When you walk past the Marconi Tower you might question its existence or even question the role it has had in your technological experience. Residing at the Lackawanna station and sitting at 95 feet tall it’s easy to see how the tower could be depicted as just a consumer of space. The Marconi Tower though holds huge historical value in the way wireless communication is achieved and the convenience at which one can partake. In order to track its historical significance, one must trace the history of the man behind it, Guglielmo Marconi.

Looking Up at the Marconi Tower, May 2016, Image by Chelsey Briggs

Looking Up at the Marconi Tower, May 2016, Image by Chelsey Briggs

Marconi was an Italian inventor and engineer born in Bologna, Italy. He is credited with inventing the radio and pioneering long distance radio transmission. Marconi was heavily influenced by the German physicist, Heinrich Hertz. Marconi began his own experiments in 1894, soon finding success sending a radio signal a distance of 1.5 miles. He then moved to England in 1896, where he formed a wireless telegraph company allowing him to send transmissions a distance of 10 miles. Wireless technology had been studied for years but it was Marconi’s work that had been a proven success. Marconi’s inventions carried a lot of weight even playing a part in rescuing the survivors of the Titanic ship wreck. It was Marconi’s wireless communication devices which allowed the ship to contact the shore and send for help. This also proved how vital ship-to-shore communication was, translating from the previous method of flares and being within the same distance. This wireless communication was a more effective method and many praised Marconi, stating that the survivors were rescued solely because of his inventions.

When the Marconi Tower was invented in 1913, it allowed for communication between the tower and the train carts. Marconi began ushering the state of wireless communication out of the era of Morse Code and instead opting for a line of direct contact, such as we have in everyday use.

With such a large project, they were bound to run into some issues as the Navy shut the Tower down almost instantly, stating that their broadcast frequencies interfered with that of the Navy’s. Marconi’s company fought the legality of these actions but eventually had to cave to the orders of President Woodrow Wilson, who issued regulations. These regulations were issued because Wilson deemed the missions of the Navy to be more vital than Marconi’s mission to serve the public. Reconstructing the tower was considered but with the entrance into World War I, the project was scrapped. 

Currently the Marconi Tower sits as a historical landmark; its impact can be seen in the usage of our current cellphones. Marconi has played a huge role into ensuring wireless communication would be a convenience to the public. It’s easy to take his work for granted as we are not obliged to answer every message that we receive, unlike in 1913 where most messages were of importance. The Marconi Tower is now filled with sounds of pedestrians bypassing and sounds of the Binghamton Mets stadium, but its impact can be seen just by looking at--and listening to--your cellphone.

The Marconi Tower group Sharing their research (L-R): Kimberly Fernandez, Jonathan Rodriguez, Chelsey Briggs, and Sophia Mosner-Koor, Binghamton University

The Marconi Tower group Sharing their research (L-R): Kimberly Fernandez, Jonathan Rodriguez, Chelsey Briggs, and Sophia Mosner-Koor, Binghamton University