Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Guide to the Harold F. Elliott Papers 2003.36
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (121.69 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Processing Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Other Finding Aids
  • Preferred Citation
  • Custodial History
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Related Archival Materials

  • Title: Harold F. Elliott Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: 2003.36
    Contributing Institution: History San Jose Research Library
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 69.5 Linear feet
    Date (inclusive): 1900-1969
    Abstract: Correspondence, technical drawings, computations, patent materials, photographs, sketches and notes regarding electrical engineer's Harold F. Elliott's prolific work as an inventor of various radio apparatus and as a consulting engineer with companies such as the Federal Telegraph Company, the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation (Motorola, Inc.), the Victor Talking Machine Co., the Hewlett-Packard Company, and, during World War II, at the Radio Research Laboratory at Harvard University. The papers also contain personal materials belonging to and created by Elliott and his wife Winifred Estabrook Elliott.
    Language of Materials note: The materials are in English.
    creator: Elliott, Harold F.
    creator: Elliott, Winifred Estabrook

    Processing Information

    Processed by Coleen Hathaway-Rosa in 2012 as part of a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources' Cataloging Hidden Collections program.


    Harold Farley Elliott was born in Durango, Colorado, on June 17, 1892, to Wilbur S. Elliott and Henrietta Farley Elliott. Elliott's only sibling, Jean Elliott, was born in 1895. Elliott grew up in Prescott, Arizona and graduated from Prescott High School in 1911. He then attended Stanford University, where he graduated in 1916 with his A.B. in Mechanical Engineering and in 1925 with his Master's degree in Electrical Engineering.
    From 1916 to 1922, Elliott worked at the Federal Telegraph Company as a Chief Draftsman, Production Manager and Engineer in Charge of the design of high power radio transmitting equipment. From 1922 to 1925, he served as the Consulting Engineer in charge of designing the transmitting equipment for the Trans-Pacific project ("the Chinese project") for the Federal Telegraph Company and its subsidiary, the Federal Telegraph Co. of Delaware. Federal Telegraph Company had planned to construct four radio transmission stations to be located at Shanghai, Pekin (Peking or Beijing), Canton, and Harbin, China. However, in 1924 the Chinese project came to a standstill. According to Elliott, the instability of the Chinese government, the beginning of short wave radio and conflicts between the Federal Telegraph Company and R.C.A. caused the Chinese project to be delayed. Elliott wrote "It was not until 10 years later that R.C.A. finally established a short wave circuit to Shanghai."
    In early 1927, Eliott began designing and producing radio receivers for home use for the Victor Talking Machine Company. From 1929 through 1931, he served as a consulting engineer at that company. In 1937, he demonstrated his home radio set with clock and push button tuning to Paul Galvin of the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation (Galvin). This demonstration led to a licensing agreement for Galvin's exclusive use of Elliott's tuner in auto sets and the production of a push button automobile radio. According to Elliott, the licensing agreement "worked out very satisfactorily for all parties concerned." While working with Galvin, he developed other radio apparatus, such as a portable table model radio, radio tuners for military communication equipment, and a solenoid (or motor drive) for mechanical push button tuners. When describing his working relationship with Galvin, Elliott wrote "Over an eight year period every request for help has been met in good faith and without reservations. No expenditure in time or money has been spared to find a satisfactory solution and every problem has found a successful answer."
    In February 1942, Dr. Frederick E. Terman convinced Elliott to join the Radar Counter-Measures Laboratory developing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Eventually the laboratory moved to Harvard University and became known as the Radio Research Laboratory.) While Elliott spent 1942 through 1945 conducting war research at the Radio Research Laboratory, he continued to work on his radio apparatus developments for Galvin.
    From 1953 into the early 1960s, Elliott worked as a consultant at the Hewlett-Packard Company on technology related to digital printers and clocks.
    During much of his career, Elliott independently designed, developed, and marketed various radio apparatus, such as push-button, remote control, and clock control mechanisms for radio receivers and transmitters. His work resulted in over 80 U.S. patents, issued from 1920 through 1966.
    In addition to his electrical engineering work, Elliott was an accomplished photographer. During his undergraduate studies at Stanford, he managed the Campus Photo Shop and was the student manager of the 1916 Quad (the student yearbook). (Elliott appears to have been a contemporary of Stanford photographer Berton W. Crandall.) He continued with his photography throughout his lifetime, taking photographs for both professional and personal purposes. During the 1950s, Elliott's work was shown in multiple photography exhibits, including an exhibit held at the Stanford University Art Gallery. He also spoke about photography at local camera clubs.
    Throughout his lifetime, Elliott remained connected with Stanford University. He worked with or corresponded with other Stanford University electrical engineering alumni throughout his career, such as Ralph R. Beal, James Arthur Miller, Clinton H. Suydam, Herman P. Miller, Hans Otto Storm, Dr. Frederick E. Terman, Charles V. Litton, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. Elliott's personal correspondence refers to attendance at Stanford University football games and other activities. In his later years, he served as a part-time lecturer in the Engineering Department and on the 50th Anniversary Stanford Engineering Scholarship Fund Committee.
    Elliott married 1924 Stanford University graduate and accomplished musician Winifred Estabrook. One common interest between the couple was their love of classical music. Their personal correspondence mentions Estabrook's musical performances and their attendance at various music events. In later years, Estabrook acted as his personal secretary. In 1954, the couple moved into the custom home Elliott had designed at 800 Westridge Drive in Portola Valley, California. Elliott died at age 77 on January 24, 1970, in San Mateo, California. Estabrook died at age 82 on January 20, 1977, in Santa Clara, California.

