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Wireless telegraphy comes to Kauai

In October 1899, expert electrician Fred J. Cross of Honolulu contracted with Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company to install Marconi’s wireless communication system in the Hawaiian Islands.

Incidentally, it was Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937) who developed the first practical wireless telegraphy transmitters and receivers beginning in 1895.

Cross then went on to form Inter-Island Telegraph Co. of Hawaii in December 1899 with backing from major Honolulu businesses.

Inter-Island Telegraph Co. opened for business in 1901 with wireless stations established at Waialae, Oahu; Laau Point, Molokai; Keeaumoku, Lanai; Lahaina, Maui; and Mahukona, Hawaii.

Work to link Kauai — the only major Hawaiian Island not connected to Inter-Island’s wireless system — proceeded under the personal direction of manager Cross.

First off, in November 1902, Cross completed work on a wireless station on Kauai located near the old wharf at Kalapaki, and also made final preparations for operations in early July 1903 by raising a signal post — a 208-foot-tall signal pole weighing about seven tons — at the wireless station.

Due to its great length and weight, the pole could not be landed at the wharf, and had to be hauled some distance over rugged shoreline rocks to the wireless station.

A few days later, at about noon, on July 18, 1903, when the first signals were exchanged via Morse Code between Mr. Cross operating at Barber’s Point, Oahu, and Mr. Irish, at the Morse Code machine in Nawiliwili, Cross commented that the signals were “First-rate: they could not be any nicer.”

Inter-Island Telegraph Co. opened its Kauai wireless station for commercial business about a week later, and since it was linked to the Kauai telephone system, messages received there were available for speedy distribution by phone.

Rates for messages were $2 for messages of not more than 10 words and 20 cents per word for each additional word.

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