving technology for financial reasons. The individuals who fill such historical episodes are often incapable of seizing the new opportunity because they are simply not venture capitalists. New technologies produce far greater profits and energetically stimulate the economy to positive productive states.
In many such confrontations, the investors are merely heirs and custodians of fortunes they did not make. Zealous of maintaining the family fortune, they find the easiest and most infantile means at their ability level. By eradicating competitive technology they imagine themselves in possession of security. Some have retreated so into their own reclusive worlds that they imagine themselves in full control of national economy.
Others more aggressively attempt duplicating any competitive technology. Patent stealing is not a new phenomenon. After witnessing the public Stubblefield demonstrations, another inventor (A.P. Collins) duplicated some of Nathan’s early inventions. Filing a counter-patent (patent 814.942 for “Wireless Telephony”, 1906) for a ground telephonic system, Collins thought to seize Stubblefield’s market outright. One of the signing witnesses on the Collins patent was, one Walton Harrison. Harrison, himself a WTCA member, later infringed on another Stubblefield experiment with his “Transmitter for Wireless Communication”. This inferior telegraphic-telephonic system (patent 1.119.952, 1914) did not achieve the ground power status by which Stubblefield is known.
It became apparent that certain WTCA members were trying to oust Stubblefield himself. The WTCA now took on a life of its own. Stubblefield was thoroughly disgusted at the display of human greed and ambition, and left them to their own devising. Collins, Harrison, and their co-conspirators were later accused of petty crimes having to do with mail fraud. The WTCA failed in time. Internal disputes over money, rather than technological progress and implementation, was their own death knell. Marconi arrived with an inferior (though highly publicized) system. When Marconi began his work, the effective signal transmission distance was equal to that achieved by Stubblefield.
Stubblefield was experimenting with ground radio since 1888, but did not patent his developments until much later. Credible witnesses saw his ground radio experiments in action during this time frame, establishing the historical priority of Stubblefield, a true and original American genius.
While Marconi could barely send telegraphic “dot and dash” signals with great difficulty through a static-filled medium, Nathan had already transmitted the human voice with loud, velvet clarity. Others would adopt and implement the Collins system (Fessenden, DeForest, Bethenod, Braun), but none could duplicate the Stubblefield System.
Nikola Tesla performed double ground experiments with impulses as early as 1892, reporting these in lectures and patenting some embodiments in 1901. No one of these later systems ever achieved the same results of clarity, tone, and volume of Stubblefield ground telephony. Tesla never discovered the true power points, which powered Stubblefield’s devices.
Priority in all these arts belongs to Nathan Stubblefield alone. In addition, his was the only system in which natural energies were obtained, magnified, and entirely employed as the empowering source. All the other inventors used “artificial” sources (batteries, alternators, dynamos).
Following all these ground radio demonstrations, Stubblefield researched “magnetic waves” and developed several systems, which did not use ground terminals for exchanging signals. Long distance wireless telephone communications were his aim. Many imagined this to be radio as we know it, but several features of the Stubblefield aerial system are distinctive and different.
First, his transmitters and receivers were telephonic, not telegraphic. In his preliminary experiments, the earth battery was used to energize an apparatus to which was connected a long horizontal aerial line. Marconi later adopted this “bent L” symmetry in conjunction with a grounded copper conduction screen. We do not have photographs of these arrays, but have handwritten manuscript copies of certain diary notes in which a progressively greater telephonic distance is reported. Nathan made steady progress in this form of telephonic transmission, but used neither alternators or spark discharge.
A second series of experiments reveal the development of stacked capacitors. Photographs reveal two large capacitor stacks, presumably for inductive transmission purposes. Some researchers induced ground oscillations of electrical current, while absorbing each “fly back” into large capacitors. This system evidenced the “hydraulic” model of electricity, popular during the latter Victorian Epoch.
Photographs reveal a final form of Stubblefield’s aerial telephone, which utilizes a two-foot in diameter single turn copper band. This outer copper band is spaced from a second inner copper band, and is mounted on wooden pedestals. A telephone is connected to this array. This compact apparatus transmitted inductive rays, not waves, for great distances when earth energy was modulated by the human voice. In some strange manner, he had found a more potent means for activating, resonating, and projecting ground power point energy. His was no ordinary radio transmitter.
A truly honest and humble man, he justly considered the ambitious and aggressive northern investors as “scalawags and damned rascals”. He became suspicious of others. Considering the time frame in which these events took place, we may understand his reaction. Rejecting their tempting swindle, he was compelled to leave for home in order to continue his beloved experiments in privacy. He became mysteriously compulsive about his privacy after this.
In the words of several persons with which I have had the good fortune to speak, “Nathan was honest to a fault”. He, disappointed again in human behavior, packed away his equipment and went home. After this unfortunate time period, Mr. Stubblefield preferred to be alone. Some say he became increasingly intolerable to live with. These patterns mark the disappointed genius, the broken-hearted dreamer. His hurtful nature began to hurt others. Friends forsook him, and he continued to allow them to leave. Finally, his wife left him with their children. Bernard was the only child who seemed to maintain contact with his father.
- HEARING THROUGH WIRES: Antonio Meucci
- BROADCAST POWER: Nikola Tesla