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Willard S. Wilson films and ephemera

219

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Hagley Museum and Library. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Summary Information

Repository:
Hagley Museum and Library: Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department
Creator:
Wilson, Willard S.
Title:
Willard S. Wilson films and ephemera
Date:
1913-1977
Call Number:
219
Extent:
0.5 linear feet
General Physical Description:
11 items. 3 reels : si., b&w ; 16mm. 1 scrapbook : marbled hardcover ; 7 x 8 in. (closed). Containing 54 newspaper clippings. 1 wiring drawing. 1 list of engagements. 1 list of expenses.
Language:
English
Abstract:
Willard S. Wilson (1897-1979) was a pioneer radio broadcaster and entrepreneur. He was founder of the first commercial radio station in Delaware. This small collection of newspaper clippings, articles, notes, and ephemera document Wilson's knowledge about the history of radio and some of his accomplishments related to the radio station WHAV/WDEL. There are also three reels of film, two related to aviator Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974) and one documenting the arrival of a monument at Wilmington, Delaware marine terminal.
PDF Version:

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Biography/History

Willard S. Wilson (1897-1979) was a pioneer radio broadcaster and entrepreneur. He was founder of the first commercial radio station in Delaware. Wilson became interested in radio (which was called “wireless” until the 1920s) as early as twelve years old. In 1909, he received his first 2-way wireless contract. In 1912, he obtained a first class commercial license as a wireless operator. He graduated high school in 1914.

From 1914 to 1916 he worked as a wireless operator at sea for the Dorchester line which carried cargo and passengers from Philadelphia to Savannah and Jacksonville. During World War I, he was on active duty in the United States Naval Reserve Forces as a radio operator for naval ships. When he returned to civilian life after the war he opened the Wilmington Electrical Specialty Company which manufactured and distributed radio apparatus.

In 1922, he established the first commercial broadcast station in Delaware, WHAV. Wilson operated the station out of his home in Wilmington, Delaware. He was announcer, chief engineer, and played piano accompaniment. The station broadcasted daily from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. In 1927, when aviator Charles A. Lindbergh (1902-1974) visited Wilmington, Delaware, the event, including Lindbergh’s remarks were broadcast on the radio station.

The call letters were changed to WDEL in 1928. Wilson sold the station in the early 1930s to the Steinman Group of Lancaster, Pennsylvania for fifty thousand dollars. He continued to own and operate his store.

During World War II, Wilson was a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force (USAF), in the CBI theatre of operations.

Wilson was married to Elsa “Elsie” S. (Brown) Wilson (1898-?) and the couple had three sons: Robert S. Wilson (1924-1998?), Willard S. Wilson Jr. (1925-?), and Louis N. Wilson (1928-?).

Scope and Contents

This small collection of newspaper clippings, articles, notes, and ephemera document Wilson's knowledge about the history of radio and some of his accomplishments related to the radio station WHAV/WDEL. The newspaper clippings are assembled in a scrapbook and are about WHAV/WDEL and various events, mostly dances that they hosted. There is a booklet commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of WDEL, an article and a speech written by Wilson about the early history of radio. There is one newspaper clipping about Wilson's career and accomplishments.

There are also three reels of film, two of which were shot by Wilson himself, as he was amateur filmographer. One film is of Charles Lindbergh's 1927 visit to Wilmington in which Lindbergh spoke briefly and the event was broadcast on the WHAV/WDEL radio station. The second film by Wilson is of the arrival of the Swedish monument in the Wilmington Marine Terminal during the Tercentenary celebration in 1938 of the first colonization of Delaware by the Swedes. The monument is a statue of the Kalmar Nyckel ship designed by sculpter Carl Milles (1875-1955). The event was attended by Swedish royalty and President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945). The third film is a newsreel about Charles Lindbergh and his flight across the atlantic.

Administrative Information

Publication Information

Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department

Finding Aid Author

Finding aid prepared by Laurie Sather, 2017.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

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Related Materials

Related Material

Oral histories on work and daily life in the Brandywine Valley (Accession 1970.370), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Robert H. Richards, Jr., Delaware oral history collection (MSS 179), Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware.

