The Phillips Code
K2AVJ's notes about Dr. E.Stuart Davis
I first met Dr. Davis (hereafter referred to as "Stu", which
was his handle on 40 CW in the early fifties) around 1953. He
was living in Newark, NJ at the time, still up "north" on some
"temporary" assignment. He worked in the area of psychological
counselling -- I never found out what he did in detail.
It was a shock (for me, a teenager) to meet him. He had a
badly hunched back, which I believe was the result of an accident
that happened early in his life. I think he said it was a
boating accident. He had owned a boat in Florida, and may have
been a Florida native.
He came over by subway ,although between Newark and Jersey City
the "tubes" travelled above ground. My mother fixed a nice
dinner and we all had a nice chat with Stu. I supposed we
retired to "the shack" for a while to talk shop. I believe I had
an SX-28A (hallicrafters) at the time, and Stu must have had a
few things to say about that! But I do not recall anything
I have forgotten his call. It was not the call he originally
had -- i think it was a K4.../2. Then he changed his call to a
After I got married, I still kept in touch with Stu, and by
this time he was established in his "Telegraph Office" in Union,
NJ. I visited him several times. Stu had a leased line from the
phone company, and he and several cronies had it hooked up to
keys and sounders. They used the American Morse, which I
unsuccessfully tried to learn ( perhaps I got to 5 wpm?).
Stu had quite a collection of early telegraph equipment, sorry
I can't recall the details, but I am sure it was a collection of
He had a collins receiver, and I believe a collins transmitter
also. Naturally, he was CW only. Perhaps that's why we got
along so well. Even if I was a young squirt, I wasn't too far off
the beam, communication wise, in his opinion.
He had a friend, Commander Quimby, whom he introduced me to,
and we ( Stu, Cdr. Quimby, my friend Andy Dlinn, WA2FFY, and
myself ) all had lunch at the Governor Morris, the most august
Inn and Restaurant in the very august town of Morristown, NJ. I
believe Qimby had a home in or near Morristown, and Stu prevailed
upon him to give me a tour of the place. It was sheer
fascination to listen as these two ... two .... what? Raconteurs
? ... as they discoursed during the luncheon.? Stu told me that
Quimby was responsible for preserving the "Delta Queen" -- the
last of the operating Mississippi river paddle wheelers. I was
gratified to hear Quimby's name mentioned watching a recent TV
show about the "Queen". Took me back to that luncheon, and Stu.
Quimby's place was just MAGNIFICENT. Where does one get the
*money*? He had salvaged an old theatre organ and had it
installed in his foyer and main entrance. There were two "wings"
off the entrance where Quimby had installed the pipes. And then
in a room of to the left, he had installed all the drums,
mechanical clarinets, violins, and other instruments that were
all controlled by the organist, whom, I believe was Quimby's
wife. She was not present to give us a demonstration, so
Commander Quimby played the organ for us a little, but apologized
for the fact that it was not completely hooked up. It sounded
"hooked up" TO ME!
Down in Commander Quimby's cellar was another surprise! A
large scale model railroad. Similar in size to the old
largest-gauge sets that Lionel used to make (much bigger than "O"
gauge) -- but this set looked like it was all custom made. A
very complicated and detailed set up, which just about filled the
basement. I think Stu was proud to have Commander Quimby as a
One time Stu and I got on the subject of old movies, and Stu
asked me "Did you ever see a 'smart' telegrapher in a hollywood
movie?" I said I could not think of ever seeing one: the ones I
saw were usually portrayed as kind of stupid. Stu said he felt
this was a conspiracy by the hollywood crowd: that someone had
been snubbed by a telegrapher, or something of the kind, and as a
result, the hollywood telegraphers were invariably portrayed as
Neanderthals. He told me that telegraphers were actually an
elite group, and that the telegraphic art used to be taught only
to sons, close relatives and some especially favored individuals.
He also asked me why was it that everyone "smoked" in the
movies? He felt that also was the result of some type of
influence peddling that had infiltrated the hollywood industry.
Stu loved to talk, yet there was one subject about which he
would *not* talk -- even at such a late date (in the late '70's)
-- it was of his experience during the second world war. Stu was
FDR's personal telegrapher, and wherever FDR went, Stu also went.
He told me "I could tell you things ..." -- but he never did,
even though I more than once tried to get him to tell of himself
and FDR. Perhaps he was sworn to secrecy, as I can see no other
reason for him not do discuss the trips with FDR. I am sure some
very sensitve messages had passed over his key.
In recognition of his services during the war Stu was given an
honorary Doctorate -- I don't recall if he even told me from
He was a batchelor when I knew him; I don't know if he was ever
married: he never said. He did complain about the costs of the
leased line, and told me he didn't know how long it would be
before he would have to give it up (for financial reasons).
He got to be quite frail. He loved his cat, who, naturally,
had the run of not only the house, but of the National Telegraph
Office also. He suffered more and more from breathing problems.
I lost touch with him, possibly not too long before he died. It
was depressing to see him in such a physical condition, having to
fight for breath.
He loved to play the piano, and he loved Verdi and Wagner. He
had no love for Puccini. I recall his most vocal and negative
reaction when I mentioned Puccini's name to him. (But,
nevertheless, I still love Puccini -- although I never admitted
it to Stu.)
I wish I knew to whom he bequeathed his museum, as I would like
to visit it and recall how Stu explained the various pieces to
me. I know he did *not* bequeath his museum to the Smithsonian,
as Stu was quite upset about the items that institution kept in
their store-rooms, hidden away from public view. I am sure he was
upset about their treatment of their early telegraphy
equipment. I think he said his collection would be going to some
friend in Canada.
Since I wrote the above paragraph it has come to my attention
that Stu did *not* bequeath* his Telegraphy Collection to a
Canadian friend, but it was sold to a private collector in
Massachusettes, who does not show it to the public.
He wanted to "loan" me a 2-meter rig, but for some reason I
just couldn't accept it. He gave me two copies of the book: The
Phillips Code. It is the only physical thing I have from him.
I'm surprised I still have it: I once went through my
"collection" like the grim reaper, but the Phillips Code book
survived (along with Courant's "Differential and Integral
Calculus"). Some things I guess we can't bear to part with.
If anyone can add anything to these fragmentary snapshots of
Dr. E.Stuart Davis, I would be most happy to hear of it and
incorporate it in these recollections of Stu. ]
[ Thank you for your interest.
Joe Hartmann Tel: (603) 863 6073
K2AVJ -issued email: [email protected]
1951 home-page: http://www.sugar-river.net/~joeh
First Student at the:
Linux University in the Sunshine Town of Newport, NH
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