Help Keep the W1AW Dream Alive
W1AW. It is the most famous call sign in the century-long history of Amateur Radio. To hundreds of thousands of radio amateurs, W1AW is synonymous with Hiram Percy Maxim --the visionary who first recognized a need for a national network of Amateur Radio operators in North America, and who just a few years later saw a similar need for the worldwide federation that we now know as the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU). Amateur Radio without Hiram Percy Maxim would be like automobiles without Henry Ford or electricity without Thomas Edison. Without Mr Maxim, Amateur Radio probably would not exist today -- and if it did, it would be a pale shadow of the enriching endeavor we now enjoy.
When Hiram Percy Maxim died unexpectedly in 1936, it was a dark time for the world. It was an equally unsettling time for the ARRL. Vice President Charles H. Stewart, W3ZS, died just five days before Mr Maxim. Little more than a month later, the ARRL Headquarters station -- W1MK -- was destroyed in the worst flood ever to hit Hartford.
When the ARRL’s Board of Directors met later that spring, the Board members would have been forgiven for deciding that it was a good time to lie low, to regroup, to wait for better times before taking in anything new. But they didn’t. Just six weeks after the devastating flood and less than three months after the death of the only President the ARRL had ever known, the Board voted unanimously to set in motion the process of erecting a new Headquarters station as a memorial to Mr Maxim.
It took about two years to turn the vision of a Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station into reality. W1AW has been operating from the same building in Newington ever since. Thanks to the foresight of the 1936 Board, the League already owned a suitable piece of property when it came time in the early 1960s for the ARRL to build a new administrative Headquarters. W1AW lost its rhombic antenna, but the ARRL gained a Headquarters building that continues to serve us well 47 years later.
“I clearly recall my first visit to W1AW in the mid-60s with other members of my high school radio club,” recalled ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ. “The outside of the building looked much as it does today. Inside was a different story; the bulletin and code practice transmitters had been built before I was born.” The W1AW interior has undergone two renovations since then. When you visit, you will find a bank of modern equipment for transmitting bulletins and code practice on eight bands simultaneously, and three operating studios from which licensed visitors can provide coveted contacts with the Maxim Memorial Station to other amateurs throughout the world. Surrounding the building are four towers holding an array of antennas that most amateurs would envy. A new generator keeps the station fully operational.
W1AW today is truly a flagship station for the Amateur Radio Service. Virtually every aspect of Amateur Radio operating can be demonstrated and experienced here, including amateur satellites and the latest digital modes. The W1AW staff continues to maintain a schedule of bulletin and code practice transmissions to keep amateurs informed and help them improve their skills. “We honor the memory and traditions of our founding President, even as we stay abreast of 21st century technology,” Sumner said. “After all, that’s what ‘The Old Man’ would be doing if he were still with us.”
The W1AW Endowment was established to provide a reliable source of funds for the operation and maintenance of the Maxim Memorial Station. “When we begin the budget cycle every year, it is a relief to know that some portion of the expenses related to W1AW will not have to compete for scarce budget dollars with other important ARRL programs,” Sumner said. “Thanks to generous members and supporters, the W1AW Endowment and the income it generates have grown.”
To help ensure that Hiram Percy Maxim’s memory live on to inspire future generations of radio amateurs, please consider making a donation to the W1AW Endowment. By doing so, you will help build a solid financial future for W1AW so that it can continue to fulfill its mission as Amateur Radio’s flagship station. “When you visit ARRL and tour W1AW, you will see your generosity at work,” Sumner said. “And every time you hear ‘Whiskey-One-Alfa-Whiskey’ on the air, you’ll know that you had a part in keeping the dream alive.”
To donate to the W1AW Endowment, please visit the W1AW Endowment page on the ARRL Web site. You may also send in your donation via mail to W1AW Endowment, ARRL, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111. Contact ARRL Chief Development Officer Mary Hobart, K1MMH, via e-mail or by phone at 860-594-0397 for more information or with any questions you may have.