cmclogo.gif BRIEF HISTORY OF CANADIAN MARCONI cmclogo.gif
THE BEGINNING

An entire book could be written about the Canadian Marconi Company however in the interest of brevity, this summary will focus on the era of vacuum tube radio equipment.  Entrepreneur.com provides some excellent background [1] about the Marconi Company in its early days.

"As much as Guglielmo Marconi enjoyed individual success in Canada, he also found a government interested and willing to finance his work. The Marconi Company became incorporated in the center of Canada's emerging industrial heartland, the province of Ontario, under the name Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of Canada Ltd. It was owned entirely by Marconi's London, England enterprises. In 1903, the Canadian Marconi operation was incorporated as a Dominion [national] corporation and at that time the Canadian government was granted rights to the Marconi patents. This enterprise grew out of Guglielmo Marconi's successful sending of a message across the Atlantic in 1901. In 1905, the government amended its Wireless Telegraphy Act to include possible broadcasting activities.

The Marconi Wireless Company of Canada then established itself at 173 William Street, Montreal. It was from this location the company launched the first radio private broadcasting station in Canada ­ an experimental station call sign XWA (eXperimental Wireless Apparatus. It was renamed CFCF on November 4, 1920. Simultaneously, the company started to develop radio receiver technology at the same time.  The plant manufactured and marketed receivers, tubes, all types of radio components.  XWA was the station where the new technology was tested.

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This beautifully engraved and scarce certificate was issued by the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of Canada in 1909. It was printed by the Globe Litho Company of New York and has an ornate border around it with a vignette two globes with telegraph transmission towers in the background. This item is hand signed by of the Company's Director and Secretary. (Image courtesy Scripophily.com)
The Canadian Marconi Company was also a part of Canadian television's prehistory. While John Logie Baird was experimenting with mechanical television in England and Philo T. Farnsworth and Vladimir K. Zworykin worked on it in the United States, the Marconi Company was active in Canada. Canadian Marconi experimented with television transmission briefly in 1923. Unfortunately, these operations were ordered closed by the Canadian government, since the government had no television policy. But the order did not deter CMC's overall interest in television [2]. Throughout the 1920s and the Depression years, CFCF-AM grew, providing the foundation and a platform for planning for television. In 1925, the company name changed its name to the Canadian Marconi Company. Canadian radio historians have headlined CFCF-AM with the preeminence of KDKA in Pittsburg the first commercially licensed station tin the US. By the 1930s, CMC was firmly established in three main areas: coast and beam stations, radio manufacturing and broadcasting.

Just prior to World War II, the Marconi company was ready to put its plans for television into action. It approached the Canadian federal government asking for a license to begin an experimental television station [3]. The company was the first to make such a request in Canada, but before a license could be approved by the government the war intervened. The advent of World War II changed the CMC direction. It became Canada's first vertically integrated manufacturer ­ with the broadcasting and a production empire coming in the postwar era".

WORLD WAR II

During World War II, the company underwent enormous expansion in order to build military communications equipment. CMC radio equipment found its way into Canada's Northwest Territories and Yukon Radio System and the Canadian Army. During WWII, Canadian Marconi was a key supplier of radio equipment to the Royal Canadian Navy and Department of National Defence in general.  Their flagship products which persevered in the RCN for the next two decades were the CSR-5 receiver, the CM-11 transmitter/receiver and the PV-500 series of transmitters. The No 19 set Mk III and the 19 set linear amplifier were also built by Canadian Marconi. This military work continued in the post war period.

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A lapel pin such as this was issued to wartime Canadian Marconi employees whose employment exceeded 2,500 hours. (E-bay photo) 
As older divisions and products were phased out, new fields of endeavour were found. For
example, CMC's beam service was expropriated by the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications corporation in 1950 and 1951 and the radio and television manufacturing division was closed down in 1966 due to increased foreign competition. Defence  and aviation work became the order of the day and remain as the firm's main product,. Here is a point form history.

Originally funded in Montreal in 1903 as the ``Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of Canada Inc.``,
* In 1948 English Electric purchased the UK based Marconi Company and in 1953 acquired 50.6% of Canadian Marconi Company. By 1968, English Electric was itself purchased by The General Electric Company PLC (GEC), which took control of the 50.6% share of CMC.
Until 1999, it was known as CMC Canadian Marconi Company.  English Electric Company from UK acquired a 50.6% ownership in 1953
Acquired in 2000 by UK based BAE Systems
Resold to ONEX/ONCAP Venture Capital around 2001.
In 2002, the ONEX/ONCAP sells the Marconi Tactical Radio Business unit to the UK based Ultra Electronics Group. This becomes Ultra Electronics TCS. (TCS originally stands for Tactical Communication Systems)
2007: ONEX/ONCAP sells the remaining CMC Avionics/GPS Business to US company Esterline.  The newly bought company is renamed as CMC-Esterline

COMPANY HIGHLIGHTS

Here are some highlights from the company's vacuum tube era:

1921  First home radio receivers in Canada.

1925 Company name changed to Canadian Marconi Company.

1931  Establishment of the Canadian radio network, which became the CBC.

1949  Frirst televisions buiilf for Emerson Electrc for sale in Canada.

1953  English Electric Company Limited of the U.K. acquired 50.6% of Canadian Marconi Company.

1956  First Canadian company to design a complete microwave radio relay system, the Mid-Canada Defence Line.

1957  First to develop an FM-CW Doppler radar for air navigation.

1960s - 1970s  Focus on aircraft navigation, monitoring and display systems, tactical radio communications, radar systems and multi-processor telex switching systems.

2003 marked the centenary of the establishment of Canadian Marconi which at that time was known as The Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of Canada.

Canadian Marconi was a colossal company in the 1960's and 1970's having employed some 12,000 people in Montreal !

FOOTNOTES:

[1]  Minor editing by Jerry Proc.
[2] In 1979, T. J. Allard chronicled the history of private broadcasting in Canada between the years 1918-1958.
[3] Stewart & Hull, 1994.



Contributions and Other Credits:

1) Marconi History:http://www.cmcelectronics.ca/En/About/cmc_history_en.html
2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CMC_Electronicshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CMC_Electronics
3) Scripophily web page. http://www.scripophily.net/mawitecoofca.html
4) CMC logo http://www.geocities.com/aldoandr/Marconi/marconi.html
5) CFCF and KDKA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KDKA_AM
6) http://www.entrepreneur.com/tradejournals/article/96454927.html
7) Gerry Hayward <gerryhayward(at)eastlink.ca>
8) Denis Couillard  <Denis.Couillard(at)Ultra-TCS.com>

May 21/17
 

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