    Scope and Content

    Correspondence, technical drawings, computations, patent materials, photographs, sketches and notes regarding electrical engineer Harold F. Elliott's prolific work as an inventor of various radio apparatus and as a consulting engineer with such companies as the Federal Telegraph Company, the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation (Motorola, Inc.), the Victor Talking Machine Co. and the Hewlett-Packard Company, and also during World War II at the Radio Research Laboratory at Harvard University.
    Of particular note is Elliott's extensive collection of Federal Telegraph Company documents, such as inter-office correspondence and memoranda, engineering reports and the technical drawings, accounting worksheets, and other material related to the transmitting equipment and radio stations designed for the Federal Telegraph Company's Trans-Pacific project, as well as numerous technical drawings of his radio tuners, clocks and assorted parts from his work with the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation. From his work at the Radio Research Laboratory, Elliott saved previously classified correspondence, technical manuals, pamphlets and reference notebooks. Separate files detail the step-by-step process of obtaining patents for over 30 of his radio apparatus inventions.
    The papers also contain a significant amount of personal materials from Elliott and his wife Winifred Estabrook, including personal correspondence, financial and real estate records, educational material, and musical performance and art exhibition programs. Elliott's interest in photography is well-documented through photography equipment brochures, photography club circulars, and news clippings regarding Elliott's exhibitions and talks. Over 1,100 black and white photographs taken by Elliott portray his days at Stanford University (1911-1916), his inventions, and the landscapes of California and the American Southwest. Also included are Elliott's plans and architectural drawings for their residence at 800 Westridge Drive, Portola Valley, California, built in 1954.
    The papers have been divided into 13 series.

    Other Finding Aids

    History San Jose's PastPerfect catalog, which includes folder and item-level catalog records for these papers, as well as many digitized images, is searchable at http://historysanjose.pastperfect-online.com.

    Preferred Citation

    Harold F. Elliott Papers 2003-36, History San Jose Research Library, San Jose, California 95112-2599.

    Custodial History

    Elliott's papers were originally donated to the Foothill Electronics Museum in 1971. History San Jose acquired the papers in 2003 from the Perham Foundation as part of the Perham Collection of Early Electronics.

    Conditions Governing Access

    Materials are open to the public for research by appointment with the Curator of Library and Archives.

    Conditions Governing Use

    The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research." If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement. This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgement, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law.

    Related Archival Materials

    Related Collections at History San Jose: This collection is directly related to the rest of the larger Perham Collection by provenance and by subject matter; and is also related by subject matter to other collections at History San Jose that deal with the early electronics industry in the Santa Clara Valley and the western United States.
    Related Collections at Other Institutions:
    Cyril Frank Elwell Papers, M0049, Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.
    Federal Telegraph Company records, 1900-1929 (bulk 1910-1919), BANC MSS 2002/66, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
    Charles Vincent Litton Papers, 1912-1972, Banc Mss 75/7c. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
    Haraden Pratt Papers, 1908-1969, Banc Mss 72/116/4. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
    Frederick Emmons Terman Papers (SC0160). Department of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.
    Harvard University Archives regarding the Radio Research Laboratory at Harvard University: http://oasis.lib.harvard.edu/oasis/deliver/~hua09005
    Motorola, Inc. Legacy Archives Collection (Schaumburg, Illinois)

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Electrical engineers--United States
    Inventors--California--Santa Clara Valley (Santa Clara County)
    Radio--Receivers and reception--Design and construction.
    Stanford University--Alumni and alumnae