In memory of Roy Alciatore, 5RH (later W5RU)

Roy L. Alciatore (1902-1972) was first licensed as 5RH shortly before or after 1920. In sorting through approximately 250 of his old QSL cards that he received during the 1920s, it is evident that he was very active with an exceptionally fine spark-gap station (pictured & described below). SWL & QSL cards show that his signal was heard in England, Australia, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Cuba, Canada, and the Panama Canal Zone, as well as all over the states. According to his W5RU QSL card, he was licensed as 5RH in 1921. Of the available QSL cards, the earliest available was for a contact on 4-May-1922 with 5LA, B.T Manard, Jr whose address was 1324 Lowerline St, New Orleans, LA.

Roy was a descendant of Antoine Alciatore, who came to New Orleans from Marseilles, France and first opened a pension (boarding house) in the French Quarter in 1840. This became known as Antoine's Restaurant, moving in 1882 to its present French Quarter location. Roy took over as the owner/operator of Antoine's in 1930, and proudly led it to worldwide fame until his death in 1972. During this time, he continued to pursue his hobby of ham radio DXing, joining the Delta DX Association on 6-July-1971, a month after its founding. After Roy became a Silent Key, the DDXA adopted his callsign in his honor.

A member of the Old-Old Timers Club (membership # 0280), Roy was an early "spark gap" operator. Below are some recovered pictures from old negatives, along with some of the QSLs from his early collection. Little or no detail was included with the negatives and it is unknown as to the date that the photos were taken, whether the two photos are contemporary station components, or if they depict changes in some equipment over time. Descriptions below are from information on his two available QSL cards (pictured) and a note sent to an unidentified operator in 1922. If anyone can provide more information about any of these photos, please contact W5FKX.

5RH early spark transmitter. A transformer (bottom) is seen connected across a large home-brew capacitor (middle) , which is connected to a helically-wound primary coil (center). Leads from the secondary coil (left) and the capacitor appear to exit to the antenna. On the far-right is a motor used in spark generation. (For an example of a spark radio signal, click here to play a brief recording of the old distress call "CQD SOS").

According to the description on the 5RH QSL cards below, the station transmitter in the early 1920s consisted of a 1/2 KW Packard-Hyrad, Sink Gap, Dubelier, O.T transmitter and the receiver was a either a Pancake OT receiving - Clapp Eastman Regenerative with 1-step audio (note dated 1922) or a Grebe CR-8 with Rork 2 step Baldwins (QSL below left of March 1923).

5RH QSL - 1923
5RH QSL - later 1920s
5RH QSLs (top), describing early station(s). Right-hand QSL describes an inverted-L "cage antenna" (illustrated above - click image for enlargement.
Above - Roy, 5RH, circa early (?) 1920s.
The W5RU QSL from later years. Note the initial license year (1921) of 5RH mentioned on the W5RU card.
Antoine’s Restaurant was famous as THE place in New Olreans to dine. Among past the notable guests were General Patton, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and Pope John Paul II. In the picture above, Roy/W5RU (bow-tie) is seen in one of the dining rooms, just behind President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
QSL from 1B in Mexico City, 29-Sep-1924 for 86m QSO.
2WR near Newark, NJ, 02-Nov-1924 (band not specified).
NA7MN, Nenana, AK, 23-Mar-1927 (band not specified).
HU6BDL, Ft. Shafter, Territory of Hawaii, 09-Feb-1927 (band not specified).
SWL report from England, 27-Jan-1927 for 40m.
SWL report from Panama Canal Zone, 01-Feb-1923 (band not specified).
SWL report from Australia, 20-Feb-1927 on 41m.
QSL for contact with 5LA, 04-Mar-1922 (band not specified).
QSL for contact with 5LO in Australia, 05-Sep-1926 (band not specified).
New Orleans Radio Association meeting reminder, post-marked 24-Nov-1924.


A brief story about the discovery of these items

Shortly after hurricane Katrina devastated the greater New Orleans area, Mike, W5UM, removed his law office shingle and erected a large sign with his call sign in front of his office. Mike’s son had moved into the office with his family because their house had been flooded and was uninhabitable. A lady who saw the ham call on the sign stopped and told Mike’s son that she was trying to find someone who would like to have her late father’s ham radio memorabilia. She explained that his home had been flooded and was to be demolished. She wanted to donate the ham memorabilia to someone who would have reason to preserve it, as ham radio had been one of her father’s life's passions. Mike and his son agreed to go to the house, salvaging many QSL cards, old QST magazines, and an envelope that contained photographic negatives of an old spark station. Within a month the house and all of its contents were gone.

Mike was familiar with the location of the house because of the large antennas that he had first seen there in the early 1960s, but did not know the ham that lived there. After sorting through the QSL cards and doing some research, Mike realized the importance of what had been salvaged. This was the station of Roy Alciatore, one of the foremost ham radio operators in the New Orleans area. Roy’s call sign, W5RU, had been adopted by the Delta DX Association in his honor after he became a Silent Key in 1972. Mike told two of his friends (Frank, W5UP and Ray, KB5GA) who are members of the Delta DX Association about what he had found. They suggested that he speak to Don (W5FKX), a former president of the association. Upon relating the story to Don, W5FKX on the club’s 2 meter repeater, arrangements were made for Don to copy some of the negatives and cards in order to include them in the history of the DDXA. Thanks to Mike and his son, these items are now available for preservation.

FInally, for a YouTube video of an operational replica of a rotary spark transmitter, see:


************** Thanks to those below for useful commentary: **************

Howard Stone (

Russ, WA5Y



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