DAVID GRIMES, BOYD PHELPS & MORNINGSIDE, MINNESOTA
David Grimes and Boyd Phelps, both significant contributors to the advancement of radio, were grandchildren of Jonathan and Eliza Grimes of the Morningside neighborhood of Edina, Minnesota. This is the story of their family and their accomplishments.
Jonathan Taylor Grimes, eldest child of George and Elizabeth Donahoe Grimes, was born May 10, 1818, in Leesburg, Virginia. He was married in Terre Haute, Indiana, to Eliza Angeline Gordon on September 20, 1843.
| Jonathan and Eliza Grimes
Courtesy Edina Historical Society
After 14 years of farming in Clay County, Indiana, the director of the Wabash and Erie Canal erected a reservoir on their land that poisoned their cattle and forced the couple to move away. In 1855 they decided to come to Minneapolis, at that time a village of about 300 people.
In The Grimes Family, by Mary A. Grimes and Ella A. Eustis (Minneapolis: Lund Press, 1946), Jonathan Grimes recalled:
"In those days, it was no unusual thing to see Indians around, but they were mostly friendly. The Sioux Indians were engaged in a deadly feud with the Chippewa, whom they thought were encroaching upon their hunting grounds. One day Mrs. Grimes looked out of the window and saw some Sioux warriors dancing around a pole from which was suspended some tassel-like objects. She said to me, 'What have those Indians on that pole - some turkeys?' 'Turkeys indeed!' said I, 'Those are scalps!' Mrs. Grimes was so shocked and frightened she had to lie down for several hours.
"During this time  I became interested in a flour mill located on Minnehaha Creek (in what is now known as the Country Club area). This mill was then called the Waterville Mill, but was later known as Edina Mill."
Grimes bought the mill and a 160-acre farm belonging to Richard Strout. The farmland became most of the Morningside neighborhood that exists today.
Grimes continues, "During the Civil War the Government made requisitions for the mill to furnish flour to Fort Snelling. As I was not a practical miller, I hired Mr. Allen Baird to take charge of operating the mill while I kept the accounts and hauled the flour to the fort with my team of horses, one of the few left in the country. When I left the Fort with my empty wagon I would let the horses find their way home while I seized this opportunity for a much-needed rest in the bottom of the wagon. All during the Civil War the mill ran night and day making flour for the Union Army. It was not uncommon to see 25 yoke of oxen at the mill at one time."
After the war, Grimes sold the mill and purchased an adjoining 160-acre parcel of land on the Minneapolis side of France Avenue. There he started the Lake Calhoun Nursery and planted a 1,000-tree orchard. He also planted pine trees on 44th Street, some of which remain today.
Jonathan and Eliza had nine children and eventually owned a 366-acre parcel of land that included 40 acres in Saint Louis Park, 160 acres in the Morningside neighborhood of Edina, and another 160 acres on the east side of France Avenue in western Minneapolis. In 1869 they built the Gothic-styled home that still stands at 4200 West 44th Street.
|4200 West 44th Street
Courtesy Edina Historical Society
“The original 160 acres of land was bought by my father, Jonathan T. Grimes, at the same time he bought the Waterville Mill (later the Edina Mill). This was the southeast 1/4 of Section 7, Township 28, Range 24. Later, in about 1866, another 160 acres was bought. This was the northwest 1/4 and the southwest 1/4 of the northwest 1/4 of Section 17, Township 28, Range 24. A last 40 acres, mostly marsh, adjoining the northwest 40 of the original 160 acres was bought in the early 1870s.
“Altogether, including the 6-1/2 acres from the west side of the original 160 acres to Wooddale, this gave him a total of over 366 acres. This land extended along 42nd Street east from Browndale to Beard, then south to 50th Street, west to France Avenue, north to 45th Street, west to Wooddale, north to Morningside Road, west to Browndale, then north to 42nd Street or the point of beginning.”