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Controlled Access Headings

Subject(s)
  • Radio broadcasting--History

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Collection Inventory

Box Folder
First Licensed Amateurs Listed in the 1913 Government Call Book, Amateur Radio Station directory and supplement, 1913.
General Physical Description note
1 directory : 57 pages. 1 directory : 27 pages.
Scope and Contents note

Reproduced from the original by The Old Old Timers Club.

1 1

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A Modern Wireless Telegraph Station, article draft, 1914 June.
General Physical Description note
1 article : typescript ; 2 pages.
Scope and Contents note

Written by Willard S. Wilson.

1 2

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The Whisp, Wilmington High School news, 1914 June.
General Physical Description note
1 booklet : 40 pages.
Scope and Contents note

Willard S. Wilson was an art editor. The article, "A Modern Wireless Telegraph Station" is printed in the news booklet on page 13-14.

1 3

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WDEL, Inc. scrapbook, 1922, 1928, undated.
General Physical Description note
1 scrapbook : marbled hardcover ; 7 x 8 in. (closed). Containing 54 newspaper clippings. 1 wiring drawing. 1 list of engagements. 1 list of expenses.
Scope and Contents note

There are two sets of newspaper clippings, one set about the station itself, the other set about various dances hosted by the radio station.

1 4

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Looking Backward, note, after 1925.
General Physical Description note
1 note : typescript ; 1 page.
Scope and Contents note

A reprint of a newspaper clipping about WHAV radio station being discontinued. There is a note at the end that says "We temporarily signed off for the summer."

1 5

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Film

Charles Lindbergh visits Wilmington, film, 1927.

General Physical Description note
1 reel (200 ft) : si., b&w ; 16mm. There is a low quality digital access copy available [ID: FILM_1977219_FC01].
Can 1

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Charles Lindbergh Flight Across the Atlantic, newsreel, 1927.

General Physical Description note
1 reel (500 ft) : si., b&w ; 16mm. There is a low quality digital access copy available [ID: FILM_1977219_FC03].
Can 3

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Arrival of Swedish Monument, cornerstone laying film, 1938.
General Physical Description note
1 reel (500 ft) : si., b&w ; 16mm. There is a low quality digital access copy available [ID: FILM_1977219_FC02].
Scope and Content

There is a handwritten note describing the content of the film reel.

Can 2

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Box Folder
Arrival of Swedish Monument, note, 1938.
General Physical Description note
1 note : handwritten.
Scope and Content

Handwritten note accompanying film reads: Unloading Swedish Monument crates at Wilmington Marine Terminal. J.P. Hyatt and Capt. Simonton at dock. John Faden -Per Palm- Laying cornerstone of monument box. Christopher Ward, Governor McMullen, Mayor Bacon. Smiley King. Flag raising at Park. Monument completed. Governor McMullen addressing gathering. WHS (Wilmington High School) Band. Swedish representation. McCullan and Dr. Syfn't. Wreath on base of monument. Tercentenary celebration. Prince Bertil and President Roosevelt. Cornerstone laying state Highway Department Building State Road - 1938 - Roosevelt at B&O Station, Wilmington.

1 6

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Letter from Ben F. Waple, Acting Secretary of the Federal Communications Commission, 1960 May 13.
General Physical Description note
1 letter : typescript ; 1 page.
Scope and Contents note

To Willard Wilson, a letter about providing a reproduction of the application requesting a broadcast radio station license for the Wilmington Electrical Specialty Company and information about the license.

1 7

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Early Days of Wireless and Radio, speech draft, 1965.

General Physical Description note
1 speech : typescript ; 10 pages.
1 8

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Amateur Radio: Its Effect on Society, 1967 May.
General Physical Description note
1 paper : typescript ; 24 pages.
Scope and Contents note

A term paper by Michael K. Gauthier.

1 9

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Radio Grew from His Spark, newspaper clipping, 1968 September 24.
General Physical Description note
1 newspaper clipping.
Scope and Contents note

Article about Willard S. Wilson and the WHAV/WDEL radio station.

1 10

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WDEL 50 Years of Service, booklet, 1972.

General Physical Description note
1 booklet ; 28 pages.
1 11

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