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Posted By: Dave Gaddy on: 06/09/2010 06:40:49 EDT
Subject: RE: The Beardslee Machine

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According to one writer, the Beardslee, at best, offered a speed of fifteen WPM -- which was five times the speed required of flagmen trained at Red Hill. It required no battery, for it operated on the current supplied by its built-in magneto -- as did the later Army field telephone. (Pardon the jargon -- you were AF, were you not? I ref'd the later generation's "double E-eight" as the "generic" for field 'phones and that may have slipped past. The old magneto principal "rang the bell.") And it was intended to be soldier-operated, not depending on (shudder) some civilian. But, frustrated with the snags and snarls of the Beardslee experience, yet determined to move the Army into the age of electricity, Myer took the near-fatal step of advertising for Morse-qualified individuals and planned to have Morse keys attached to his embryonic field telegraph trains -- intending that someday he'd go beyond the corps-level of the USMT and get right to the lanyard-pullers. That set the stage for the USMT to appeal to Big Daddy -- SecWar Stanton, the patron of the only sanctioned military telegraph (with exclusive control of the official telegraph cipher), and the exile of Myer from Washington.

With the re-instatement of Myer after the end of the war, and the dismissal of most of the USMT ops, electricity was returned to the Signal Service and Myer issued his first manual for field telegraph around 1872, combining features of both the USMT practices and "lessons learned" by the SigC. The manual, and others developed under Myer, produced "Army-style" regulations, drill formations, and other parallels to conventional Army practices, partly to ensure uniformity and orderliness and partly to meet Army expectations for a component. Even at a time when the tiny size of the Signal Corps had reduced its reality. But this was the Army organization that continued its upward push into "the age of electricity" with the telephone, with wireless telegraphy, with wireless telephony, with radar... .

So, in one sense the age of the wartime Beardslee was over, while, in another, it had served its purpose and given post-war birth to improved technology. As with other war-oriented businesses, the company went "belly-up" after the war. But, with know-how and dedication (and some rather modern "innards") colleagues of ours -- including former associates -- have fielded, and placed in the Signal Museum at Fort Gordon, Beardslee replicas that are strikingly good look-alikes, and that are used in displays and demos today. (And, as you noted, "electricity" has joined the Myer [-Alexander] flag on the US Army Signal Corps crest.)

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