Nathan B. Stubblefield

[picture of Stubblefield]

The Real Father of Radio

Somewhere in the shadows of the early history of radio looms the mysterious figure of Nathan B. Stubblefield. Nathan B. Stubblefield? Nora Blatch? Reginald A. Fessenden? Professor Amos Dolbear? Where do they get those names?

He was born in, grew up in, lived in, and died in Murray , Kentucky. The citizens of that miniscule town were affectionate towards their mad radio genius, and erected a monument to Stubblefield in 1930. They called him The Father of Radio.

Stubblefield was poor, and a mystic. He was a mendicant and a martyr to his invention...convinced that everyone wanted to steal it from him. Jim Lucas said that his home was so wired "that if a stranger approached within a half a mile, it set off a battery of bells." And Stubblefield, stubby mystic that he was, said

I have solved the problem of telephoning without wires through the earth as Signor Marconi has of sending signals through space. But, I can also telephone without wires through space as well as through the earth, because my medium is everywhere.

"My medium is everywhere," said the self-taught inventor who would later tell people that he would turn whole hillsides light with 'mysterious beams.' Stubblefield, the mystic of the mystic transmission of waves through air and land and water, to the nether reaches of the stars.

Everybody in Murray knew about Stubblefield's Black Box, which made the light and voices appear out of thin air. In 1892, (14 years before Fessenden's experiment from Brant Rock) he handed his friend Rainey T. Wells a box, and told him to walk away from the shack, Stubblefield always lived in a shack, Wells said later.

I had hardly reached my post.. when I heard I heard HELLO RAINEY come booming out of the receiver. I jumped a foot and said to myself THIS FELLOW IS FOOLING ME. HE HAS WIRES SOMEPLACE. (Wells moved a few feet further on.) All the while he kept talking to me...but there were no wires, I tell you.

Early radio magic, the magic of sending the voice through nothing. But they stole his invention. Of course: they always do. The Wireless Telephone Company of America, set up by "promoters" and "speculators."... smooth talkers (unlike the verbally rustic Stubblefield) who jacked up the price of the stock, then disappeared. Stubblefield wrote for the prospectus:

I can telephone without wires a mile or more now, and when the more powerful apparatus on which I am working is finished, combined with further developments, the distance will be unlimited...

Stubblefield called the New York promoters a bunch of "damned rascals." He said they were "defrauding the public." What he meant was that they were defrauding his dream of unlimited voices, for unlimited distances, and with unlimited lights. They wanted to take his loops and coils and make money.

Stubblefield was so devastated by these "animals from the city" that in 1913 he went back to his shack and for fifteen years was barely seen. Sometimes the neighbors saw him "from a distance" and some observers reported seeing mysterious lights and hearing weird sounds in the vicinity of Stubblefield's home.

Two weeks before his death, Stubblefield visited with a neighbor, Mrs. L.E. Owens. He asked her to write his story. He said:

I've lived fifty years before my time. The past is nothing. I have perfected now the greatest invention the world has ever known. I've taken light from the air and the earth as I did with sound.. I want you to know about making a whole hillside blossom with light..

In 1928, Nathan B. Stubblefield of Murray, Kentucky died at seventy of starvation...and too many visions.

-- Lorenzo Milam from material in article by Thos. Hoffer in
Summer 1971.
Also found in The Original Sex and Broadcasting,
by Lorenzo Milam,
1988 Mho &er; Mho Works
P.O. Box 33135
San Diego, California

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