1910 Crystal Set With A Secret
At The National Vintage Communications Fair
Compiled From A press release for the NVCF
Jonathan Hill has been organizing the vintage radio fair at Birmingham, England, for several years now, and his success is evident in the growing number of visitors and exhibitors who attend from the U. S. and the Continent. This is a great place to meet European collectors and to catch up on their activities. Having been there myself, I urge you to consider a spring trip to merry old England. (Editor)
The National Vintage Communications Fair will be held at Hall 11, National Exhibition Center (NEC), Birmingham, England, on Sunday, April 30, 2000, from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is Britain's largest event for buying and selling radios, early TVs, and phonographs.
Figure 1. A 1912 Horophone, a wall-mounted crystal receiver, designed to receive time signals from Paris. (Photo from "Radio Radio" by Jonathan Hill)
Among the interesting items on display from collections will be a unique Edwardian radio, the 1912 Horophone, shown in Figure 1. This is a British, wall-mounted, crystal receiver designed to receive time signals from the Eiffel Tower in Paris. There will also be a unique display of spy radios from World War II, and an exhibit of the history of recorded sound.
The star of the show will be a unique and valuable Edwardian crystal receiver, made in England in 1910 and shown in Figure 2. This set was recently unearthed by a Midlands antique dealer and acquired by a major private wireless collection in Britain.
Early radios of this period are rare enough, but what makes this particular set especially unusual is its history. It was built by George Leadbetter, a machinist and clock repairer living in Ledbury, Worcestershire. On the morning of April 15, 1912, Leadbetter suddenly tuned in to the sinking Titanic's CQD/SOS Morse distress signals. Unfortunately, having run round to the local police station to tell the sergeant what he had heard, he was turned away. None of the police officers on duty believed what he had to say!
It is difficult to know what help Mr. Leadbetter's news could have been had he been believed. The Titanic, after all,
was some 2,000 miles away across the Atlantic. Though help was nearby and the distress signals were picked up by ships close at hand, immediate action was not taken. The result was the rescue of only about 700 passengers and crew out of over 2,200. Still, wireless had played such a pivotal role in saving some lives on board the stricken ship that its value was dramatically demonstrated and acknowledged around the world.
This beautifully made radio, measuring some 2' long x 14" x 9" and weighing 42 pounds (18 kg), is the only surviving radio receiver documented as having heard the distress cries from the Titanic -- an amazing relic from this most famous of historic disasters.
For more information about the Birmingham Fair: NVCF, 13 Belmont Rd., Exeter, Devon, England. Telephone: (01392) 411565. Web: www.angelfire.com/tx/sunpress/index.html.
Jonathan Hill is the author of several radio-related books, including "Radio! Radio!" now in a third edition, and available from the author and A.R.C. He has been involved in radio collecting since the 1970s and is one of five founders of the British Vintage Wireless Society.
Figure 2. The 1910 crystal receiver with a secret past.