Welby Earl Stewart

Our father – Welby Earl Stewart (went by Earl) was born in Imperial Nebraska – in the southwest corner of the state –  in 1908.  His father was the county doctor and also a farm owner, so Dad grew up with farm experience- including riding horses, shooting pests, and all that.  Doctor moved his practice and his family to Eagle, just east of Lincoln, so his children could go to college easily – it was a short train ride into the city.  Dad went to Nebraska Wesleyan – run by the Methodist church – where he met our mother.  He also played football there.  At some point, he transferred to the

1931 Cornhusker Yearbook

University of Nebraska, and completed a degree in Electrical Engineering.  This was in the early days of radio – the vacuum tube was a new device.  [The first vacuum tube production was either in 1915 by GE or 1920 by RCA, depending on which web site you believe!]

Mom and Dad married in 1933 [and I was born 9 months and one day later…] and moved to Ames, Iowa – where he was chief engineer for the Iowa State College campus radio station WOI (now an NPR station in Des Moines).  He designed and supervised the construction of the antenna for the station, and earned a “Degree in Electical Engineering” – sort of a Masters, I guess, for that work.

In 1939, he applied for and got a job with the US Civil Service – in Panama.  We went to New York City and on down to Asbury Park NJ where his brother Kermit and his first wife (?) was living and teaching high school music.  I can remember his apartment faced the beach, and Bobby and I played in the sand.  I also remember seeing a dirigible flying overhead in the New York City. And an organ grinder with a monkey.

We sailed to Panama by ship – I will write about Panama later.  Dad worked at France Field, a US Army Air Corps base.  iIs job was installing and maintaining radio equipment in Air Corps planes.  In January 1941 we sailed back to America and moved to Alexandria, Virginia.  There Dad installed radio equipment at the new Washington National Airport.

In 1941, he got a job with the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in Indianapolis, Indiana.  World War II started with the attack on Pearl Harbor that winter, and Dad’s initial work with broadcast audio equipment was changed to military projects.  While in Indianapolis, we moved almost annually – every time our one year rental contract came to an end, the house was put up for sale and we had to move again.  The good news is each house was in a better neighborhood – we moved from the 3600 block to the 5900 block in four annual moves.

On of Dad’s wartime projects was development of a facsimile machine for sending written orders in the Army.  After the war, he worked on a commercial fax machine called DupliFax.  It went nowhere!

When the war ended, Dad was transferred to the Camden NJ RCA plant – the main engineering facility.  In time he was named Manager, Broadcast Audio Equipment.  RCA was then the leading supplier of audio equipment for broadcast stations.  His department introduced the first audio tape recorder for broadcast use, a modern looking microphone for use in television – replacing the cumbersome traditional broadcast mikes – and a machine that produced the sounds of gun shots for radio programs.  Dad became an expert in magnetic tape recording, and wrote the one of the  first authoritative books on the subject – it was translated into many languages.  It is still available from Amazon.

RCA BK-1A Studio Microphone - designed to look good on a tv desk. The web says it was called the "ice cream cone" mike - Dad said it was called the "pilsner" mike.

RCA 40A Ribbon Microphone

The forerunner - RCA 40A - not ao attractive on an announcer's desk












In 1952 he was made a fellow of the Audio Engineering Society “for his work in design of commercial high-quality audio equipment and systems”.

Google Books lists three books by Dad:

  • “The installation of a vertical antenna for radio station WOI” Iowa State College 1939
  • “Design and construction of a radio frequency standard” Iowa State College 1944
  • “Magnetic Recording Techniques”  McGraw Hill 1958 

In or around 1953?, he left RCA to be chief engineer for Maico – Medical Acoustical Instrument Company – in Minneapolis. While there, Maico introduced the first transistorized hearing aid (altho other sources say rival Sonotone ws first that same year).

Maybe I can get Bob to write more about this period – I was in college and only spent vacations in Minneapolis – Bob was living at home.

Later (195?) Dad moved to Dayton, Ohio to be chief engineer of Standard Register Company – manufacturers of cash registers and document handling machines – such as sales order and invoice machines.  They also did high volume printing, such as “green bar” computer paper and postal advertising material.


He retired from Standard Register in 19?? and moved to Carmel California, where he opened a woodworking shop. He had always loved working with wood – it dated back to college days.

In 19?? he moved to Earp, California – in the desert next to the Colorado river [Carmel was” too crowded” – I think he longed for the prairie of his youth].  He built a beautiful home where he had a great woodworking shop, was mayor of the town for a while.  He died in 19??.