From Out Of My Mind, by Ella A. Eustis, 1959.
|David Grimes was born May 28, 1896, to Jonathan and Eliza Grimes's fifth child, Charles. David grew up in the old Grimes homestead on 44th Street in Morningside. By the time he was entering West High School, he was sole owner, manager, operator, and technical staff of a telephone system that connected the houses of a dozen of his friends. The office, switchboard, and operating department of the system were in his bedroom.
While at the University of Minnesota David enlisted as a private in WWI. He served as chief radio officer at Kelly Field, Texas. By the end of the war, he was a signal officer attached to the British Air Forces at Aldershot and Littlehampton, England.
After the war he returned to Minneapolis where he graduated in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota in1919 and married his childhood sweetheart, Cecyl Hoag, on June 24 of the same year. He then moved to New York and began working for AT&T as a research engineer in telephony.
In 1922 he established the Grimes Engineering Company to do research work on a consulting basis for a number of different companies. It was during this period that he developed the famous "Grimes Inverse Duplex" circuit.
Don Patterson’s article "David Grimes" (Radio Age, Vol. 11, No. 4, April 1985) notes that, “Subsequently, [Grimes] was issued patents 1,515,057 and 1,527,058. At the outset, it was determined that only twelve licenses would be available. The first was issued to Sleeper Radio Corporation and the second to Mercury Radio Products of Little Falls, New Jersey. When the Grimes Company approached the Bristol Company of Waterbury, Connecticut, they bought all the remaining licenses. With this understanding, David Grimes became chief engineer for Sleeper Radio Corporation and consulting engineer for the Bristol Company."
Radio in the Home, April 1924
The Inverse Duplex can be best described as an unconventional form of reflexing. Normal reflex sets pass the signal through several stages of RF amplification, a detector, then, as audio signals, they pass back through the first two stages again, in the same direction. The problem with this arrangement was that the last RF tube is forced to carry both strong RF and audio signals, often resulting in instability.
Conventional Reflex Set
The Grimes circuit overcame this problem by changing the order of amplification. His first version used three tubes and a crystal detector. It worked well enough to build a company around, especially during the radio boom of the early Twenties.
Original Grimes 3XP circuit
from Radio in the Home, April 1924
Inverse Duplex block diagram
from "David Grimes," by Don Patterson,
Radio Age, Volume 5, No. 2 (February 1979)
Unfortunately, one design was not enough to carry Grimes through the turbulence of the late Twenties and by 1928, the David Grimes Company had ceased to exist.
The year 1930 found David Grimes working for RCA, where he continued until 1934 when he joined Philco as engineer in charge of home-radio-set research. He continued in that capacity until 1939, when he was named chief engineer. In 1942 he became vice-president in charge of engineering.
On September 4, 1943, David Grimes was killed with six other radar experts while flying on a secret military mission near Londonderry, Ireland.
He was survived by his wife, Cecyl Hoag Grimes (1896 -1982), a son, David Byron Grimes (b. December 5, 1934 –
), and daughter, Ariel Gordon Cecyl Grimes (b. July 15, 1936 – ). He was buried in the American Memorial Cemetery at Brookwood, near London, later reinterred at Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England.
David Grimes Inverse Duplex 7, serial #538
from the Joe Pavek Collection
click here for technical details of the Grimes 7
Jonathan and Eliza Grimes's youngest daughter, Ella, bore four children: two by her second husband, Dr. Samuel Phelps, and two by her third husband, Fred Eustis. The second of the two Phelps children, Boyd, was born March 29, 1899, in Blunt, South Dakota.
