Harold Henry Beverage was born on October 14, 1893 in North Haven, an Island in Maine, USA.
His father, formerly a teacher, owned the farm that Harold grew up and helped out on in his early years.
As a boy in Maine Harold found farm work rather dull. On the island at the time there were about 65 telephones and, if there was a problem with the telephones, they had to send a man from Rockland on the steam boat. They had to hire a team to get out to wherever the trouble was (usually a blown fuse), repair the trouble, and then they'd go back and wait for the afternoon boat to get back to Rockland. Harold figured that it cost, all told, about $100 to replace a fuse that took five seconds to change. He had always been interested in the telephone and used to hang around the telephone repair center in Rockland. One of the men had the bright idea that maybe Harold could help in the maintaining of the telephones over on the Island of North Haven. So they went and saw the manager of the Rockland Telephone Center. She looked Harold over, asked a few questions and hired him on the spot at 20 cents an hour. Not only that, but they sold him an old motorcycle for $20 to get around the Island with. It was the first one and the only motorcycle, there was a millionaire that had a car, but other than that he had the only other motorisied vehicle on the island, and it scared the devil out of the horses! Harold would be digging potatoes or picking beans, etc and his mother would call "The wire chief's calling." He would lay down the hoe, hop on his motorcycle and go out and replace the fuse.
Harold had also became interested in wireless. He built his first radio at the age of 10, it had a good antenna, mounted 60 feet high and 100 feet in length. He would listen to the very strong signals from the ships bound for Europe. They'd pass by 30 or 40 miles away from the island. Remember, though, that all radio communication at this time was in Morse Code, which Harold taught himself from Modern Electrics magazine that carried a lot of information about Morse communication. He would also listen to anything he could find to listen to. On one occasion he heard that Ellen Louise Wilson (first wife of President Woodrow Wilson) had died. He told his grandmother of the death (she was very interested in Pesidential happenings) and she said, "You couldn't possibly know that." When it came out in the news the next day and proved that he was right he got what he later called his first medal of honour: a five-dollar gold piece.
In 1908, when Harold was 15 years old, he designed and built his first spark gap transmitter from parts he had made himself, except for the headphones and spark coil. With his rather primitive equipment he was able to communicate up to 50 miles. Harold regularly listened to the Marconi long-range commercial station at Wellfleet on Cape Cod. Harold became a licenced radio amateur in 1911, aged 18. In 1912, with his home made set, he picked up signals for two days from the S.S. Carpathia, the rescue ship that rushed to the scene of the Titanic disaster and picked up 705 survivors and took them to New York. The Titanic disaster showed the importance of radio communications and it was the catalyst that inspired many young men to seek interesting radio careers. Wireless led Harold to study electrical engineering and he graduated, in 1915, from the University of Maine with a B S degree.
Harold went to the General Electric Company in 1916 and, after a year in the Test Course, testing various kinds of machinery, he became a lab assistant to Dr Ernst Frederick Werner Alexanderson, inventor of the Alexanderson alternator, a high frequency alternating current (up to 100 kHz) generator used for radio communication. Harold assisted in the development of a modulator so that the Alexanderson alternator could be used for voice transmission, a feat that Alexander Fessenden had first accomplished in 1906 but by no means common at this time. Also around this time he played trombone at weekends in the Theater Bijou, Bangor (Maine) for the vaudeville shows there.
In 1918 Harold went to New Brunswick to work on the "barrage receiver". This was part of a system being developed by Dr Alexanderson during WWI. The idea was the jamming of the German transmissions, he called it the barrage. It was built and sent to France, it got installed about a week before the war was over but it was never actually used. Later, when it was decided to put a radiophone on the USS George Washington, the presidential ship to the peace conference, Harold was one of the engineers assigned to install the equipment. Unfortunately, when the President came out on deck to speak he was about twenty feet from the microphone and stood with his back to it, so the pick-up was weak. Only nearby ships heard a word now and then. The experiment is remembered as "The voice that failed," although it marked the first attempt to broadcast the voice of a President of the United States.
In the autumn of 1919, Harold was sent to Long Island to study methods of receiving signals from South America utilising long wires similar to those for the "barrage receiver" he had developed earlier. He noticed that with the longer wires, directivity was very pronounced. He took a big heavy receiver down the line and broke into some a wire to see how the signals built up as it went towards the north and the static went down. Then going the other way, the signal went down and the static came up.
During further testing Harold picked a road which runs from Riverhead to East Moritches which was almost straight in a northeast-southwest direction for a distance of about nine miles. It was just a little sand road and he ran the wires down that road to find the reason why the wire would receive from only one direction. Using this wire antenna, Harold found that the (then longwave) signals from Europe increased over a distance of four or five miles, and then began to decrease. He also found that static would decrease under certain conditions when the northeast end of the wire was grounded. From a study of the results of these experiments Harold developed the theory of how the antenna worked and Philip S Carter made a complete mathematical analysis to confirm the theory. It was discovered that the losses in the wire laying on the ground were so high that there would be no energy reflected from the far end of it, so that the signal would build up. If a wire was laid out pointing at the transmitting station the signal would build up on this wire and a strong signal would be received, but any signals or noise or static coming from the other direction would have to travel up to the far end and there would be such high losses that it would never get back to the receiver. That was the beginning of the wave, or Beverage, antenna. The beauty of the wave antenna is that it is not tuned to anything and it receives a wide band of wave-lengths equally well. Harold himself stated that he had some help, particularly from Chester Rice and E W Kellog from the General Electric Company.
While working under Dr Alexanderson Harold was transferred, without his knowing, to the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). The first he knew was when he received his pink slip from General Electric. He want to Dr Alexanderson, who was quite forgetful about mundane things as ther was so much he was thinking about, and asked why he had been fired and received the reply: "I don't know what it is all about. Oh I know, I know. I had you transferred to the RCA, didn't I tell you?" Harold didn't mind too much as he was still working under Dr Alexanderson and still had a job!
At the end of 1921 Harold, accompanied by Noel Rust of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company Ltd., went to Brazil to study reception conditions. One night he was making measurements in signals from Cavite in the Phillippine Islands when he discovered, by means of a direction finder, that signals were arriving from both the west and the east, in fact they were arriving around the world from both directions simultaneously.
Harold met Marconi on several occasions and remarked that Marconi didn't believe anything the scientists told him, prefering to re-do the experiment for himself, not only proving the results but also to gain an understanding of what was happening.
During the period of this pioneering work, that is from 1920, when Harold was first employed by RCA, to 1929, he was in charge of RCA's development of transoceanic recieving systems. In 1929, when RCA Communications, Inc. was formed, Harold became chief research engineer and remained in that position until December 1940, when he was made Vice President in charge of Research and Development. The Research Department of RCA Communications was expanded and in addition to developing complete commercial transmitting and receiving equipment, automatic printers and multiplex, a great deal of work was done on radio relaying for communications and for television, including special antennas for television. Also an ultra-short-wave system was developed for the Mutual Telephone Company of Hawaii to connect the islands of Oahu, Hawaii, Maui and Kauai.
In World War II Harold handled work that fell within the realm of military secrecy. As temporary consultant for the War Department on radio communications, he received high commendation from Major General H C Ingles, chief signal officer of the Army: "Please accept my sincere appreciation for this and the many other outstanding services you have rendered the Army in the communications field.".
Harold officially retired in 1958 from that position and as Director of Radio Research, but continued to work in communications as a consultant.
He died on 27 January 1993, at the John T. Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson, Long Island, NY, at the age of 99.