The Whitehouse On Air

This article now forms part of the Radio Heritage Collection ©. All rights reserved to Ragusa Media Group, PO Box 14339, Wellington, New Zealand. This material is licenced on a non-exclusive basis to South Pacific DX Resource hosted on radiodx.com for a period of five years from May 1st 2003. Author: Harry Lemmon

Did you know that there is a Morse Code key in the White House? and it is made of solid gold, no less. This is the story.

Back in the year 1908, when radio was wireless, and messages were sent by Morse Code and not by voice, a special Morse Code key was constructed for use in the White House in Washington DC. The base was made from a small slab of polished marble found in Alaska, and the Morse Code key itself was made from the first gold strike found in Alaska. Around the edge of the marble base are sixteen small gold nuggets, and mounted on the base is an engraved plate stating that the key was presented to President William H. Taft, the 27th president of the United States.

This unique, solid gold Morse Code key was presented to President Taft in the White House by the man who first dicovered gold in Alaska, Mr George W. Carmack and it has been used on many important ceremonial occasions. Its first usage was when President Taft tapped the key and officially opened the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition on June 1, 1908, just ninety five years ago today.

Another important occasion when the Morse Code key in the White House was used for an important ceremony was for the official opening of the Panama Canal. It was on July 12, 1920 that President Woodrow Wilson in the White House tapped on the golden key, thus officially confirming the formal opening of this new waterway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

However, from a radio point of view, we would suggest that the most important occasion when this historic key was used was for the official opening of a huge radio broadcasting station. This event occurred on May 2, 1934 under the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States.

The radio station was the massive 500 kW mediumwave transmitter operated by the Crosley Corporation in Cincinnati Ohio which was on the air with the programming of the famous station WLW. It was the president’s wife, Mrs Roosevelt, who climaxed the opening ceremony when she pressed the golden key.

The golden Morse Key in the White House is today 95 years old.

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