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Two 1899 Nicola Tesla Letters: The Beginnings of Wireless Communication

Two Autograph Letters, signed, to Admiral Francis John Higginson, along with other correspondence to Higginson during the Spanish American War.

Various places: Colorado Springs, New York, Newport News, New Orleans, Newport, 1899; other material 1894-1900.

60 letters and parcels of various paginations. 4to and smaller. Two 1899 Nicola Tesla Letters: The Beginnings of Wireless Communication. Generally very good. Item #318197

By 1897, Tesla began to patent inventions related to his work on wireless transmission of power and in this case, communication. This consists of the two Tesla letters and 50 other letters received by Higginson. Two of these other letters have content on Tesla and indicate that there was a misunderstanding concerning whether the U.S. Navy had agreed to fund research and development of equipment to communicate with the Light Ship Nantucket (April 24, August 18, 1899). The rest of the correspondence has some naval content but is mostly from friends.

Each Tesla letter is dated Colorado Springs, 1899.

The May 18th letter reads in part:

"My coming here was necessary because I needed to obtain some data in high altitude in view of my attempt to communicate with and possibly to harness energy to Europe. These data though they are for a different purpose will be useful in telegraphy."

From the July 19th letter, in part:

"Since you have honored me with a message expressing your desire in regard to a station for telegraphy without wires from the lightship Nantucket I have not for a moment relented in my efforts to complete the apparatus and a good part of the same already finished.

It may interest you to know that I have perfected novel methods on which I have been working for a long time which are in every respect superior to those which have been by myself and others suggested and furnished heretofore. I am now looking with full confidence to the establishment of a communication with the European continent by the help of apparatus which I shall design on these new principles."

Admiral Francis John Higginson (1843-1921) was an officer in the Spanish American War, and the vast majority of this correspondence deals with that conflict. During his correspondence with Tesla, he was chairman of the United States Lighthouse Board. In that capacity, it seems Tesla would have found some kind of Federal funding for his experimentation with electricity and Higginson would have been his contact for this source.

1) Tesla, Nicola. Autograph letter, signed. Colorado Springs, CO. , July 14, 1899, 1 bifolium (4pp.).

2) Tesla, Nicola. Autograph letter, signed. Colorado Springs, CO. , May 18 1899, 1 bifolium (4pp.).

3) Coulis, Thomas. Autograph letter, signed. New York, NY, 689 Madison Ave., April 24, 1899, 1 bifolium (3pp.)
Mentions: “If Tesla and the Thompson ____ people were called in their __ advertisement would be sufficient and the — would cost which of expense might appeal to the pockets of some people.”

4) Perry, Thomas. Autograph letter, signed. US Treasury, August 18, 1899, 4pp. Mentions a letter from Tesla, requesting data, regarding building apparatus, and mentions that there is no budget for building an apparatus. 

The rest of the archive are in chronological order and with some detail in certain cases:

5) Folger, William M. (1844-1828). Autograph letter, signed. New York Club, Fifth Avenue & 35th Street, 1 bifolium (2pp.) William M. Folger was a U. S. Navy officer, who served in the Civil War (although he saw no action in that conflict), and was captain of the USS New Orleans in the Spanish-American War—the letters in this archive are almost all entirely from this period, and many of them mention dealings with this particular conflict. However, it is clear that Folger was a close friend of Higginson’s and he mentions social engagements, literature, and mutual interests in most correspondence. This letter mentioned “dieting” and yellow fever or cholera ailment.

6) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. “18th,” 1 bifolium (2pp.)

7) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. 7th, 3 pm, University Club, Madison Square, 1 bifolium (2pp.)

8) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. Sunday 19th, The Chamberlin, 2pp. This letter says that Wm Parker wants a copy of the work on seamanship by the “two English merchant captains” issued by the ship library.

9) Fuller, Lucia F. Autograph letter, signed. Monday, 102 Waverly Place, 1 bifolium (1p.) Lucia Fuller was Higginson’s niece.

