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FCC Information & Action Timeline

On this page are extracts of FCC information and actions applicable to the Great Lakes and inland rivers maritime services. These extracts are taken from the Commission's Annual Reports. The Reports are for the Commission's fiscal year which ends on June 30 of the year.

Integrated into the text for the years 1938 to 1945 are links to extracts from the FCC records preserved at the University of North Texas and made available on-line via its Digital Library. This information substantially augments the available early history of several of the stations. Culling information from these records will enable the updating/correcting of the content of many pages on the site. These revisions will take some time.

Most of the links below are to PDFs, and the largest is 3.4 MB. If you don't see the PDF soon after you click on it it means that your browser is not setup to view PDFs and the file was sent to your download folder.

A table of statistical information about the number of stations licensed each year appears at the bottom of the page.


"The coastal telegraph station formerly located near Cincinnati, Ohio, has been moved to St. Louis, Mo., in order to serve more efficiently ships navigating the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio Rivers."

Mention is made of Lorain, OH as the location of one of the 6 public coastal-harbor radiotelephone stations.

Mention is made that there are 27 ships authorized to operate inter-ship radiotelephone on 2738KHz.


"The Inland Waterways Corporation, authorized by an act of Congress, is the licensee of a private coastal telegraph station at Memphis Tenn., used for necessary communications with its vessels navigating the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio Rivers." This was not WJG.


The Great Lakes and Inland Waters (Radio) Survey which was provided for by Congress was started.

"The Lorain (Ohio) station operated by the Lorain County Radio Corporation, offers radiotelephone service with ships plying the Great Lakes. During the year, high-frequency operation has been inaugurated at this station."

"The Warner & Tamble Radio Service, a partnership, composed of R. V. Warner and G. H. Tamble, applied for authority to construct a public coastal harbor radiotelephone station at Memphis, Tenn., to communicate with vessels in the vicinity of Memphis Harbor. The case was heard before an examiner on May 7, 1937, and is now pending before the Commission."

"Thorne Donnelley, an individual residing at Lake Bluff, Ill., applied for authority to construct a public coastal harbor radiotelephone station at Lake Bluff, Ill., to communicate with ships plying the Great Lakes, particularly those vessels operating in the southern end of Lake Michigan. The case was set for hearing before an examiner on July 8, 1937,


The Great Lakes and Inland Waters (Radio) Survey started in 1937 continues.

A radiotelephone license granted for Lake Bluff, IL - Radiotelephone applications pending for Duluth, MN and Port Washington, WI - Radiotelephone license for Memphis, TN denied.

More detail from the FCC Records: WAY - 1938 - PDF WJG - 1938 - PDF WAD & WAS - 1938 - PDF


The 1939 Report contains more information (mostly relative to the Great Lakes) than can be easily extracted. Go to the Report and scroll to page 60 (about 30% down) to read all of this information.
The brief highlights are:
A temporary US-Canadian agreement governs GL radiotelephone use for the 1939 season.
Radiotelephone licenses granted for Duluth,MN, Port Washington, WI and Memphis, TN - WAY applied for increased facilities
Radiotelephone applications pending for: Rogers City, MI, Cassville, MI, Sturgeon Bay, WI
West Dover, OH, Buffalo, NY and Cape Girardeau, MO

More detail from the FCC Records: WAY - 1939 - PDF WHC - 1939 - PDF


The 1940 Report contains more information (mostly relative to the Great Lakes) than can be easily extracted. Go to the Report and scroll to page 77 (about 60% down) to read all of this information.
The brief highlights are:
Three pairs of HF channels (duplex operation) made available for use in the Great Lakes area.
Three pairs of MF channels (1 US, 1 Canadian, 1 Both & all duplex) authorized for the GL area.
A common (US & Canada) calling and safety frequency (2182?) agreed to.
CPs granted for radiotelephone at Cape Girardeau, Mo., and Mackinac Island, Mich.
Applications pending for radiotelephone at Rogers City, Detroit, Port Huron, Houghton and Manistee, all in Michigan; at West Dover, Ohio; and at Buffalo, N.Y.
Great Lakes radiotelegraph calling and distress frequency changed from 410 KHz to 510 KHz.
All use of spark transmitters prohibited for US licensees after Jan. 1, 1940.

More detail from the FCC Records: WAY & WMI Tariffs - 1940 - PDF


"Following analysis of the record of an informal hearing at Memphis on October 28, 1940, and upon completion of a detailed engineering study concerning related frequency allocation matters, the Commission allocated six frequencies between 2000 and 12000 kilocycles for assignment to ship and coastal-harbor telephone stations on the Mississippi River and connecting inland waters. These frequencies have transmission characteristics which will permit communication on the Mississippi River system and connecting Intercoastal Waterway over distances up to several hundred miles."

