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J. Harris Rogers Correspondence, 1877 - 1963


Scope and Contents note

From the Collection:

The Rogers Family Papers consist of fifteen series, the first being on the Rogers & Clarke families in general, and the remainder focusing on the papers of individuals such as James Webb Rogers I, J. Harris Rogers, James Charles Rogers, Cora Rogers Clarke, Phillips H. Clarke Jr., Mae Harris Clarke and George E. Sullivan. The final series contains objects and oversize materials of varying types.

Extent: 30 linear feet Number of Boxes: 19, with 11 oversize containers


  • 1877 - 1963

Conditions Governing Access note

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.


From the Collection: 44.5 Linear Feet (30 boxes)

Language of Materials


Container Summary

Correspondence to and from James Harris Rogers (1856-1929), famous inventor, son of James Webb Rogers I. The letters deal mainly with Rogers' invention of the underground wireless, a teletype machine, and a telephone, and lawsuits concerning them. During the Pan-Electric Scandal of the 1890s, Rogers was accused of infringing upon Bell's patent on the telephone and his father was accused of attempting to bribe members of Congress and the Justice Department. Among his correspondents during this period are Joseph E. Johnston, Confederate General and U.S. Congressman, and Gardiner G. Hubbard, Treasurer of Bell Telephone Co. and father-in-law of Alexander Graham Bell. During World War I, Rogers invented a method of radio communication with submerged submarines and with the Allies overseas. This was a period of widespread experimentation in these fields, and many people were coming to the same discoveries. In 1919 Rogers won great acclaim for his discoveries and received letters from many notable scientists and politicians, including Nikola Tesla, Gen. John J. Pershing, Emily Berliner, Lee De Forest, Henry De Groot, Hugo Gernsback, and Hiram Percy Maxim. Rogers was even awarded honorary doctorates by Georgetown University and the University of Maryland in 1919, and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics that year by the Maryland Academy of Sciences. Soon, however, another scandal befell Rogers when two young scientists employed by the Navy claimed to have invented Rogers' submarine communication system independently and before Rogers. John A. Willoughby and Percical D. Lowell were clearly in the wrong, but because discoveries about radio technology were coming from so many different sources at this time, chronology of ideas and discoveries became condused and proof of their originality became nearly impossible. The U.S. Government found it to be advantageous to support Willoughby and Lowell's claims, as the Government did not want to pay Rogers for his patent rights. The Department of Justice instigated a case against Rogers, Willoughby, & Lowell v. Rogers in order to have the patent nullified or at least to keep the case pending as long as possible so as to avoid paying Rogers for the invention. Soon the British Government had infringed Rogers' patent, and Rogers ended up with very little financial gain derived directly from the patents. During this period (1920-1925) we see extensive correspondence from those involved in the case: Capt. Quentin C. A. Crauford, British Navy; Commander S.C. Hooper, U.S. Navy; Josephus Daniles and Edwin Denby, Secretaries of the Navy; Captain William Strother Smith, U.S. Navy; as well as Rogers' legal advocates, Clarence J. Owens and Prentiss, Stone, & Boyden. Meanwhile, Rogers continued his experimentation with long distance radio communication with his underground wireless system. Cards and letters from scientisits and radio amateurs all over the U.S. came in response to radio messages and to articles by Rogers in Radio News and Electrical Experimenter. Among these are letters from H. Winfield Secor and from Marcel Sacazes, an amateur radio operator in Toulon, France, who claimed to have received Rogers' signals. Between 1926 and 1929 Rogers was often ill, and his correspondence tapered off dramatically.

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057