Tesla's Wardenclyffe Tower is Demolished - 1917

On July 4, 1917, the Wardenclyffe Tower in Shoreham, Long Island, New York, was demolished by the federal government. The following article claims the government thought that it was being used as a communication tower by German spies.

According to pbs.org, J.P. Morgan was the original source of funding for the Wardenclyffe Tower: "Morgan offered Tesla $150,000 to build a transmission tower and power plant. A more realistic sum would have been $1,000,000, but Tesla took what was available and went to work immediately. In spite of what he told his investor, Tesla's actual plan was to make a large-scale demonstration of electrical power transmission without wires. This turned out to be a fatal mistake."

Tesla acquired the land for the tower from James S. Warden, a lawyer/banker. Mr. Warden believed the resort community he built, "Wardenclyffe-On-Sound," would become one of the world's first "Radio Cities." He donated 200 acres to Tesla's project.

Nikola Tesla's Wardenclyffe lab building, seen in 1904.

In 1901, it became clear that the tower was severely underfunded. Then, asserts pbs.org, "on December 12, 1901, the world awoke to the news that Marconi had signaled the letter "S" across the Atlantic from Cornwall, England to Newfoundland. Tesla, unruffled by the accomplishment, explained that the Italian used 17 Tesla patents to accomplish the transmission. But Morgan began to doubt Tesla. Marconi's system not only worked, it was also inexpensive." This statement is summarily contradicted by Nikola Tesla in The Electrical Experimenter in 1919.

Tesla begged for funds but could find none. This was closely followed by the stock market crashing and prices for building materials doubling. In 1905, the Wardenclyffe Tower project had to be abandoned. The newspapers called it, "Tesla's million dollar folly." (pbs.org)

In the June, 1919, edition of The Electrical Experimenter, Tesla talks about the Wardenclyffe Tower: "A plant was built on Long Island with a tower 187 feet high, having a spherical terminal about 68 feet in diameter. These dimensions were adequate for the transmission of virtually any amount of energy. Originally only from 200 to 300 K.W. were provided but I intended to employ later several thousand horsepower. The transmitter was to emit a wave-complex of special characteristics and I had devised a unique method of telephonic control of any amount of energy."

Regarding the tower demolition, Tesla makes this statement: "On this occasion I would contradict the widely circulated report that the structure was demolished by the Government which owing to war conditions, might have created prejudice in the minds of those who may not know that the papers, which thirty years ago conferred upon me the honor of American citizenship, are always kept in a safe, while my orders, diplomas, degrees, gold medals and other distinctions are packed away in old trunks. If this report had a foundation I would have been refunded a large sum of money which I expended in the construction of the tower. On the contrary it was in the interest of the Government to preserve it, particularly as it would have made possible — to mention just one valuable result — the location of a submarine in any part of the world. My plant, services, and all my improvements have always been at the disposal of the officials and ever since the outbreak of the European conflict I have been working at a sacrifice on several inventions of mine relating to aerial navigation, ship propulsion and wireless transmission which are of the greatest importance to the country. Those who are well informed know that my ideas have revolutionized the industries of the United States and I am not aware that there lives an inventor who has been, in this respect, as fortunate as myself especially as regards the use of his improvements in the war. I have refrained from publicly expressing myself on this subject before as it seemed improper to dwell on personal matters while all the world was in dire trouble. I would add further, in view of various rumors which have reached me, that Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan did not interest himself with me in a business way but in the same large spirit in which he has assisted many other pioneers. He carried out his generous promise to the letter and it would have been most unreasonable to expect from him anything more. He had the highest regard for my attainments and gave me every evidence of his complete faith in my ability to ultimately achieve what I had set out to do. I am unwilling to accord to some small-minded and jealous individuals the satisfaction of having thwarted my efforts. These men are to me nothing more than microbes of a nasty disease. My project was retarded by laws of nature. The world was not prepared for it. It was too far ahead of time. But the same laws will prevail in the end and make it a triumphal success."

The world may not have been prepared for this technology. Historically speaking, people have been shown to fear what they don't understand, time and time again.

Tesla admits that he had a serious mental breakdown following the tower's demolition. His is quoted by PBS as saying, "It is not a dream," he protested. "It is a simple feat of scientific electrical engineering, only expensive... blind, faint-hearted, doubting world."

