Electrolysis, Electric Cars and Electrons, Oh My: The Perham History Files

"Live Wire" invitation, 1921
“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 2012 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, Palo Alto
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.

In 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).

The DeForest Wireless Telegraph invitation
Listed below are only a few of the items in this collection of interest. There are many, many more!

  • “Moorhead and his Valve,” Moorhead Laboratories, Inc. brochure, 1919. Founded by Otis B. Moorhead, the laboratory was housed on Mission Street in San Francisco.
  • ”Kolster Radio Compass and Position Finder,” Bulletin 12A. Federal Telegraph Company, 1921.
  • Dalmo Victor corporate correspondence and invoices, primarily with Douglas Perham, relating to government contracts and sub-contracts at the end of World War II (1945).
  • Correspondence and original lease between Varian Associates and Douglas Perham for property at 99 Washington Street, San Carlos, California (1948-1952)
  • “Victor Galvanic and Faradic Apparatus Electrodes, Generating Sets, Rectifiers and Pertinent Accessories,” Victor Electric Company (Chicago), Bulletin No. 28-S, 1914. A rather scary look into the use of electrotherapeutics.
  • “Deforest Wireless Telegraphy” brochure, circa 1904. The cover displays the Declaration of Official Award Ribbon from the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904 to the American DeForest Wireless Telegraph Co. for General Excellence in Wireless Telegraphy.
  • “How to Avoid Dangerous, Embarrassing, Humiliating Experiences,” Philadelphia Storage Battery Company. Welcome to the world of car ownership circa 1924.
  • “Military Leave Policy,” Varian Associates magazine, 1965. The series of Varian Associates magazines from the 1960s is one window into the American landscape of the 1960s.
  • The Autocall: “The Mechanical Finder of Men,” The Autocall Co. “You want whom you want when you want him!”