The one and only
Beepodyne with Beepotrol
Boyd Phelps WØBP
Boyd Phelps demonstrating mechanical television in 1929
Boyd Phelps' contributions to amateur radio are legendary. His biography in the program for the 1933 World Wide Radio Amateur Convention in Chicago lists his accomplishments up to that time: "Educated at the University of Minnesota (Dept of E.E.), amateur 1911 to date holding calls 2BP, 9ALL, 9ZT, 1HX, 1XAQ, u2EB, W2BP, W2BPP, and W9BP. War Navy operator NAJ, WNA, NSM, and instructor. Now Lieutenant C-V (S), U.S.N.R. Short and Ultra-short wave pioneer experimenter; Radio Below 200 Meters 1921, 100 meters 1922, one of first group of three to work across the Atlantic 1923, best DX on 5 meters, first two-way 5 meter code and phone transmissions, first ¾ meter transmitter and receiver, lowest wave regenerative oscillator, highest precision frequency measurements, first amateur television, etc. Assistant Editor of QST for 1922. Chief Engineer, Research Engineer, or Consulting Engineer 1923 to date with the following companies: Tuska, Grimes, Sleeper, Richardson (Cornell), I.R.T., Freed Eiseman, Press [Priess?] Wireless, Television Manufacturing, Atwater Kent, etc. Holder and licensor of several U.S. and foreign radio patents."
Boyd in the Navy
After several years in New York and Connecticut, Boyd returned to Minneapolis and found his way back to his roots. From 1935 until his untimely death in 1959 he operated Phelps Precision Laboratories from his homes in Morningside. The first house was at 4230 Scott Terrace. In 1939 Boyd and his wife, Alice Louise, built the house at 4232 Scott Terrace where he ran the business and conducted monthly meetings of the Radio Amateur Teletype Society, a.k.a. RATS, for the next twenty years.
Boyd's sense of humor was as celebrated as his technical ability. A 1996 letter from Phil DesJarlais, WØJHS, tells just one of many stories: "During WWII Boyd was stationed in Iceland and was second in command. The commandant was an old Navy man and very straight-laced. One day he called Boyd in and said he heard there was some gambling going on and he wanted it stopped and for Boyd to order a raid that night. Boyd let out the news that a raid was going to be held and in spite of that, two Navy men were caught gambling and were brought up before Boyd for sentencing. He put them on bread and water for two weeks and gave them KP duty. When the commandant heard about it he called Boyd in and said, 'In all my years in the Navy, I never heard of such a thing, putting men on bread and water and then giving them KP duty!'"
Phelps's obituary in the July 1959 edition of RTTY Magazine conveys a glimpse of his popularity:
"One of the most shocking and saddening QSTs in more than forty years of ham radio was just copied on twenty meters - Quote - QST DE W5ANW Houston, Texas. Regret to inform you that Boyd Phelps, WØBP, and Adolph Emerson, WØCMQ, were killed in an auto accident June 15, 1959, near Zimatan, Mexico, while on the way to the ARRL convention.
"Beep [as Phelps was known to just about everyone], WØBP, was to have given the keynote speech at the RTTY dinner at the National ARRL convention, which starts today, June 19.
"Beep was almost Mr. RTTY himself and most certainly had one of the most outstanding records of accomplishment in ham radio, having received his first ham ticket, 9TT, in 1911 with many, many others in between his currently held ticket, WØBP, and the last call he signed, XEQØP, from Mexico City.
"All who have read Two Hundred Meters and Down realize that Beep made one of the first trans-Atlantic contacts and was awarded the Gold Medal at the Radio Amateur Convention in Chicago in 1933 for most outstanding pioneer development of short waves below 200 meters.
"It is to men like Beep that we owe the advancement of ham radio for, with his work with Hiram Percy Maxim in the ARRL for many years, his tenaciousness in demanding that the rights of the amateur be respected, while his work and foresight in regulatory matters with the FCC have preserved for us the many liberties that we, as ham operators, enjoy today.
"As he lived – he died – thinking of and working with those he loved."
Boyd is survived by his son, Boyd Phelps Jr. (b. Feb. 14, 1924 – ), and daughter Winifred (b. May 14, 1926 – ).
David Grimes and Boyd Phelps were just two of the 28 grandchildren of Jonathan and Eliza Grimes. The family made many contributions, undoubtedly beyond farming and radio. Their legacy is Morningside, Minnesota, and the accomplishments of the many men and women who are descendants of this remarkable family.
2010 SNRaymer & Jeanne Andersen