Retrocom Presents the 'History Of Hammarlund'
THE HISTORY OF HAMMARLUND
The name Hammarlund is one of the most distinguished in the early history of radio in America. The Hammarlund Manufacturing Company ranks among the nation's very oldest producers of radio equipment. Organized in 1910, Hammarlund is one of the hand full of firms in the radio field which has continued in business without interruption down through the years. So pre-eminent were Hammarlund products in the pioneering era of radio that they attained for Hammarlund the ultimate distinction of becoming a part of the language of radio. The early radio enthusiasts, the amateur operators, affectionally referred to Hammarlund products as "Ham" products, and called themselves "Ham" operators, a nickname that is now a part of our living language. Among the long line of firsts introduced by Hammarlund were high-precision variable air capacitors, the first commercial short-wave superhetrodyne receiver, and the first selective calling equipment for two-way mobile radios.
The Hammarlund story began in 1882 when Oscar Hammarlund, the Company's founder, came to America from his native home in Stockholm. In Sweden he had been a special tool designer and inspector of electrical instruments for the L. M. Erickson Company, leading instrument manufacturers and originators of the French-type telephone. He came to this country to accept a similar position with the Elgin Watch Company, and at the time was regarded a something of a prodigy in Electrical experimentation although only 22. After four years with Elgin, he joined the Western Electric Company as superintendent of the Chicago plant. Six years later he became designing engineer of the Gray National Company, later known as the TelAutograph Corporation, working closely with the founder, Elisha Gray, who is known as co-inventor of the telephone. During his 18-year association with Elisha Gray he was able to involve himself closely in the early development of radio. Finally, so keen were his interests in the "wireless" that he decided to organize a company for the purpose of developing his own ideas.
The Hammarlund Manufacturing Company came into being in 1910, 28 years after Oscar Hammarlund came to America. Hammarlund himself had just turned 50. The first Hammarlund plant was a loft operation on Fulton Street in lower Manhattan, New York City. Here Mr. Hammarlund worked on the development of ideas which had been taking shape in his mind for several years. Among the products he designed here was an armagraph, a code practice machine that employed a rotating disc similar to a phonograph record. Whenever a platinum contact, riding on the record, passed a slot, a dot or dash would be sounded. Many mass-produced items were also turned out by the small Hammarlund plant. These included double-thrown knife switches, cordless table jacks for telephone systems, and Western Union call boxes. The latter were a familiar sight in offices all over the country for many years. To summon a messenger, one simply turned the handle of the call box. The variable capacitor, one of the most famous of all Hammarlund developments, was designed in 1916. The first variable capacitor was designed to meet a problem posed by a Hammarlund customer. Nine years later, Oscar Hammarlund and his son, Lloyd, developed the Midline variable capacitor which subsequently became the standard for the industry. The company's pioneering work in the capacitor field quickly made it the leading producer of these vital components, and today Hammarlund capacitors are functioning in radio equipment throughout the free world, and are in use in America's space program. With its experience in design and production of capacitors and coils, Hammarlund was among the first manufacturers to supply do-it-yourself kits to the growing numbers Of hobbyists fascinated with radio and wanting to build their own sets. The first Hammarlund-Roberts radio receiver kits Were place on the market in 1925 and found almost immediate acceptance. Not only were the kits purchased by hobbyists, but they were also sold to custom radio builders
who resold them as ready-to-use radio sets. The first kit produced by Hammarlund was the HI-Q-6, a model which many old-timers in radio remember well. Later models included the HI-Q-29, Hi-Q-30 and HI-Q-31. By 1931 when the depression was developing and the Market for kits began to diminish, Hammarlund moved aggressively into the ready-made radio field. Wisely declining to cater to a price-conscious market, Hammarlund instead concentrated on highest quality, custom units.
This emphasis on top quality helped develop a reputation for reliability which down through the years has been the hallmark of the Hammarlund name. The Company slogan "Quality without compromise" has been backed up with deed. Hammarlund's first house-manufactured radio was called the Comet-Pro. This was also the first commercial short-wave superhetodyne receiver. Within five years, thousands of these receivers were in use at commercial radiotelegraph and radiotelephone stations, aboard ships and at broadcasting stations as well as by amateur radio operators the world over. Following introduction of the Comet-Pro came an even more outstanding receiver, called the "Super-Pro." The latter was put in production in 1936. Expansion came quickly at Hammarlund when World War II broke out. More than 2000 were employed a 14 different Hammarlund plants. It has been estimated that almost 90% of American wartime military electronic equipment employed Hammarlund capacitors. In addition to Super-Pro receivers and capacitors, Hammarlund produced radar and electronic counter-measures equipment for the armed forces. The war years saw Hammarlund devoting all of its productive capacity to the military effort. In addition to turning out some 40,000 receivers for the armed forces, Hammarlund also built special equipment such as the SX or Navy Search Radar installed on big carriers, battleships and cruisers, and "jamming" equipment for blotting out enemy radio transmissions. Shortly after the war, the market was flooded with surplus Super-Pro receivers at bargain prices. Notwithstanding competition from its own brand of receivers, Hammarlund quickly introduced the HQ-129 receiver for the radio amateur market. This was followed in 1947 by the SP-600 receiver which, remarkably even surpassed the Super-Pro in flexibility and performance. They were quickly selling at a rate of about 5000 sets per year, in spite of their high price. When two-way mobile radio was being introduced
to taxicabs, railroads, power companies, pipe lines and industry in 1948, Hammarlund became the first to bring out selective calling equipment. By means of push buttons, individual cars could be alerted without disturbing others in the same fleet. Each car was alerted by a specific combination of tones transmitted before a voice message. This experience with tone signaling led to Hammarlund's entry into the control and telemetry field. Tone signaling equipment also was produced for use in microwave systems sold to the armed forces and industry. A complete line of tone signaling equipment was developed which found a ready market among power companies, water works, gas companies, railroads and others who had need for transmission of control and telemetering signals over wire lines or radio links. The tone signaling business required different marketing channels than other Hammarlund products. It was also necessary to design and build complete systems instead of hardware only. Hammarlund's main emphasis today covers six major areas - amateur radio equipment - citizens band radio equipment - variable capacitors - two-way FM mobile radio equipment - commercial single sideband radio equipment - and military radio equipment. Hammarlund products today are designed and manufactured at the Company's sprawling plant at Mars Hill, North Carolina. From this location is shipped the radio equipment which proudly bears a label familiar to three generations of Americans and countless thousands of Hammarlund friends overseas.
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