Looking Back at :


A look back at Harvey-Wells Electronics  (As it appeared in the Jan 28, 2002 Southbridge News)-
By Dick Whitney

My interest in local history, a longstanding family friendship between the Harvey’s and the Whitney’s, and the power of communication by the Internet have combined to prompt me  to write this article. Harvey – Wells is the subject of this look back in time, and once was a thriving electronics business that was located at the old Central Mills building, which is on the corner of North and Hook streets. Harvey Radio Labs was founded by Cliff Harvey in 1933 and located in Brookline, MA. In 1940, Cliff Harvey partnered with John Wells (of AO Family Fame) and the business moved to Southbridge where it continued in business until 1960.

The Harvey and Whitney families have been close friends since the late 1950’s, as both Cliff  Harvey and Dad (Don Whitney) were Amateur Radio operators. From their mutual interest in this hobby, began a long-standing  family friendship which continues today with the “ younger generation” of Harvey’s and Whitney’s – (if I can still be considered young !).

In searching for information on Harvey -Wells, I have discovered that several friends once worked at Harvey Wells during its heyday. I learned, for example, that friend (and Gateway dance partner) Dottie Dubriel moved to Southbridge to work as John Wells’ secretary at Harvey Wells when the company began its operations in Southbridge.

In working on my web site on local history, I posted information on the Harvey – Wells business. I shared this via the Internet with both Harvey children:  “Young” Cliff  now lives in Oregon and Helen is in Ireland. They shared some of their recollections, portions of which I have included below. Also, as a result of the web site, I was contacted from a person in Sweden who is a fan of Harvey –Wells and has his own web site in tribute to founder Cliff Harvey! While many in town are no longer aware of this once thriving business and the people once involved, it is interesting to learn that Harvey –Wells  still has an international following.

If anyone reading this has information, photos, or stories about Harvey – Wells that they could share with my to add to the history of this business, please contact me dickwhitney@charter.net


Cliff Harvey, Dick Whitney and Cliff Jt in their backyard on Fiske Hill - 1960

Betty Harvey, Sue, Dick and Jan Whitney - 1960

Sue and Dick in Harveys back Yard

Feb 2002 e-mail from Keith Knowlton after reading the article

Hello Dick,

One of the fellows who works with us here at Fiberoptics (Pomfret CT) brought in your article about Harvey Wells. It was very enjoyable reading!  I grew up in Charlton and remember well the flood of 1955 and all of the damage in the "flats" of Southbridge. I obtained my novice ham radio license in 1958 at the age of 14 and the first transmitter that  I ever owned was one of the "flood damage specials" TBS-50s. A lot of Harvey Wells equipment was sold to local hams from the stock that was under water.  There are a couple of points that I'd like to make: First for those who don't read electrical schematic diagrams, the curious H and W in the article logo are the symbols for a quartz crystal (H) and a resistor (W). Second there are a couple of errors in the story, to wit, the TBS-50 that did not have the 3 tube preamp, used a carbon element microphone and was designated the TBS-50C, the "Deluxe" model had the preamp and therefore could us a high impedance dynamic or crystal microphone, and was the TBS-50D. Either could be fitted with a VFO (variable frequency oscillator) that went under the transmitter
and formed a base for it to sit upon. The vfo allowed the operator to move to any frequency in the "band" and not have to be "rock bound" to one frequency as was the case of using a crystal.

The writer who states that they never produced a receiver is incorrect. The T-90 was the last transmitter they made, and a darn good one too! But in a matching case they produced the R-9 and then the R-9A receivers. These units were complimented by a matching antenna tuner called the Z-Match, and I still own one of them to this day.

The Quinnebaug Valley Radio Club, which is now defunct except for the club license W1BRF, which I keep in active status, used to be very active and for many years we went up to Breezeland Orchards in Brookfield for the Amateur Radio Field Day weekend and operated mostly Harvey Wells T-90s, R-9As and the wonderful Z-Match.  We never found an antenna that the Z-Match couldn't make work.

Thanks for making the effort to help folks find out about this fine company.  Please let me know if there are any questions that I might be able to help you out with. Let me know if you'd like some more recollections of the 55 flood. It was some event, and a great deal more damage would have occurred in Southbridge if it hadn't been for the ongoing construction of the Massachusetts Turnpike.

All the best,

Keith, K1JPH
January 31, 2002

Here is a letter I recieved from Barry Blake after the Harvey Wells article appeared:

Dear Richard,

I enjoyed reading the article published in the Southbridge News on Jan. 28, 2002 that you wrote.  I have some recollection of Harvey-Wells history, as I worked there from the fall of 1955 to 1961.  I was a draftsman in the engineering department.  In late 1960 Harvey Wells Inc. was sold to Bay State Electronics Corp. of Boston, MA.  The operation continued at the North St. location for a short time (maybe 6 months), then was moved to Mill St. in the A&M Tool building and was operated under the “Bay State Electronics” name.

The engineering, purchasing and office functions were moved to Boston at Bay State Electronics headquarters.  I was one of those that were transferred.  The North St. facility had excess office capacity as only production continued in Southbridge, thence the move to Mill St.  The Bay State Electronics operation continued until about 1965 until the business was fragmented into smaller groups and production ceased.

The flood of August 1955 was indeed devastating for Harvey-Wells; however, our facility was rebuilt quickly by many hard working employees.  I believe only a few of the army trucks that we were installing radar units into were lost.  This was at the beginning of the major sub contract.  When the parking lot was repaired, more trucks were moved in for retro fitting.  The trucks had been backed up along the building in order to keep them as far from the river as possible (see photo).  The balance of the contract was completed (I don’t recall the number but perhaps 30).

The commercial line of Harvey-Wells equipment was dropped about 1957 although we had a good complete line including a receiver called “R9.”  The line needed to be upgraded and the corporation didn’t want the research expense.  They believed there was more financial gain in government contracts, so it was a business decision.

We were quite busy for several years after 1955 on government and commercial contract work.  As this work declined in the late 50’s, a decision was made to sell the business to Bay State Electronics of Boston.

Incidentally, Harvey-Wells was owned by Whitin Machine Works from, I believe, the mid-50’s to that date.  Whitin kept the accounting and some of the administration group.  My dad was an accountant and, for several years, traveled to Whitin Machine Works in Whitinsville.

I had a couple of photos copied for you showing the army trucks and the Central St. Bridge.

I hope this is of interest.


Barry L. Blake

August 22,1945 SEN Article

August 23, 1945 SEN Article

Recalling Harvey Wells

Southbridge Page

Whitney Home Page
(Sign My Guestbook at the bottom of my Home Page!)