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Hugo Gernsback Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: -
Date: 1978

Biographical History

Hugo Gernsback (1884-1967) was a Luxembourg-American author, editor, publisher, and entrepreneur in the fields of amateur radio, electronics, and science fiction. For his contributions to the latter, including creating the first magazine dedicated to the genre ( Amazing Stories, 1926), he has often been called "the father of science fiction." The Hugo Awards, presented at the annual World Science Fiction Convention, are named for him.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Hugo Gernsback Papers consists of correspondence, Gernsback publications, memorabilia, subject files, and writings.

The relatively small amount of Correspondence is primarily from the mid-1950s, and is almost entirely incoming. Most relates to various endeavors of Gernsback's, such as his efforts to interest commercial fisheries in his patented hydraulic device and a letter to Latin American distributors regarding a Spanish-language edition of Radio-Electronics. Other correspondents include colleagues and collaborators such as Marc Lanval, David Sarnoff, and Austin Lescarboura, and fellow science fiction enthusiasts such as Sam Moskowitz.

Material relating to Gernsback publications includes a small amount of business records (advertisements, copyright and trademark registrations, form letters, and so on) and a considerable amount of printed material published by Gernsback under one or another of his company names. Most are "how-to" manuals for the amateur radio enthusiast; some are standalone titles ( 101 short wave hookups, How to build and operate short wave receivers, Radio trouble finder) while others were published as part of a named series (The Experimenter's Library, Radio Tinker's Library, etc.). There are also catalogs from Gernsback's Electro Importing Company and Radio Trading Co., milestone anniversary issues of Radio-Craft and Radio-Electronics, and a reprint of radio, telephone, and telegraphic equipment from the Montgomery Ward catalog. The miscellaneous material at the end of this series contains two pieces of artwork from the 1940s by science fiction illustrator Alex Schomburg, but otherwise mostly dates from the 1980s and 1990s and thus has little connection with Gernsback.

Memorabilia includes awards, clippings, photographs, and assorted other items, which together illustrate Gernsback's impact on amateur radio and on science fiction. Among the earliest items is a "Budding Electrician" certificate from the Carmelite Convent in Luxembourg, bestowed for installing "our electrical bell system, gratis" -- it is dated 1890, meaning that Gernsback would have been about six years old at the time. At the end of this series are a few artifacts, mostly unidentifiable but likely related to short wave radio construction.

The vast majority of material in the Subject files consists of photographs, either original or reproductions, of a wide range of home, commercial, and industrial electronics and technology. Many of the photographs have detailed typed captions. Other formats include negatives, color transparencies, drawings, sketches, and occasionally product literature, correspondence, and clippings. Subjects range from amplifiers, microphones, and tuners to spaceships, moon radio, and satellites. A few folders pertain to individuals (Nikola Tesla, Lee De Forest) while "Biographies" and "Portraits" contain brief descriptions and photographs, respectively, of important individuals in the field. These files, which have been preserved as originally arranged, undoubtedly served as reference/source material for Gernsback's magazines during his life, and continued to be used and added to after his death.

Writings contains articles, books, letters to the editor, manuals, speeches, stories, and miscellaneous items by Gernsback. Included here are his editorials for Amazing Stories, Electrical Experimenter, Everyday Science and Mechanics, Radio News, Radio & Television, Radio-Craft, Radio-Electronics, Science fiction Plus, Science and Invention, Science Wonder Stories, Short Wave Craft, Television News, and Wonder Stories. Many of his pieces predict, propose, or describe technology that was novel at the time but is common today, such as telemedicine ("Call the teledoctor"), desalination ("Miracle from the Sea"), text-to-speech ("A writing machine that responds to the voice"), and drones ("The radio-controlled television plane"). There are several editions of his novel Ralph 124C 41+, including a German edition, as well as his story "Scientific adventures of Baron Munchausen" as published in Amazing Stories. Also included are fifteen years of Forecast, Gernsback's annual holiday booklet in which he laid out his science and technology predictions for the coming year, and a number of his humorous/parody Christmas magazines.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is alphabetical by correspondent. Gernsback publications are subdivided into business records (alphabetical by format or topic) and printed material (alphabetical by title). Memorabilia is alphabetical by title or topic. Subject files remain in original order and with original titles. Writings are subdivided by type (articles, books, etc.) and within each type are alphabetical by title. The few writings by others, at the end of the series, are alphabetical by author's name.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

The collection originally contained extensive runs of periodicals for which Gernsback was the editor, publisher, or both. These have been cataloged. Please refer to the Classic Catalog to locate these items.

