Instructions for a homemade 1917 wet cell battery that powered telegraph operations. : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

According to my 1917 Book of Knowledge this is ONE CELL (of a battery) "which is used to a great extent for working telegraphs, it is called the Daniell cell" "The usual arrangement is that of an encircling pot of earthenware in which stands a circular (their diagram shows a not quite closed cylinder) copper sheet having a terminal at it's top. A pourous pot stands inside this cylinder of copper and holds a zinc rod also fitted with a terminal at its top. The porous pot contains a dilute sulphuric acid--that with a lot of water, and the outer jar contains a solution of copper sulphate, or bluestone. By saturated solution is meant that the water cannot dissolve any more bluestone, so that it is as strong as possible." The book also illustrates three other wet cell batteries The "Leclanche`", The "Bunsen",and the "bottle bichromate" Which were then used to power household doorbells for long long periods of time, just sitting there generating electricity till you had to add more liquid or another zinc rod when the old one was finally consumed. These employed carbon rods too which Im sure would be obtainable through the HELWIG company who now make carbon brushes for motors, and bichromate of potash and sulphuric acid as well as chromic acid salts which I have no idea where one would obtain them. Their descriptions are pretty lengthy and I won't describe them unless you all want me to. I find it interesting that this is a childrens book and all these chemicals and things were readily available to children then and there is no caution anywhere not to drink the stuff. No wonder so many found the resources for the inventions that changed our world. Nowdays, you will find yourself attributed with less common sense than that turn of the century child and either fobidden to posess these "dangerous chemicals" or maddened by all the hoops you will have to jump through to get them, if you even can.

-- Ann Fisher (, December 27, 1998



I'm facinated at the prospect of building these batteries. I do know something of their ability, capacity, etc. as we in fact worked for the NYC RR telegraph department in the fifty's. At that time, the lines for signals, telegraph and dispatcher's voice circuits were all still powered by dc from very large batteries.

They represent chemical power and if the right supplies are stockpiled, they can be combined and made to work at any time they are needed. No solar panels needed for charging nor would there be much fear of them going dead with no recourse but to ditch them. If they were built big, telephone lines could be run to the neighbors and many other uses would be found, using inverters, that otherwise wouldn't be thought prudent for the more limited dry cells and auto batteries.

Would you be able to have the pages scanned to put on a web page for everyone to download? If you'd rather, I'd be happy to do both. Just xerox the pages and fax them to me. I'll email my fax number to you.

-- Floyd Baker (, December 27, 1998.

I will do both tomorrow, as my mom wont let me tear the page out of her book, I will have to take it someplace to get it copied and scanned. Send (email) me your fax # I dont know how to put files or drawings on this forum so someone else will have to do it. I am barely computer functional let alone accomplished in doing all the "extra" stuff like posting gif's..

-- Ann Fisher (, December 28, 1998.

Re: 1917 Book of Knowledge. I am curious about the contents of this book. Does it happen to have anything in there about radio crystal sets? A couple of months ago I posted a question to this Forum related to crystal radio sets and received no answers.

When I was a young boy (in the early 1940s) my older brothers used to have these radio sets that used no electricity. As I recall they were made of tube of wound copper wire, a copper wire antenae, a crystal of some sort in a lead casing, and a pair of ear phones. I used this to listen to a variety of radio programs.

Does your book have anything in there about these radio sets? I'd like to give a try to make one of these. I never learned the technology from the older brothers.



-- Joseph (, December 28, 1998.

When I was a kid, I had a crystal set. We hooked it up to the metal bed springs for the antenna and the hot water radiator for the ground. The earphone was in my pillow and I listened to Frank Ward's Night Train program on WKBW every night until I fell asleep.

The crystal was Galena. The "cat's whisker" wire probe was set down on various parts of the crytal's surface until a sensitive spot (radio reception) was found. The antenna was connected to the crystal and the whisker wire was connected to the ground with the earphone connected across both. Today, basically any diode will substitute for the galena/whisker combination. They just didn't have them then. The diode symbol -|<- still represents the whisker wire touching the surface of the crystal.

KB was a 50kw station, 5 miles west of us and beaming east. I wasn't able to hear other stations with that kind of power coming in. In practice, I think that if you can hear a single station with no tuning circuit, that will be the best you can do. Only if you hear more than one station, mixed together, will it be beneficial to seperate them with a tuning circuit.

If you want to play around with tuning, go to Radio Shack for the antenna coil and variable tuning capacitor in the right values for AM reception. They will probably have connection instructions but otherwise just try them in series with the antenna wire. There is a parallel connection possible but it involves an additional take off coil and seperate connections.

It is a very good item to rig up though. A non powered and non tuning diode and earphone combination, connected to any significant antenna and a ground, should be able to pick up any stations broadcasting in the area.


-- Floyd Baker (, December 28, 1998.

Hey Joe, I responded to that message. Check it again in the archives. Or email me.

-- Paul Davis (, December 28, 1998.

PD - my deepest apology! What was I doing at the time I posted the original question? I kept looking, but must have scrolled past (how many other threads have I missed using this method?). I visit here every day, but don't usually post.

Thanks again. I'll give your plan a try. My interest in the crystal radio set is part nostalgic, but also might prove to be practical knowlege(?) for Y2K. Just a thought.

-- Joseph (, December 28, 1998.

I also would be interested in seeing a copy of that picture/file.

-- Bill (, December 29, 1998.

Sorry Folks my encyclopedia seems to predate radio. It gives an extensive account of all facets of radiotelegraph though. Also I copied the pages from the book on homemade batteries and they look pretty good and are readable but wont scan. All I can do Is mail or fax them. Nobody gave me the necessary info to do that either.

-- Ann Fisher (, December 29, 1998.

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