"Three coastal-harbor stations have been licensed for public telephone service with river vessels, and five applications are on file. In addition, the Inland Waterways Corporation, a governmental enterprise, has requested authority to use radiotelephony for communication with its 37 ship stations through the medium of the land station owned and operated by this organization at Memphis."

"At the Memphis hearing it was shown that 60 vessels operating on the Mississippi River system had licensed radio stations on board. Seventeen of these vessels had telegraph equipment only, 21 had telephone equipment only, and 22 had both telephone and telegraph equipment. it was conservatively estimated that the total number of towboats on the Mississippi River and its tributaries exceeds 500."

"The Commission licensed new public coastal-harbor stations at --- ; Cape Girardeau, Mo.; ---. The coastal-harbor station at Mackinac Island was moved to Rogers City, Mich. As a result of extensive public hearings in May 1940, new coastal-harbor stations were authorized in the Great Lakes area at Detroit, Port Huron, and Houghton, Mich. and at Buffalo, N.Y. (Call Letters ?) At the same time additional frequencies (above 3,000 kilocycles) were assigned to the existing stations at Lake Bluff, Ill.; Port Washington, Wis.; Duluth, Minn.; Rogers City Mich., and Lorain, Ohio. "

"On March 1, 1941, certain regulations became effective which require that licensed ship stations must render a service of public correspondence; either in conformity with established tariffs or without charge for the service of the particular ship station, at the option of the station licensee. This imposes an obligation on the part of every ship station to transmit messages for any person on board. Relay of messages by ship stations for the benefit of other stations in the mobile service is permissible but not obligatory."

"A questionnaire survey was made to obtain information on the major technical details of available ship radiotelephone equipment. It was determined that there were at least 20 companies engaged in the manufacture and sale of a total of 80 types of equipment ranging from $99.50 to $2450 in sale price."

More detail from the FCC Records: WAY & WHC - 1941 - PDF WBL & WCY - 1941 - PDF

WMI, WAD & WAS - 1941 - PDF WGK - 1941 - JPG

1942 Nothing of interest.

1943 The FCC Annual Report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1943 indicated that public hearings had been held on the application of WAY for authorization to communicate with ships on the Mississippi River and connecting waterways.

More detail from the FCC Records: WBL, WGK, ETC. - 1943 - JPG WAY - 1943 - PDF


"With a view to relieving this condition (Great Lakes 2182 KHz congestion) and expediting telephone messages, the Commission amended its Rules to permit direct calling by ship radiotelephone stations on the working (traffic) frequency 2158 kilocycles when establishing communication with land stations at which the proper technical facilities have been provided for accepting initial calls on this frequency."

"A new station at Louisville, Ky., established for communication with ships on the Mississippi River and connecting inland waters, began operation with service tests in June, 1944."

1945 Detail from the FCC Records: WCM - 1945 - PDF


"A new subsection was added to section 8.81 which allocates the frequency 37,580 kilocycles to ship telephone stations for communication with coastal harbor stations and with other ships stations." and "Some expansion in the use of very high frequencies took place on the Great Lakes. Approximately 40 Great Lakes ships may now communicate on an experimental basis." The beginnings of marine VHF-FM? However, it's low-band not the eventual high-band. By 1950 37.580 MHz was allocated to the Power Radio Service so low-band VHF marine radio on the Great Lakes had a short life.


First mentions of high-band VHF: (1) "Development of nine very high frequency channels in the 152 to 162 megacycle band is progressing, and it is believed that more extensive use of this band will relieve congestion between 2 to 3 megacycles where approximately 9000 radiotelephone-equipped vessels now operate."

"Very high frequency service is also being developed for the Great lakes."

"During the fiscal year the RTCM (The newly established industry-government committee: The Radio Technical Commission for Marine Services) completed a study of modulation systems for very high frequency marine radiotelephony and recommended that FM be adopted for the maritime mobile service within the frequency range of 30 to 300 megacycles."


"The trend toward telephony was exemplified further by (two new radiotelephony station applications) and by proposals from two public service licensees requesting permission to discontinue operation of their Great Lakes radiotelegraph shore stations and by proposals from others to establish new land radiotelephone stations at Chicago and Milwaukee."


"Of particular advantage to maritime radio was the recognition by the Fourth Inter-American and Region 2 Radio Conference of detailed safety radio system for the maritime telephone service based upon the new calling and distress frequency 2182 kilocycles, as well as standardized frequencies for operational communications and public correspondence." 2182 had been in use in US for this purpose for many years before this international agreement.

"Because of serious interference between ship stations on the Great Lakes and ship stations on other inland and coastal waters on the common inter-ship frequency 2738 kilocycles, the Commission allocated 2203 kilocycles for inter-ship use in the Great Lakes area effective August 1, 1949."

