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Using the Collection
Note: some material may be restricted or offsite
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At a Glance
This collection consists of the membership lists, constitution, certificates, publicity materials, licensing records, awards and log books of the C.U. Amateur Radio Club (W2AEE). The collection includes U.S. and international QSL cards, confirming two-way radio contact between stations, which are organized by state and by country.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.
This collection has no restrictions.
This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Columbia University Amateur Radio Club records; Box and Folder; University Archives, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.
Additional materials about radio and wireless technology at Columbia can be found in the Michael Idvorsky Pupin papers and the Edwin H. Armstrong papers.
No additions are expected.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
2010.2011.M165: Source of acquisition--Alan Crosswell, CUIT. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--6/7/2011.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Collection-level record describing unprocessed material made public in summer 2018 as part of the Hidden Collections initiative. This collection was processed by Joanna Rios in December 2022.
2022-12-09 Finding aid published (JR)
History / Biographical Note
The first records of an amateur radio station at Columbia indicate that in 1906, there was a high-power, spark-gap transmitter in the basement of Havemeyer Hall. Under the leadership of Michael Pupin and later Edwin Armstrong, the Columbia University Experimental Wireless Station was the first of its kind at an American University. It was granted early recognition by the government as "Experimental Station, Manhattan Island" and was licensed to transmit using the identifier "XM." The Radio Club was formally organized in 1920 and by 1931, received its FCC operating license for call signal W2AEE. The station was then located in the old Engineering Building (now Mathematics) and had a radio "shack" on the seventh floor. The Club moved to Mudd in the 1960s. To this day, they have a radio room or shack next to the elevator on the 14th floor and antennae atop the highest roof of Mudd.
The Radio Club was part of the United States Civil Defense Radio Network and would participate in emergency drills. They received the General Electric's Edison Amateur Radio Award in 1955 for their distinguished service during a busy hurricane season. The Club helped the Chess Club play over-the-radio matches against Yale and would provide running coverage of the crew races on the Harlem River for the benefit of the spectators.
On October 5, 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the first manmade satellite Sputnik, two "hams" on the seventh floor of the Engineering Building manned the club's receivers and a tape recorder. The Club became the first amateur station in the East to pick up the beep signals from the satellite. The United States Office of Naval Research in Washington requested W2AEE to send the station's recordings to the Pentagon.
The Club offerd code (international Morse code) and theory classes to help those interested in passing the FCC license exams and also offered hands-on workshops or construction labs. In 1977, the Club even trained University President William J. McGill to become a licensed radio operator. McGill had built a short-wave receiver from a kit at the President's House and one of the first signals he heard was the W2AEE signal. He met with the club members in person and they helped him with his equipment and encouraged him to get his license.
In 2018, the Club managed to contact the International Space Station. To learn more about the Club and its history, please visit https://www.w2aee.columbia.edu/.