Marconi portable field phone, used by RCA
c. 1903 - 1914
This portable field phone, patented in 1903, was used for communication between a rigger at the top of a transmission tower and a worker on the ground. Bolinas played a pivotal role in communication history when Marconi built a mighty transmission station in Bolinas in 1914 to facilitate round-the-world wireless radio communication. Some of the Marconi towers were 300 feet high, requiring fearless skill from the riggers who went to the top to work on the cables and lines. In 1919, after the first world war, the United States wanted control of the Marconi stations in this nation and forced Marconi to sell to newly formed Radio Corporation of America, RCA. Walter Wagner was brought from the East Coast, with his family, to become head rigger. Jimmy Bourne who gave this phone to the museum’s history collection, was from a local ranch family and worked as Wagner’s assistant, then became head rigger when Wagner retired. In the 1970s most of the RCA service was automated and in the 1990s most of the big antenna poles were taken down.