Guide to the Cyril Frank Elwell Papers M0049

Elwell (Cyril Frank) papers
Processed by Special Collections staff; machine-readable finding aid created by Patricia White
Department of Special Collections and University Archives
1997 ; revised 2018
Green Library
557 Escondido Mall
Stanford 94305-6064

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"
MISC 1035 "Clippings about Elwell and his work, 1912-1934"

Subjects and Indexing Terms

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



box 1, folder 1

Autobiography. Notebook with typed copy and manuscript corrections.

box 1, folder 2

Autobiography. Notebook with typed copy but no corrections.

box 1, folder 3

Autobiography. Notebook with typed copy of marked pages 2-66.

box 1, folder 4

Autobiography. Notebook with typed copy and manuscript corrections. Version C.

box 1, folder 5

Autobiography. Typed copy of tape recorded reminiscences, 1957.

box 1, folder 6

Autobiography. Typed copy of tape recorded reminiscences, revised.

box 1, folder 7

Autobiography. Version P begining with page 2.

box 1, folder 8

Autobiography. Another version.

box 1, folder 9

Revised autobiography with the aid of R. B. Stone. Outline for possible publisher.

box 1, folder 10

Revised autobiography written under the name Frank Rossa.

box 1, folder 11

Autobiography. Notes for Stone.

box 1, folder 12

Autobiography. Miscellaneous notes.

box 2, folder 13

Autobiography. Notes for Stone.

box 2, folder 14

Autobiography. Notes for Stone.

box 2, folder 15

Autobiography. Van Etten, deForest and Hewlett Packard material.

box 2, folder 16

Autobiography. Miscellaneous notes.



box 2, folder 17

Letters, outgoing, 1941 Jan. 16 -1961 Feb. 28.

box 2, folder 18

Letters, incoming, A - Z.

box 2, folder 19

Letters not to Elwell but concerning his work.



box 2, folder 20

Clippings 1930s.

box 2, folder 21

Clippings 1940s.

box 2, folder 22

Clippings 1950s.

box 2, folder 23

Clippings undated


Articles, speeches, papers, etc.

box 3, folder 24

Speeches and articles by Elwell.

box 3, folder 25

Magazine articles pertaining to Elwell.

box 3, folder 26

Contracts and certificates.

box 3, folder 27

Financial papers.

box 3, folder 28

Engineering papers. Notebook of designs and circuits.

box 3, folder 29

Engineering papers. History of Radio, notes by Elwell.

box 3, folder 30

Engineering papers. Structural designs.

box 4, folder 31

Engineering papers. Antennas

box 4, folder 32

Engineering papers. Antennas

box 4, folder 33

Engineering papers. Transisters

box 4, folder 34

Engineering papers. Lapp radio material.

box 4, folder 35

Engineering papers. Radio towers.

box 4, folder 36

Engineering papers. Linear electron accelerator.



Scope and Contents

Approximately 150 early 20th century photographic prints of radio towers, equipment and people. There are also portraits of Elwell.
box 5, folder 1

"The C.F. Elwell Collection of Photographs & Equipment Used in Connection With the First Continuous Wave Commercial Stations on the West Coast Built by Federal Telegraph Company"

Scope and Contents

listing for exhibit with most of the photos listed
box 5, folder 2

Portraits of Elwell, residences, other people

box 5, folder 3

Photo album pages

box 5, folder 4


box 5, folder 5


box 5, folder 6

South San Francisco/California

box 5, folder 7

El Paso, Texas

Scope and Contents

One photo from the El Paso file is in Folder 1 (portrait of C.V. Logwood)
box 5, folder 8


Scope and Contents

Primarily Newcastle & Horsea Island
box 5, folder 9


box 5, folder 10


box 5, folder 11

Rome, Italy

box 5, folder 12

Misc. Europe

Scope and Contents

Romania, Hungary, Malta
box 5, folder 13