The Don Iverson Keys


I am sad to report that Don Iverson passed away on May 2, 2009.  Don died of cancer and put up a real battle.  I last talked to him two months ago, and as usual, he was full of plans and ideas.  Rest in peace, old friend.

In June 1997 I  visited Don Iverson in Portland, Oregon. I have known Don for many years, and he is one of the quieter members of the key collecting fraternity. I am writing this piece about him and his keys for three reasons. The first is to introduce you to Don and his keys. The second is to document the origins and developments of the Wireless Apparatus Company. The third is to document the keys that Don has made so that future collectors will properly identify them.

First, about Don. Don is guy that spent most of his life working with his hands. He doodles in metal like other people doodle with a pen and ink. This doodling has lead him into some interesting areas. Don has (at one time or another) been into antique motorcycles, metal toys, kewpie dolls, radio gear, telegraph keys and probably quite a number of other things. He just plain likes to build stuff and repair and restore things. It is a small step from building replacement parts to building actual items. Don, however, does not build replicas. He builds original items that have every appearance of being very old. The quality of his work is very good, and he takes a lot of pleasure in fooling so called "experts".

To that end, he created the "Wireless Apparatus Company". As you read this you are probably thinking that you have heard of them. I have checked my files and consulted with several collectors, and we have yet to find a trace of it, other than in Don's fertile imagination. The Wireless Apparatus company sounds like it must have existed, doesn't it?   The following is a sample of their work:

radio1.jpg (11264 bytes) This was an early version.  The following radio was built later, and the photo does not begin to do justice to it and the quality of craftsmanship.
radio2.jpg (13535 bytes) Don built this beauty all by hand, often using material salvaged from contemporary items. The tubes are of particular interest, since they are not vacuum tubes - they only look that way.  In reality, they are just glass test tubes with grids, screens, etc., in them - - - and also transistors!
radio3.jpg (9679 bytes) Don even went to the trouble of manufacturing a set of spares and sealing them with paper labels in metal cans. The cans themselves are a work of art. The are actually antique typewriter ribbon cans, and he made up labels with rub-on letters and photocopied them onto coarse paper. The labels are glued on and even have "rust bleeds" on them. They are so nicely done that they will make your teeth ache. The radio has a diamond shaped receiving loop on the top of the case, and just reeks of authenticity. A number of prominent collectors have been utterly fooled with this item, and have even made significant cash offers - for a transistor radio!
paddle.jpg (5458 bytes) When it comes to keys, Don is in a class by himself.  These are examples of his keyer paddles.
paddles.jpg (7320 bytes)
sidecx.jpg (9475 bytes) These are reminiscent of Chubbock keys.  Note the hand made levers and unusual location of the contacts on the one on the bottom.
spark.jpg (13413 bytes) This is one of his spark keys.
straight.jpg (5941 bytes) This is a straight key on a stone base.
codetrl1.jpg (8908 bytes)

codetrl2.jpg (10955 bytes)

Don located a set of patent drawings for the Breedlove Double Speed bug and built a pair of them.  One is in black crackle finish, and the other is nickel.  These bugs have two vibrating arms and two sets of dot contacts.  The switch on the front selects the contact.  The nickel finished one has been aged to provide an appropriate patina on the finish.  Don told me that these keys were extremely difficult to machine and that he doubts if Breedlove ever made them in this configuration.

Update:  I ran into Don in February 2001, and he told me that he has sold both of these keys to master key collector Gil Schlehman.

angle.jpg (7802 bytes) Not being entirely content with these keys, he designed his own angle bug:
vert.jpg (7396 bytes) Having heard about the famous Vibroplex Upright, Don tried his hand at a similar machine.
tilta.jpg (9040 bytes)

Last comes the Wireless Apparatus "Tilt-A-Matic" bug.  If you look closely at the picture you can see how the entire key tilts in the center on the pivots.   

If you ever happen onto a Wireless Apparatus product there is one sure-fire way to identify it - the patent date is always April 1 of the appropriate year!

One last word - don't bother making offers!  I tried every means that I could think of to talk Don out of one or more of his keys, and he just grinned.  He is the sort of a guy that isn't impressed with money, so save yourself the trouble.

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