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Guide to the Cyril Frank Elwell Papers M0049
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  • Biographical Note:
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  • Conditions Governing Access
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  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: Department of Special Collections and University Archives
    Title: Cyril Frank Elwell Papers
    creator: Elwell, C. F. (Cyril Frank)
    Identifier/Call Number: M0049
    Physical Description: 3 Linear Feet (5 boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1930-1961

    Scope and Contents Note:

    These papers contain several versions of Elwell's autobiography, including one written under a pseudonym and correspondence with possible ghost writers, especially R. B. Stone. Also included are engineering papers, clippings, biographical materials, and correspondence.

    Biographical Note:

    Cyril Frank Elwell (1884 – 1963) was an American inventor and pioneer in the development of radio-telegraphy and long-distance communication. Born in Melbourne, Australia in 1884 to an American father and a German mother, Elwell arrived in the United States in 1902. He studied electrical engineering at Stanford University, graduating with an engineering degree in 1907. While he first was involved with electric metallurgy, in 1908 he began research in wireless communication after investigating a system for voice transmission invented by Francis Joseph McCarty (1888-1906) six years earlier. Elwell founded the Poulsen Wireless Telephone and Telegraph Company, later renamed Federal Telegraph Company in 1909. By 1910 Elwell had sucessfully demonstrated voice communication between Stockton and Sacramento, California. Equipment and technique rapidly improved and by 1911 Federal Telegraph was prepared to bid on contracts to provide Navy communication to Hawaii. After a dispute with the Federal Telegraph board of directors, Elwell resigned in 1913 but continued his research, joining the short-lived Universal Wireless Syndicate. During World War I he was a consulting radio engineer for the French and Italian governments. Subsequently he moved to England where in the early 1920s he established and managed the company C. F. Elwell, Ltd., originally to mainly supply wireless apparatus for maritime communication but later manufacturing home radio receivers for the emerging radio broadcasting service. While in England he also became involved in other electronics enterprises, including collaborating with Lee de Forest on talking pictures with the British de Forest Phonofilms Company. He also briefly worked on motion picture sound in France. Elwell was a founding investor in the Mullard Radio Valve Company, manufacturers of vacuum tubes. After his term as director at Mullard, he returned to the United States in 1947 and was a consulting engineer for Hewlett Packard. He died in 1963.

    Preferred Citation:

    [Identification of item], Cyril Frank Elwell Papers, M0049, Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.

    Conditions Governing Use

    While Special Collections is the owner of the physical and digital items, permission to examine collection materials is not an authorization to publish. These materials are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. Any transmission or reproduction beyond that allowed by fair use requires permission from the owners of rights, heir(s) or assigns.


    Gift of Mrs. Cyril Frank Elwell, 1963

    Conditions Governing Access

    Open for research. Note that material must be requested at least 36 hours in advance of intended use.None.

    Related Materials

    Stanford holds a few related collections:
    MSS PRINTS 0085 "600-foot tower design for Federal Telegraph Co. : blueprints and typescript, 1912" https://searchworks.stanford.edu/view/5175668
    MISC 1035 "Clippings about Elwell and his work, 1912-1934" https://searchworks.stanford.edu/view/4703395

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Radio -- History
    Electrical engineering
    Elwell, C. F. (Cyril Frank)