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Francis McCarty Wireless Telephone

The "McCarthy wireless telephone system" mentioned in the 1908 Examiner article is actually the McCarty wireless telephone developed by Francis J. McCarty of San Francisco.

Within days of the 1906 earthquake, McCarty wrote to Captain Leonard D. Wildman of the U.S. Signal Corps to offer his wireless station at Golden Gate Park to the government.

McCarty's note to Capt. Wildman was handwritten on a half-sheet of paper torn from a notebook.

He wrote:

    Dear Captain Wildman.

    My station at the Beach with 132 foot mast and stationhouse at your disposal for wireless station to keep the City in communication.

    Yours very truly.

    F. McCarty

He added, on the reverse side: "My address is near Wind Mill on South drive."

Wildman wrote to McCarty to decline the offer:
    Fort Mason, California, April 26, 1906.

    Mr. Francis J. McCarty,
    Wireless Telephone Station,
    South Drive near Windmill,
    San Francisco.

    Dear Sir:

    On behalf of the Government, I wish to thank you for your kind offer of pole and station for establishing wireless telegraphy. This is useless at present on account of the fact that all wireless instruments in the immediate vicinity of San Francisco were burned.

    Yours very truly,

    (signed) Leonard D. Wildman

    Captain, Signal Corps, U.S. Army,
    Chief Signal Officer,
    Department of California.

McCarty, 18 years old at the time of the earthquake, was severely injured May 8, 1906, a few weeks after this note was written, as the result of an unfortunate Oakland streetcar accident, and soon died.

It should be noted that Capt. Wildman did not tell young McCarty the full truth when he declined the offer. Wireless was used extensively during the 1906 disaster, notably by the Navy to transmit messages from the "U.S.S. Chicago" to Mare Island, which then dispatched them by conventional telegram to the War Department. Many of Gen. Funston's messages to Secretary Taft were relayed via the "Chicago" to the telegraph companies.

It may have been the isolation of McCarty's station, at Golden Gate Park, that made it of little practical value to the Army, and caused Capt. Wildman to decline the offer.

Of note is that the windmill in the Park, and McCarty's station house and antenna structure, are some of the closest buildings in San Francisco to the epicenter of the Great Earthquake. Data developed in the 1980s and 90s place the epicenter along the coast a few miles south of the San Francisco border with San Mateo County.

Gladys Hansen
February 2000

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