PA State Archives Hours, Directions, & Fees Research Topics Online Catalog Land Records




Manuscript Group 424
1 cubic foot

Born on April 11, 1897, Harry Houck of New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, was a significant contributor to the development of radio in the early twentieth century. Houck graduated from Harrisburg Technical High School in 1916. During WWI, he served under Captain Edwin Armstrong in the United States Army. Additionally, in 1922, Houck and Armstrong developed the super heterodyne. It was a significant contribution to the improvement of radio because it was the first receiver to be placed in large commercial production.

Throughout his lifetime (1897-1989), Houck worked as chief consultant and chief engineer at the Dublier Condenser Corporation as well as Micamold Radio Corporation. In 1954, he became the president of Measurements Corporation in Boonton, New Jersey. He was also an active member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, Institute of Radio Engineers, Engineers Club and The Radio Club of America. Houck's outstanding contributions to the development of radio were recognized in 1941 when he was awarded the Edwin Armstrong Medal by The Radio Club of America's board of directors.

A large portion of the collection is related to Edwin Armstrong due to the fact Houck worked with Armstrong and deeply admired him. Armstrong, inventor of the regenerative system and frequency modulation, received a degree in Electrical Engineering from Columbia University. Following the war, Armstrong built a one hundred and twenty-five foot wooden antenna in New York. The antenna was the first to pick up weak radio signals from a Navy Station in Key West, Florida. Eventually, Armstrong added a second coil to the deforest audion to increase the device's power. The deforest tube's increased signal strength allowed Americans to communicate with Europe.

Houck began collecting Armstrong's personal photographs, radio equipment and published works after Armstrong committed suicide in January 1954. Houck's dream was to open a public museum and dedicate it to Armstrong. Consequently, Houck stored the collection of antique radio equipment and paper items in a three story barn in Newberrytown, Pennsylvania and facilities in New Jersey. On December 19, 1978, a fire broke out at the Newberrytown site. Much of Houck's collection was ruined. Nevertheless, the items Houck stored in New Jersey were still valuable. The State Museum of Pennsylvania has remnants of Houck's collection from the Newberrytown and New Jersey storage sites.

The Harry Houck collection is part of a larger radio collection donated to the State Museum of Pennsylvania by Gilbert Houck in 1985. The collection is composed of three series; photographs, correspondence and published materials. Files pertaining to the collection contain very few items directly related to Harry Houck. There are a few professional photographs of Houck and one copy of his patent, "The Method and Apparatus for Selectively Transferring Electrical Oscillatory Energy" (December 12, 1922). The collection also includes black and white photographs, information on Edwin Armstrong, correspondence relating to the early development of radio and published magazine articles from the 1950s.

Information concerning Harry Houck and the early development of radio would be more accessible through other published materials since the majority of photographs within the State Archives collection are not dated or labeled. However, the collection does contain two published works that may not be easy to find anywhere else: "The Story of the First Trans-Atlantic Short Wave Message," published in 1950, and "E. H. Armstrong the Hero as Inventor," published in Harpers Magazine.

PA State Archives Hours, Directions, & Fees Research Topics Online Catalog Land Records