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Loud Speaking Device

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Loud Speaking Device on President Harding's Car

Reprinted from the "The Pullman News," Volume II, Number 4, August, 1923, p. 99.

One of the features of President Harding's railway journey to the Pacific coast, en route to Alaska, was an invention combining the highest developments in electrical science with a practical advantage that will be indispensable in American politics in the future--the loud-speaking device installed upon the Pullman private car Superb. Unquestionably this broadcaster of oratory will be much heard from next year.

Because of this "Public Address System" President Harding was able, without straining his voice, to make himself heard to thousands surrounding his car. One innocent railroad shopman at Dubois, Ida., expressed the general surprise when he remarked: "What a hell of a big voice that fellow has got." For instance, at Cheyenne, Wyo., there were 12,000 persons around the car. Ordinarily but a few hundred could have heard the speaker, but every one of the thousands heard him distinctly.

Mr. Harding early in the trip took an active interest in the sound amplifier, saying he expected it would prove a "life saver." At Lund, Ut., the president returned from the Zion Park trip ahead of his party and found 3,000 waiting for him. While awaiting the operatives Mr. Harding told of the loud speaker's wonders, and, when the American Telephone & Telegraph representatives arrived, borne on the shoulders of the crowd, he designated the transmitter he would use and adjusted it himself.

After numerous conferences in New York and Chicago by electrical and other officials of the Pullman Company, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, Western Electric Company and the New York Division Engineers, the system was designed and constructed, the installation being supervised by Mechanical Inspector John W. Limbrock of the Mechanical department of the Pullman Company at the Wilmington, Del. shops. This was the first time the device was applied to a railway car, and it was designed, built and installed in 33 days.

"We have had the very finest kind of assistance and cooperation from the Pullman Company, especially Mr. Limbrock," wrote Mr. S. P. Grace, general supervisor of by-products of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company to Electrical Engineer Ernest Lunn of the Pullman Company, "and the engineers of our two companies seemed to have no difficulty in quickly arriving at joint conclusions. In particular, I should like to mention the good work done by Mr. Thomas Dean (acting manager) and his shop people in Wilmington. Everything they were asked to do was done on time and in perfect order."

The speech amplifying system was composed of the following units: Three portable transmitters mounted on the railing of the observation platform; a control system in which was located the operating rack with its amplifiers and accessory apparatus, such as batteries, etc.; five projectors or horns mounted in a semi-circle on a specially-built extension on the observation hood, or car roof, and the signal system.

The sound waves of the speaker's voice are absorbed by the transmitters and conveyed by wires to the control room where they are amplified, or increased in volume, and then are delivered to the horns on the roof, which act as powerful megaphones in delivering the words to the audience.

The signal system is arranged so as to enable the audience observer and the platform and control operators to converse by signals. If the observer, who is in the crowd, thinks additional volume is needed he signals the platform man, who indicates the deficiency to the control operator, all this being done without interfering with the speaker or any of his party. The Superb also had a telephone installation that permitted connection with any part of the country, and Mr. Harding was tickled to be able to talk with his sister in Massachusetts.

The presidential campaign of 1924 is likely to see many cars so equipped, as candidates can address millions of citizens without vocal strain or discomfort.

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