10) Courine (?), Ella. Autograph letter, signed. 255 W 22nd St, New York City, 1 bifolium (2pp.) Ms. Courine asks about Higginson’s role in the parade, so this may be the fall of 1899, leading up to Dewey’s parade in Washington, DC.

11) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. 28th May, Chamberlin, 1 bifolium (3pp.)

12) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. July 26, 1 bifolium (3pp.)

13) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. July 3, Monticello, 1 bifolium (4pp.) Folger mentions quarantine and a fever making numerous people sick in the area. This could have been the 1889-1890 flu epidemic.

14) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. Dec 22nd, 1 bifolium (3pp.)

15) “Judge.” Autograph letter, signed. 16 Sept, Boston, 1 bifolium (3pp.) “Judge” mentions he has sent telegrams that never arrived, and discusses Navy business.

16) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. April 24, 1894, Office of General Inspector of USS Kearsarge, Newport News, VA, 1p. Mentions W. Parker and a desire to get him permission to go on a trial trip. He says Coylan (?) has made an ass of himself.

17) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. May 29, 1896, Detroit, 1 bifolium (3pp.)

18) Pratt, D. W. Typed letter, signed. January 13, 1897, Portsmouth VA, 1p. Pratt agrees to rent buildings in Brooklyn for three years and to make improvements at his own expense.

19) Haldane, O. Autograph letter, signed. May 24, 1897, McLean Anglum, Waverly, Mass., 1 bifolium (3pp.) Haldane discusses enjoyment of libraries in different areas, particularly Boston. He complains about his disagreeable ship captain.

20) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. June 10, 1897. Duluth Minn. 1 bifolium (4pp.)

21) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. June (2?) 1898, 1p.

22) Taylor, Harry. Autograph letter, signed. 20 July, 1898, “Indiana”, 1p. Henry Clay Taylor was a rear admiral in the United States Navy, and captain of the USS Indiana during the Spanish-American War.

23) Courine(?) Ella. Autograph letter, signed. Aug 21, 1898, 27 Willow Ave, 2pp. The letter expresses admiration for Higginson, and says that Ms. Courine saw him at a few different venues but she did not approach him.

24) Tobias. Autograph letter, signed. Sept 6, 1898, Boston, 1 bifolium (3pp.) “Tobias” addresses the commander of the USS Massachusetts and expounds on how citizens of the US must swear loyalty to Congress and the President of the United States.

25) Casey, Silas. Autograph letter, signed. Sept 8, 1898, Commandant’s Office, Navy Yard, League Island, Pa. 1 bifolium (3pp.) Silas Casey III was the son of the better-known Silas Casey who served in the Civil War as a US Major General. Casey was a rear admiral in the Pacific Fleet beginning in 1900. In this letter, Casey asks for Higginson to make inquiries on board St. Louis and St. Paul for his packages. He congratulates Higginson on his recent promotion.

26) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. November 3, 1898, USS New Orleans, 1 bifolium (2pp.)

27) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. November 19, 1898, USS New Orleans, 2 bifolia (6pp.)

28) Russell, Isaac Franklin. Typed letter, signed. November 26, 1898, 120 Broadway, New York, 1 p. Isaac Franklin Russell was a prominent New York attorney and judge. This missive asks Higginson to give an address on behalf of the Navy at the Quill Club’s monthly meeting.

29) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. December 12, 1898, New York Club, 1 bifolium (3pp.) This letter mentions that Higginson has been unwell, possibly with the grip. Mrs. Eames has invited him to dinner and the opera (Walküre), which he declined. He proceeds to discuss the female traits of the Eames family.

30) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. December 15, 1898, New York Club, 1 bifolium (4pp.)

31) Taylor, Harry. Autograph letter, signed. December 16, 1898, Brooklyn Navy Yard, 1 bifolium (4pp.)

32) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. January 6, 1899, University Club, Madison Square, 1 bifolium (2pp.)

33) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. January 20, 1899, 1 bifolium (4pp.)

34) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. January 25, 1899, University Club, Madison Square, bifolium (3pp.)