Titles include: Air wonder stories, Amazing detectives, Amazing stories, Aviation mechanics, Electrical experimenter, Everyday mechanics, Everyday science and mechanics, The experimenter, Facts of life, Flight, Foto-craft, French humor, Gadgets, High sea adventures, Know yourself, Life guide, Light, Luz, Milady, Modern electrics, Moneymaking, Motor camper & tourist, New ideas for everybody, Pirate stories, Popular medicine, Practical electrics, Radio amateur news, Radio & television, Radio-craft, Radio-electronics, Radio electronics weekly business letter, Radio listeners guide and call book, Radio news, Radio program weekly, Radio review, Science and invention, Science fiction, Science wonder stories, Scientific detective monthly, Sexologia, Sexology, Short wave and television, Short wave craft, Superworld comics, Technocracy review, Television, Television news, Woman's Digest, Wonder stories, Your body, and: Your dreams.

Special Collections Research Center has extensive holdings related to science fiction and pulp-era publishing in both its manuscript and published holdings. Related corporate collections include Ace Books, Galaxy Publishing Company, Mercury Press, and Street and Smith. Individual collections include Forrest Ackerman, Anne McCaffrey, Piers Anthony, Theodore Cogswell, Murray Leinster, Neil R. Jones, Keith Laumer, Andre Norton, and Kate Wilhelm. Cataloged material includes magazines such as If and Astounding, as well as fanzines and conference programs. Please refer to the Classic Catalog to locate cataloged items, and to the SCRC Subject Index for a full list of related manuscript collections.

Many of Gernsback's publications are available in digital format on the World Radio History website.

Subject Headings


Ackerman, Forrest J.
De Forest, Lee, 1873-1961.
Ernsting, Walter, 1920-2005.
Fitch, Clyde, 1865-1909.
Gernsback, Hugo, 1884-1967.
Gernsback, Hugo, 1884-1967. -- Baron Münchausen's Scientific Adventures.
Gernsback, Hugo, 1884-1967. -- Ralph 124C 41+
Gernsback, Sidney, 1876-
Kazantsev, Aleksandr, 1906-2002.
Lanval, Marc, 1898-
Lescarboura, Austin C. (Austin Celestin), 1891-
Menzel, Donald H. (Donald Howard), 1901-1976.
Mims, Forrest M.
Moskowitz, Sam.
Pomeroy, Wardell B. (Wardell Baxter), 1913-2001.
Sarnoff, David, 1891-1971.
Schomburg, Alex.
Secor, H. W. (Harry Winfield), 1887-
Tesla, Nikola, 1856-1943.

Corporate Bodies

Electro Importing Company.
Engineering Society of Detroit.
MIT Science Fiction Society.
New York University.
Radio Club of America.
Radio Corporation of America.
Radio Trading Co.
Society of Wireless Pioneers.

Associated Titles

Air wonder stories.
Amazing stories.
Electrical experimenter.
Everyday science and mechanics.
Know yourself.
Modern electrics.
Popular electronics.
Radio & television.
Radio amateur news.
Radio news.
Radio-craft library.
Science and invention.
Science fiction plus.
Science wonder stories.
Short wave and television.
Short wave craft.
Technocracy review.
Television news.
The experimenter's library.
The radio tinker's library.
Utopia Sonderband.
Wonder stories.


Authors, American.
Automobiles -- Radio equipment.
Editors -- United States.
Electronic apparatus and appliances -- Photographs.
Electronics -- Amateurs' manuals.
Electronics -- Periodicals.
Luxembourg Americans.
Military art and science.
Periodical editors.
Periodicals -- Publishing.
Popular literature -- United States.
Publishers and publishing -- United States.
Radio -- Amateurs' manuals.
Radio -- History.
Radio -- Periodicals.
Radio broadcasting -- History.
Radio broadcasting -- Social aspects.
Radio control.
Science fiction -- Illustration.
Science fiction -- Periodicals.
Science publishing.
Sexuality -- Periodicals.
Shortwave radio -- Periodicals.
Space flight.
Technical writing.
Technological innovations.
Technology -- Periodicals.
Television -- History.
Television -- Periodicals.


United States -- Popular culture.

Genres and Forms

Biographical sketches.
Clippings (information artifacts)
Color transparencies.
Cylinders (sound recordings)
Drafts (documents)
Lantern slides.
Manuscripts for publication.
Negative prints.
Negatives (photographs)
Speeches (documents)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Hugo Gernsback Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Hugo Gernsback, Harvey Gernsback, Gernsback estate, and Adria Coren, 1965-2005.

Table of Contents


Gernsback publications


Subject files