VOLUME 13 DECEMBER 1996 NUMBER 12
The Samson Electric Company -- Web VersionBY WALLY WORTH
Once again Wally Worth shares his interest in New England companies involved in the manufacture of early wireless and radio equipment. His first article on the L.E. Knott Company of Cambridge, Massachusetts, appeared in the August 1995 A.R.C. (Editor)
The Samson Electric Company was organized in 1883, in Boston, where it made electric lighters for gas lamps until 1904. At that time the company moved to Canton, Massachusetts, and changed its name to the Electric Goods Manufacturers in order to emphasize its broadened line.
In 1916, the company reverted to the name Samson Electric Co. (better name recognition?) and made fire alarms, marine ignition systems, and "wireless receivers." The latter were, in fact, headphones.
In that same year, the company received a contract from "the largest corporation in America in the radio field" for "tiny nickeled receivers" to make these headphones. Which company was this? The Western Electric Co.? Remember the year was 1916, and RCA had not yet been formed.
The headphones consisted of brass punchings formed into a cup, drilled and stamped complete, and then nickel-plated. (Sound like Western Electric phones?) The two magnets and the fine wire coils were assembled, and then the caps and headbands were added. This entire assembly was made within the Samson Electric plant.
The Canton Gazette of April 7, 1922, recorded that, at the Samson Electric Co., "Girls were hired to do the final assembly work and were given a two-week instruction course before starting work. They were paid $12 to $14 a week."
In 1922, the president of the company was Clarence R. Colby, the sales manager was Orin Smith, and the plant manager was George Galbraith. In 1923, still in Canton, the company was making radio parts and 2-, 3-, and 4-tube radio kits, as well as complete radios.
The Samson Electric 4-tube T/C radio, shown in Figure 1, was advertised as having an "improvement in radio circuitry" consisting of a "tuned choke" in the plate circuit, similar to the later impedance coupling. This 4-tube radio was also sold as a kit, complete with all Samson Electric parts, for enthusiasts to assemble themselves.
The company also advertised the Samson Super-Kit, a superheterodyne of eight tubes that was an excellent performing set. (See A.R.C., May 1992, pages 10-11.)
Figure 1. A Samson Electric Model T/C and cone loudspeaker installed in a console cabinet.
Not many of these sets are seen now, indicating their rarity, but I have a Samson 4-tube kit-set marked "C/T" on the upper right corner of the front panel, with all brand new Samson parts that were never wired up. The front view is shown in Figure 2. The chassis and panel are mint too. I have decided not to wire this set up myself, but to keep it the way the original assembler left it back in 1924.
Why didn't he finish it? The original assembler did a superb job of mounting the Samson parts, probably according to a blueprint, now missing. Did he lose interest? I can't believe that! Did he die before he could finish up? Did he go off to college? I'll never know. But to see the arrested development of this set and muse on why it was never finished is, to me, what the radio game is all about.
Figure 2. A Samson 4-tube Model T/C kit partially assembled in a home-brew mahogany cabinet.
Samson excelled in marketing parts for radios, doing all the manufacturing from raw materials to finished article in its own plant. For example, the Samson "Uniform Frequency Condenser" was especially well-constructed. It had a peculiarly shaped rotor to give the "straight-line frequency tuning" then so much in demand to separate the stations on the dials. There also was a polished brass shield over the stator plates of these condensers. They were handsome pieces!
The company also manufactured audio frequency transformers in many styles and ratios, 10 in all, some being the fancy helical-wound coils of 2, 3, and 6 to 1 ratios. The transformers were really efficient too.
Samson variometers and variocouplers were always very small and smartly done up with bright green silk-covered wire on genuine Bakelite tubing. They were individually boxed in orange and black cartons.
I've learned a lot about the Samson Electric Co. in a town only 10 miles away from my home. I felt I should research this company, and share what I learned, little as it is.
Citizens Radio Call Book, 1926, pp.115-117.
"The History of the Samson Electric Co." Canton. Mass.: The Canton Gazette, April 7, 1922.
McMahon, Morgan. Vintage Radio. Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.: Vintage Radio, 1981.
Radio Broadcast, December 1925.
(Wally Worth, 2 West Elm Ave., Wollaston, MA 02170)
At age fifteen, Walter Worth began to save his paper route money to buy parts for 1-tube radios. Fifty years later, he started to collect anything that needed cabinet work. His diverse collecting tastes include crystal sets, 1920 battery sets, transistor sets, multiband sets, and novelty sets, as well as early tubes and horn and cone speakers.