35) Creveling, Mrs. M. L. Typed letter, signed. January 24, 1899, New York, 159 W. 97th St., 2pp. Mrs. Creveling seeks information on Commo. Philip.

36) Creveling, Mrs. M. L. Autograph letter, signed. January 26, 1899, New York, 159 West 97th Street, 2pp. The letter seeks remembrances of Commander Philip.

37) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. January 27, 1899, New York Club, 1 bifolium (4pp.)

38) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. January 28, 1899, New York Club, 1 bifolium (4pp.) Folger says he is going to Boston to look at a farm.

39) Creveling, M. L. Typed letter, signed. February 4, 1899, 159 West 97th Street, N. Y., 1p. The letter reminds Higginson to provide her with memories of Commander Philip.

40) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. March 6, 1899, Newport News, 1 bifolium (4pp.)

41) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. March 22, 1899, Newport News, Va, 1 bifolium (2pp.)

42) Taylor, Harry. Typed letter, signed. May 2, 1899, USS Indiana, Tompkinsville, S.I., 1p. Discusses having the fleet go to Newport.

43) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. May 5, 1899, Newport News, Va, 1 bifolium (3pp.)

44) Crasen(?), Olga. Typed letter, signed. June 5, 1899, Annapolis MD, 1p. Ms. Crasen inquires about a manuscript she sent Higginson and it seems to be some kind of biographical material.

45) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. June 15, 1899, New Orleans, 1 bifolium (4pp.)

46) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. July 2, 1899, Newport News, 1 bifolium (4pp.)

47) Miles, Nelson. Autograph letter, signed. July 31 1899, US Army, bifolium (3pp.) Nelson Miles was the last Commanding General of the United States Army before the position was eliminated. He was in charge of the invasion of Puerto Rico in the Puerto Rican Campaign, during the Spanish-American War. In this letter, Miles asks for two light drought vessels as soon as possible.

48) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. August 2, 1899, New York Club, Fifth Avenue and 35th Street, 1 bifolium (4pp.)

49) Courine(?), Ella. Autograph letter, signed. September 14, 1899, Eagle Crest, Newport RI, 1 bifolium (2pp.) Mentions perhaps coming to New York for a Dewey parade there.

50) Taylor, Harry. Typed letter, signed. September 16, 1899, USS Indiana, Tompkinsville, S. I., 1 p. Taylor requests bringing his family on board a lighthouse vessel on the 29th.

51) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. September 27, 1899, New Algonquin Club, Boston, 1 bifolium + 1 sheet (6pp.) In this letter, Folger discusses attire and plans for the upcoming festivities to honor George Dewey in DC, following the victory in Manila Bay.

52) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. October 7, 1899, Monticello, 1 bifolium (4pp.) Discusses the USS Brooklyn and her departure for the Asiatic Squadron.

53) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. November 3, 1899, Monticello, 1 bifolium (2pp.)

54) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. November 15, 1899, Newport News, 1 bifolium (3pp.) This letter mentions the details of controller, and the building of a machine, and whether Dewey will want it.

55) Taylor, Harry. Autograph letter, signed. November 24, 1899, Newport, 5pp. This letter discusses military tactics.

56) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. November 25, 1899 (returning from Richmond by rail), 1 bifolium (4pp.)

57) Taylor, Harry. Autograph letter, signed. November 30, 1899, Newport RI, bifolium (4pp.) Discusses an old book that he thinks should be kept under glass, as well as artillery issues.

58) Folger, William. Autograph letter, signed. December 17, 1899, 1 bifolium (4pp.)

59) Taylor, Harry. Autograph letter, signed. January 2, 1900, Treasury Department, 1p.

60) Envelope to Captain F. J. Higginson, US Navy, USS Massachusetts, Tompkinsville, Staten Island, NY

61) Partly printed document accomplished in ink. Balance sheet, Royal sailors’ rest, Portsmouth year ending June 30th, 1895, 9 pp.

62) 10 receipt fragments.

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