"Another matter discussed informally with European maritime nations and with Canada concerned the necessary coordinated organization of the maritime mobile telephone service in the very high frequency 152-162 megacycle band. Because the United States had previously adopted a channel separation in this band of 60 kilocycles and the United Kingdom had adopted 100 kilocycles for this purpose, only one maritime mobile service frequency in this band was internationally agreed upon at Atlantic City --- namely 156.800 megacycles, for calling, safety, inter-ship and harbor control purposes. Through these informal discussions, a workable compromise was achieved, and frequency assignment plans for radiotelephone service in this band are being prepared for implementation in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. The Commission, through readjustments of its VHF frequency allocation plan, adopted 100 kilocycle channel separation in this maritime band in the interest of international standardization."


"The Commission set January 1, 1950 as the final date for relinquishing 2738 kilocycles on the Great lakes. It also authorized use of safety and calling frequency 2,182 kilocycles as a common working frequency for ship-to-ship communication during this change-over period."

"The Commission collaborated in a plan of the Department of the Army for the systematized use of the inter-ship frequency 2,738 kilocycles by radiotelephone stations at Lock 19, Keokuk, Iowa, and at each of 46 dams on the Ohio River to facilitate the movement of tows through the locks and to promote safety. When a ship approaches the locks, radio contact is established with the Army stations for the purpose of obtaining instructions to passage through the locks. If the ship cannot proceed through the locks immediately, it is instructed by radio to wait until further radio orders are received."

"Since deciding to establish the VHF Specialized Operational Radio-telephone Maritime Mobile Service in April 1948, the Commission has authorized on an experimental basis 63 land stations and 716 associated ship units. Such short-range communication is expected to play an important part in piloting and docking ships by providing direct radiotelephone service between the pilot or master of the ship, the dockmaster, and tugs. Rules and regulations to establish the VHF maritime mobile service on a regular basis were under preparation at the end of the fiscal year."

"Commission engineers participated in studies by the Radio Technical Commission for Marine Services. They covered such subjects as the intermodulation problem in the VHF region --- ; the relative merit of FM and AM in the VHF spectrum for marine radiotelephone equipment, looking to eventual standardization; effective standardization of ship radiotelephone selective ringing systems which would offer economic advantages and better frequency utilization; ---."


"The International Radio Consultative Committee (CCIR) at Geneva, Switzerland (June 1951) recommended that an auto alarm signal consisting of alternate tones of 2,200 and 1,300 cycles per second, each having a duration of 250 milliseconds, be provisionally adopted internationally for use on the maritime radiotelephone distress frequency (2182 KHz) subject to a prescribed study program involving laboratory and field tests to be completed within a 1-year period."

"During the fiscal year, eight public coast stations using telegraphy were granted authority to discontinue operation. These stations were located at ---, Frankfort, Mich,; and Westlake, Ohio."

"The Commission, effective July 23, 1951 made over-all revisions to parts 7 and 8 of its maritime rules, which provided for the additional use of the inter-ship telephone frequency 2638 kilocycles on the rivers and inland waters, a use not previously permitted."

"The operational results obtained and the interest shown in this new type of radiotelephone facility (VHF-FM) have formed a basis for regularization of the use of very high frequencies for both public and nonpublic radiotelephone service as reflected in the Commission's recently revised Maritime Service rules."


"Public coast stations employing telegraphy at Mackinac Island, Mich. (WHQ), and --- , have discontinued operation.

"On February 21, 1952, at Ottawa, Canada, an "Agreement for the Promotion of Safety on the Great Lakes by Means of Radio" was signed. This agreement, which will come into force two years after the date on which the instruments of ratification are exchanged between Canada and the United States, will require that several hundred Great Lakes vessels be equipped with radiotelephone installations and maintain radio watches for safety purposes. These requirements are in contrast to existing radio safety requirements contained in the Ship Act of 1910 and 1912, under which an extremely limited number of passenger ships are required to be equipped with radiotelegraph installations."

"At Geneva in 1951, international agreement was reached on a world-wide effective date for the use of this frequency (2182 KHz) beginning May 1, 1952. --- In addition and beyond the radio installations subject to these international requirements, Commission rules adopted on April 23, 1952, will eventually require coast and ship stations voluntarily employing radiotelephony within the frequency band of 1600 to 3500 kilocycles to be equipped to transmit and receive on 2182 kilocycles as well as maintain a watch on that frequency during their hours of service."


"--- The first overall revision of 2 megacycle maritime telephone frequencies since 1934 has been promulgated as proposed rule making. This is of major importance since it promises to relieve somewhat the severe congestion existing in this band in which the great bulk of ship stations conduct radiotelephone operations. Another important consequence will be the complete establishment of the frequency 2182 kilocycles as the radiotelephone distress and calling frequency in the 2 megacycle band. The proposal also designates an inter-ship frequency (2830 kilocycles) exclusively for the Mississippi River, Gulf, and Caribbean areas; another inter-ship frequency (2738 kilocycles) for the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and a third inter-ship frequency (2638 kilocycles) for nationwide usage."

