If you happen to find yourself in Massachusetts you might want to check out one of the pivotal places from my childhood. It’s a medieval-style castle, right where you’d expect it to be… in the fishing town of Gloucester. It’s darn near impossible to get to without exercising patience and your GPS will take you to the wrong place. But then again, that’s true of most places in Massachusetts; this isn’t any different.
What is different is that this castle houses a museum named for John Hays Hammond, Jr., one of the unsung heroes of our modern technology. Dr. Hammond, a protege of Edison and friend of Tesla, has over 800 inventions to his credit and served as one of the strongest voices for commercial broadcasting about 100 years ago. He’s largely forgotten today, which is a shame because he had as much to do with over-the-air TV as pioneers like Marconi and Sarnoff, much more familiar names to radio and TV historians. Still, every time you use that Genie Remote, you should thank Dr. Hammond… as it turns out he’s credited with the invention of the RF remote control.
Dr. Hammond was born extraordinarily wealthy, something about his dad and diamond mines, but that didn’t stop him from getting extra-extraordinarily wealthy by himself, investing in companies that made radios and radio equipment. With all that cash, he built a gigantic castle on the Cape Ann seashore, and gave it to his wife. It was so big that he could use some of it for his own radio research and apparently his wife didn’t mind.
Hammond filled his castle with real historical artifacts, too. He scoured Europe looking for things to put in his castle, much as William Randolph Hearst and other moguls of the day did. When he and his wife both passed, the castle became a museum, and you can visit it if you’re in the area. Their web site needs a little work, but it’s still functional at Hammond Castle.