The first four covers of "The Radio Boys" adventure book series.
For many years Melanie and I have been collecting and reading The Radio Boys
series of thirteen books, which were written in the 1920s by Allen Chapman. It was
a time in history when the miracle of radio communications was capturing - even
enrapturing - the public with its seemingly miraculous ability to convey messages
across town and around the world without the need for wires, hence "wireless." The
stories center around four teenage buddies, namely Bob Layton, Joe Atwood, Herb
Fennington, and Jimmy Plummer (aka Doughnuts") who, with the assistance of a local
pastor, Dr. Dale, took an avid interest in radio and built from scratch a successful
crystal radio. Their enthusiasm compounds upon itself as adventures and experiences
using wireless foster interest in building better receivers and then building transmitters
for sending Morse code and audio ("phone").
In order to appeal to his intended audience - primarily young boys - villains,
good guys, hapless bystanders, government agents, local law enforcement, family,
and even the occasional damsel in distress are woven into the fabric of tales from
book to book. The Radio Boys fit in well with the teenager adventure genre
that included The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Tom Swift,
all of which we own many volumes. Ours are the original prints rather than some
that were re-printed decades later. They are not very expensive it you are willing
to accept less than perfect condition and maybe without a dust jacket.
In addition to telling a good story, Chapman is sure to include instruction on
materials and methods through conversations between the boys and their fellow radio
enthusiasts (both youths and adults) and with descriptions of homemade tapped tuning
coils, antennas, enclosures and even speakers. Additionally, mention was made of
many innovations of the day, including Lee DeForest's Audion vacuum tube, high
voltage generators using rectifier tubes, regenerative circuits, and
multi-element antennas. Many readers interested only in the
adventure content are unwittingly tricked into learning something about wireless
in the process.
An example of the aforementioned is a statement made by the principal (Mr. Preston)
of the Clintonia High School to the Radio Boys after having recently listened to
a speech given by
President Calvin Coolidge* whilst in Washington, D.C. After the boys stated
they had listened to the speech live on the radio, Principle Preston asserted that
the boys had actually heard the speech before he did, even though they were a couple
hundred miles away and he was only a hundred feet away in the audience. How could
that be so, queried the boys?
Replied the principal, "And if you had been thousands of miles away, what I said
would still be true." "No doubt there were farmers on tractors out on the Western
plains who heard him before I did." Puzzled looks filled their collective faces.
Then, he continued.
"You see it's like this. Sound travels through the
air to a distance of a little over a hundred feet in the tenth part of a second**.
But in that same tenth of a second that it took the president's voice to reach me
in the open air, radio could have carried it eighteen thousand six hundred miles***."
"...I never thought of it in just that way before," responded Bob. "Equal to about
seven and a half time around the earth," observed the principal, smiling, "In other
words, the people who were actually sitting in the presence of the president were
the very last to hear what he said." "Radio is the fairyland of science in the sense
that it is full of wonder and romance." He expounds even further, but you'll
need to read the book to continue the lesson.
You might want to visit "TheRadioBoysAndGirls.org"
website for a brief description of each book, along with a hyperlink to read a Kindle
version for free or to purchase a hard copy.
There is also a book series entitled
Girls, written by Margaret Penrose, set in the same post-world War I
era. Only four editions were printed, and we own two of them, all purchased on eBay.
They are typically more expensive than The Radio Boys books.
Warren G. Harding, who preceded Coolidge, is said to be the first president
to have made a radio address.
** Sound travels at
sea level at 1125 feet per second, or 112.5 feet per 1/10th second (at 20 °C).
*** Radio waves travel
at 186,000 miles per second, or 18,600 miles per 1/10th second.
Posted December 1, 2020