RTCM "Special Committee 18 was formed for the purpose of recommending a system of channel designators for the maritime mobile channels. Its function is to provide a simple and standardized method of identifying the various radiotelephone channels and thereby eliminate the need of referring to channels by the frequency or frequencies used."


"Great Lakes Agreement and Ship Act of 1910.---On May 7, 1954, a bill (S.3464) to amend the Communications Act to make certain provisions for carrying out the Agreement for the promotion of Safety on the Great Lakes by Means of Radio was introduced. The Great Lakes Agreement will come into force on November 13, 1954. Under its terms, a radiotelephone safety system is provided for several hundred vessels navigating the great Lakes. The bill embodies recommendations of the Commission to repeal the Ship Act of 1910, which provides a radiotelegraph safety system now applying to only a few Great Lakes ships, as well as certain provisions to facilitate administration of the Great Lakes Agreement. (It, too, was adopted August 3, 1954.)"

"Radiotelephone calling and distress frequency.---As concluding steps in establishing 2182 kilocycles a a universal radiotelephone calling and distress frequency, ship stations using the medium frequency radiotelephone band 1600 to 3500 kilocycles were required as of January 1, 1954, to maintain a listening watch during their hours of service on the frequency 2182 kilocycles. Coast stations were similarly required to keep such listening watch commencing July 1, 1954. Ships equipped with radiotelegraph and required to maintain a ratiotelegraph listening watch on 500 kilocycles were excepted from this requirement."

"Additionally, (during fiscal 1954) plans for assignment of (changed) high frequency radiotelephone frequencies to coast and ship stations in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River areas were put into effect."


"On November 13, 1954, the Agreement for the Promotion of Safety on the Great Lakes by Means of Radio (a treaty between the United States and Canada) came into force ---."

"Great Lakes weather transmissions.---Because of a need on the Great Lakes for more ship-to-shore use of the 2-3 megacycle frequency band for commercial radiotelephone messages, the Commission confined scheduled marine weather transmissions from shore stations on those lakes to 2514 kilocycles and discontinued weather transmissions on the other 2-megacycle channel previously used for this service. Public ship-to-shore service is improved since more time is available for handling messages in this band. Ship stations may communicate with coast stations on other 2-megacycle frequencies at the same time that weather schedules are being transmitted. Transmission of marine weather schedules by Great Lakes stations on frequencies having long distance characteristics has not been changed."

Multichannel and type acceptance in 152-162 megacycle band.---In accordance with rules promulgated some years previous, all ship stations operating in the 152-162 VHF megacycle band were to comply by January 1, 1955, with regulations requiring multichannel and type-accepted VHF equipment. A number of vessel owners indicated involuntary noncompliance as of that date and were given limited additional time to permit modifications do delivery of equipment accordingly. However, as of June 30, 1955, the requirements were applicable to all stations affected."

"The RTCM at the request of the Commission, conducted a study and issued a report on May 17, 1955 on a plan for the standardization of marine radiotelephone channel designators."

More to come

# of FCC Licensed Coastal Harbor Stations - Great Lakes / Inland Rivers/Total US
YEAR Ship Telegraph Shore Telegraph Ship Telephone Shore Telephone
1932 199/?/1997 0/0/5
1935 195/?/1961 ?/?/58 27/?/? 1/0/6
1936 ?/?/2220 ?/?/57 ?/?/58 1/0/?
1937 ?/?/257 1/0/?
1938 ? / ? ? / ? 65/?/765 2 /0/?
1939 ~152 / ? 141/?/1561 4 /1/14
1940 91 / ?/1541 226+ / ?/2773 4 /1/?
1941 5214 Total ?/?/55 5214 Total 5 / 2/28
1942 ?/?/42 5 / 3/36
1943 ?/?/26 ?/?/35
1944 ?/?/29 ?/?/36
1945 ?/?/34 6 / ?/35
1946 8028 Total ?/?/45 8028 Total ?/?/37
1947 10989 Total ?/?/47 10989 Total ?/?/38
1948 ~11000
1949 ?/?/2493 ?/?/15647
1950 16/?/~2400 ?/?/42 ?/?/~22600 ?/?/50
1951 6/?/? ?/?/25000 ?/?/53
1952 ?/?/35 ?/?/30350 ?/?/53
1953 ?/?/32 ?/?/34800 ?/?/47
1954 ?/?/28 ?/?/41020 ?/?/45
1955 ?/?/28 ?/?/48
1956 ?/?/1250
In this table the ~ stands for Approximately

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