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The Wireless History Gallery explores Guglielmo Marconi’s life and legacy, RCA’s dominant 20th Century Ship-to-Shore Chatham Radio WCC era - the “Largest US coastal station in the marine service”, and Chatham Navy Radio’s WWII years as a secret facility for intercepting Enigma-encrypted U-Boat messages.  Working electronic Enigma simulators allow visitors to try their hand at encryption.

This year, we proudly celebrate the second of three consecutive centennial events, each historically important to both Chatham and America.  Following World War I, the newly-formed Radio Corporation of America (RCA) acquired the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America, including its unfinished installations at Chatham and Marion, Massachusetts.  RCA installed state-of-the-art equipment manufactured by U.S. industrial giant General Electric to create Chatham Port wireless station WSO.  On May 17, 1920, RCA inaugurated service between Chatham Port and Norway, finally realizing Marconi’s dream of sustainable trans-Atlantic communication.  Come explore our newest exhibit, “Chatham on the Air.” 

Guglielmo Marconi

Marconi, a pioneer in wireless communication, was an inventor, scientist and businessman. Learn about his role in creating the Chatham receiving station in 1914.Video to left : Interview with Princess Marconi - Videography by Christopher Seufert.  Also see video of Princess Marconi talking about her father, Guglielmo Marconi by clicking link below.  

Chatham On The Air

Following World War I, the newly-formed Radio Corporation of America (RCA) acquired the assets of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America, including its unfinished installations at Chatham and Marion, Massachusetts.  RCA installed state-of-the-art equipment manufactured by U.S. industrial giant General Electric, and trans-Atlantic station WSO went on the air on May 17, 1920.  Come explore our newest exhibit, “Chatham On The Air”.

History of the Station - Chatham Radio WCC

Visit the two dioramas, Chatham Port Receiving Station and the South Chatham Transmitting Station—Tone Rack—Chatham Radio Timeline—Directional Antenna—Kleinschmidt—Vacuum Tube Display---A 20 kilowatt RCA T3 Transmitter---Shipboard Radio Console from the SS Hope.

Chatham Campus Diorama

A diorama of the Chatham Marconi Campus with the buildings as they were in 1914 and as they today.

Click the link below to see the diorama & the story of the Campus and Antenna Field.

Morse Code Interactive

Practice Morse code at this History of Communications interactive kiosk. Encourage students and children to ask front desk for game sheets to earn a Junior Guide for Chatham Radio WCC Certificate.

Click on the link below to try your hand at Morse Code.

Radio Operators

The WCC Operators were wireless "Brass Pounders" and landline operators were the "Wiremen”. Visitors will experience how Ship to Shore Morse code messages were sent anywhere, from wireless to wire and back, and by WCC between ships and landline telegraph offices.

Preparation of a Radio Telegram

This short video documents a demonstration of message handling as it once was done at the former Marconi-RCA Wireless Station, formerly known as Chatham Radio WCC, on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  In this video Lewis Masson, a retired 30-year RCA wireman, demonstrates the preparation of an inbound radio telegram at the Chatham Marconi Wireless Center.

Informal video created by and used with permission from Ben Heckscher, a visitor from CT and former MCI International employee.

The Navy Years 1942-1945: World War II

Learn more about the exciting and previously classified role of Chatham Station C during World War II - the Battle of the Atlantic — the breaking of the Enigma Cipher Machine Code - disrupting the Nazi U-Boat threat.

Chatham Navy Radio played a significant role in defeating the Germans during the World War II Battle of the Atlantic. It intercepted Enigma-encrypted wireless messages between German headquarters and its ships at sea, then passing the intercepts on to Washington, DC for decoding. In addition, as the control station for the east-coast direction-finding network, Station C directed the search for telltale radio signals that allowed enemy vessels to be located and tracked. As you arrive at the museum site, you are greeted by a reproduction of the “USN” painted shell logo that was displayed on the lawn of the ‘Administration Building’ during the war years.

Learn more about the men and women who served here. Don’t miss Chatham Radio Goes To War in the Theater.

Enigma Cipher Machine

Because of the relevance of its story to Chatham Radios’ key role in World War II, the Marconi-RCA Wireless Museum has created a special exhibit about the Enigma Cipher Machine.  The Enigma was used by the German military in WWII to encrypt its radio communications and prevent the Allies from eavesdropping on them.

During the war, the U. S. Navy stationed 300 sailors and WAVES at the Chatham wireless receiving station, called “Station C” by the Navy. Visitors to the museum will be greeted by a photo essay, “Enigma in the Battle of the Atlantic”, outlining the dire situation facing the Allied navies early in WWII, and the crucial role that Enigma machines played. The photo essay uses photos, video and text to tell the story of the Enigma and the breaking of its complex code.

The exhibit will help visitors understand one of Station C’s important roles: copying encrypted code sent between U-boats at sea and the Kriegsmarine headquarters, then forwarding the message traffic by teletype to Washington, D.C. There, the messages could be decrypted - and acted upon - because the Allies had broken the Enigma code.
One of the great stories of WWII was the breaking of the Enigma code - which many had previously believed was impossible - at Bletchley Park in England.  The exhibit shows how Station C’s role and the great success at Bletchley Park intersected.  This may be especially interesting to visitors because of the recent movie The Imitation Game, a fictionalized telling of how the Enigma code was broken.  


Kids and adults alike are intrigued by secret codes.  The exhibit includes opportunities to learn in depth how the Enigma machine actually works by creating and decoding messages using a pair of electronic replicas of the Enigma, which are interactive and functionally identical to the real thing.  While the original Enigmas were entirely electromechanical, each replica is implemented using modern electronics and microcomputers.  Accompanying instructions describe how to use the replica Enigma.  Visitors can experience using an Enigma by setting all the parameters needed to ready the replica for use.  Then, one or two people can encode a message, and one or two others can simultaneously attempt to decode it.  A guide will be on hand to explain and assist if needed.  Families or small groups can fully experience how the Enigma encryption / transmission / decryption process worked in practice.

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Chatham On The Air
G Marconi
Radio Operators
History of Staton
Morse Code Interactive
Navy Years
Radio Telegram
Enigma Cipher Machine
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