April 25 - 1874: Cape Cod's radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi born today

1984: David Kennedy dies of a drug overdose
Radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi.

1874: The man who first communicated across the ocean

The site of his triumph is enshrined in the Cape Cod National Seashore

Radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi was an electrical engineer and inventor born in Bologna, Italy on this day, April 25, 1874. At the age of 16, he successfully transmitted wireless telegraph signals between tin plates mounted on posts in his mother's garden.

Marconi gradually increased the distance between radio transmitter and receiver. At the age of 23, he couldn't convince the Italian government of the worth of radio. He and his mother traveled to England and demonstrated his invention by sending a signal across the English Channel on March 27, 1899.

In 1900, Marconi set up a high-powered transmitting station at Poldhu, on the English coast at Cornwall. In 1901, Marconi built a wireless station at Signal Hill, Newfoundland and on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Marconi selected Cape Cod since it had been described by Thoreau as a place "Where a man may stand and put all of America behind him." After passing up a location in Barnstable and being denied permission to build his wireless station near the Highland Light, Marconi settled for an eight-acre site on a high bluff in South Wellfleet. Marconi set up headquarters at the Holbrook House in Wellfleet.

On the right above is an old postcard of the Marconi site during its operation. Below on right is the site today.

The South Wellfleet station was similar to the Poldhu one with a circular series of twenty 200-foot ship's masts set back 165 feet from the edge of the bluff.

Storms blew down the aerials at Poldhu on September 17, 1901 and a Nor'easter toppled the aerials on Cape Cod on November 25th. Nevertheless, Marconi received the first transatlantic signal - the three-dot Morse code letter "S" tapped out from Poldhu on December 12th at the Newfoundland station. The aerial at Poldhu was held aloft by a canvas kite.

Fearing competition from Marconi's wireless, the Anglo American Cable Company ordered Marconi to shut down operations in Newfoundland.

On December 22, 1901, the Canadian government offered him a location for a station at Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. A year later, on December 17, 1902, the Glace Bay station was sending and receiving transatlantic messages... Marconi's Cape Cod.

1984: David Kennedy dies from a cocaine and Demerol overdose

He watched his father die on television at 12, turned to drugs for relief

Death haunted David Kennedy. On June 4, 1968, eleven days before his 13th birthday, he nearly drowned while he and his siblings were swimming in the Pacific Ocean near the Malibu, California beach house of a Kennedy family friend.

Kennedy had been knocked over by a wave and was trapped on the bottom by the undertow. His father, Robert F. Kennedy, dove under the water and rescued him, scraping and bruising his own forehead in the process.

The very next day David watched on TV as his father claimed victory in the California presidential primary election and then the 12-year-old watched in  horror the program reported his father's assassination moments later. The event left an emotional scar on David and he began recreational drug use shortly thereafter.

In the spring of 1984, Kennedy completed a month-long stay at St. Mary's Hospital and Rehabilitation Center in Minneapolis. He flew to Palm Beach, Florida on April 19 to spend Easter with several members of the Kennedy family there. D avid Kennedy checked into room 107 of the Brazilian Court hotel where he spent the next few days partying.

On April 25, 1984, members of the hotel staff found him dead on the floor of his suite from an overdose of cocaine, Demerol, and Mellaril.

David was the fourth of eleven children of Robert and Ethel Kennedy.


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