AKA: Federal Telegraph Company, Research Laboratory and Factory #1, University South, Palo Alto, CA

Structure Type: built works - industrial buildings - factories; built works - research structures - laboratories

Designers: [unspecified]

Dates: constructed 1909

1 story

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913 Emerson Street
University South, Palo Alto, CA 94301

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The Federal Telegraph Company research facility was located on Emerson Street at Channing Avenue.


Australian-born electrical engineer Cyrill F. Elwell (1884-1963) founded the Poulsen Wireless Telephone and Telegraph Company in 1909, although it was quickly renamed the "Federal Telegraph Company" by 1912. Beginning in 1911, Elwell was assisted by a team that included Lee De Forest (1873-1961), the noted inventor of the De Forest grid audion tube amplifier and oscillator. This tube design was critical to the development of long-distance telephone, radio and television and talking film technologies, spurring the eventual development of the Bay Area's global electronics industry, subsequently known as "Silicon Valley."

Building History

In 1909, Elewell's Poulsen Wireless Telephone and Telegraph Company licensed a new radio transmitting invention, the "Poulsen Arc Transmitter," produced by the Danish electrical engineer, Valdemar Poulsen's (1869-1942) in 1908. According to the Online Archive of California (OAC), "Elwell had obtained a license from Danish inventor Valdemar Poulsen to manufacture a newly patented radio transmitting device that was a dramatic improvement over the Marconi spark system." With the acquisition of US production rights to the Dane's new arc converter, Elwell could begin to innovate radio broadcast technologies.

In 1909, the Poulsen Wireless Telephone and Telegraph Company rented the Douglas Perham House, built c. 1905, and a galvanized iron out-building that functioned as a production facility at 913 Emerson Street in Palo Alto, CA.

The galvanized metal building was enlarged to expand production capabilities by 1913. A 75-foot radio antenna was positioned behind the house and in front of the shed.


The Douglas Perham House was razed. The City of Palo Alto and the Palo Alto Historical Association erected a plaque on the site commemorating the achievements of the Poulsen Wireless Telephone & Telegraph Company (and the Federal Telegraph Company) at this location on 05/02/1970.

California Historical Landmark: 836

PCAD id: 21562