The Electrical Experimenter, Vol. V, No. 53, September, 1917, Page 293.

U. S. Blows Up Tesla Radio Tower



SUSPECTING that German spies were using the big wireless tower erected at Shoreham, L. I., about twenty years ago by Nikola Tesla, the Federal Government ordered the tower destroyed and it was recently demolished with dynamite. During the past month several strangers had been seen lurking about the place.


Tesla erected the tower, which was about 185 feet high, with a well about 100 feet deep, for use in experimenting with the transmission of electrical energy for power and lighting purposes by wireless. The equipment cost nearly $200,000.

The late J. P. Morgan backed Nikola Tesla with the money to build this remarkable steel tower, that he might experiment in wireless even before people knew of Marconi. A complete description, revised by Dr. Tesla himself, of this unique and ultra-powerful radio plant was given in the March, 1916, issue of THE ELECTRICAL EXPERIMENTER. Every one interested in the study of high frequency currents should not fail to study that discourse as it contains the theory of how this master electrician proposed to charge this lofty antenna with thousands of kilowatts of high frequency electrical energy, then to radiate it thru the earth and run ships, factories and street cars with "wireless power."



Most of our readers have, no doubt, read about the famous Tesla wireless tower, which structure involved the expenditure of a vast sum of money and engineering talent. From this lofty structure, which was designed some 20 years ago by Dr. Tesla and his associates, there was to be propagated an electric wave of such intensity that it could charge the earth to such a potential that the effect of the wave or charge could be felt in the utmost confines of the globe.

Further, it may be said that Tesla, all in all, does not believe in the modern Hertzian wave theory of wireless transmission at all. Several other engineers of note have also gone on record as stating their belief to be in accordance with Dr. Tesla's More wonderful still is the fact that this scientist promulgated his basic theory of earth current transmission a great many years ago in some of his patents and other publications. Briefly explained, the Tesla theory is that a wireless tower, such as that here illustrated and specially constructed to have a high capacity, acts as a huge electric condenser. this is charged by a suitable high frequency, high voltage apparatus and a current is discharged into the earth periodically and in the form of a high frequency alternating wave. The electric wave is then supposed to travel thru the earth along its surface shell and in turn to manifest its presence at any point where there might be erected a similar high capacity tower to that above described.


Two Views of the Last Minutes of Tesla's Gigantic Radio Tower at Shoreham, L. I., New York, As It Was Being Demolished by the Federal Government. It Was Suspected That German Spies Were Using the Tower for Radio-Communication Purposes. It Stood 185 Feet Above the Ground and Cost About $200,000. Tesla Had Not Used It For Several Years.


A simple analogy to this action is the following: Take a hollow spherical chamber filled with a liquid, such as water; and then, at two diametrically opposite points, let us place, respectively, a small piston pump, such as a bicycle pump, and an indicator, such as a pressure gage. Now, if we suck some of the water into the pump and force it back into the ball by pushing on the piston handle, this change in pressure will be indicated on the gage secured to the opposite side of the sphere. In this way the Tesla earth currents are supposed to act.

The patents of Dr. Tesla are basically quite different from those of Marconi and others in the wireless telegraphic field. In the nature of things this would be expected to be the case, as Tesla believes and has designed apparatus intended for the transmission of large amounts of electrical energy, while the energy received in the transmission of intelligence wirelessly amounts to but a few millionths of an ampere in most cases by the time the current so transmitted has been picked up a thousand miles away. In the Hertzian wave system, as it has been explained and believed in, the energy is transmitted with a very large loss to the receptor by electro-magnetic waves which pass out laterally from the transmitting wire into space. In Tesla's system the energy radiated is not used, but the current is led to earth and to an elevated terminal, while the energy is transmitted by a process of conduction. That is, the earth receives a large number of powerful high frequency electric shocks every second, and these act the same as the pump piston in the analogy.

Quoting from one of Tesla's early patents on this point: "It is to be noted that the phenomenon here involved in the transmission of electrical energy is one of true conduction and is not to be confounded with the phenomena of electrical radiation, which have heretofore been observed, and which, from the very nature and mode of propagation, would render practically impossible the transmission of any appreciable amount of energy to such distances as are of practical importance."

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