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Oscar Reed, Jr. Papers

 Collection 0103-MMC-NPBA

Oscar W.B. Reed, Jr. (1917-2009) began his career at Jansky and Bailey, engineering consultants based in Washington, D.C., in 1939. He played a role in the construction, operation and maintenance of Baltimore and Washington’s first FM radio station, W3XO. It was the third FM station in the country. He was an expert on the topic of frequency allocation and also became involved in planning cable systems. He also participated in the design of television broadcast facilities, and when Atlantic Research purchased the company in 1959, he became manager of the Broadcast-Television Consulting Department. He retired in 1984.

The papers of Oscar Reed, Jr., cover the years 1928 to 1994. Types of documents in the collection include reports for various clients produced by J&B, J&B/ARC, and other firms. Prominently represented are correspondence, memoranda, notes and rough drafts, charts and graphs, maps, FCC and other government documents, articles, newsletters, minutes, news clippings, photographs, and negatives. Also included are materials belonging to Jansky and Bailey that came into Reed's possession after their deaths.


  • 1928-1994
  • Majority of material found within 1960s-1970s

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


43.00 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Papers of Oscar Reed, Jr., cover the years 1928 to 1994. The bulk of the collection dates from the 1960s and 1970s, with a significant amount of materials from the late 1940s through the 1950s. It documents Reed's career with Jansky & Bailey, Inc., and his later work with the Jansky & Bailey Divisions of Atlantic Research Corporation. Also included are materials belonging to Jansky and Bailey that came into Reed's possession after their deaths. Types of documents in the collection include reports for various clients produced by J&B, J&B/ARC, and other firms as well. Prominently represented also are correspondence, memoranda, notes and rough drafts, charts and graphs, maps, FCC and other government documents, articles, newsletters, minutes, news clippings, photographs, and negatives.


Biography of Oscar Reed, Jr.

Oscar Wellington Blucher Reed, Jr., was a lifelong resident of the Washington, D.C., area. He was born in the District in 1917 and graduated with a Bachelors degree in electrical engineering from the Catholic University of America in 1939. From August of that year until his retirement in 1984, Reed was associated with Jansky & Bailey, Consulting Broadcast Engineers, a company later acquired by the Atlantic Research Corporation (ARC). It became a semi-autonomous division of ARC in 1960

Reed began his career at Jansky & Bailey by assisting in the construction, operation, and maintenance of experimental FM station W3XO. Built by the company with the approval and assistance of Major Edwin Armstrong, it was only the third FM station in the U. S. and the first in the Baltimore/Washington area. Other prewar work consisted of teletype and facsimile signal analysis. During World War II, Jansky & Bailey engaged in defense-related engineering projects sponsored by the Office of Scientific Research and Development. Efforts were concentrated in the area of military communications, specifically jamming techniques and propagation characteristics of signals over a wide frequency range.

From 1945 to 1960 Reed served as head of the Jansky & Bailey Broadcast and Television Department. During this period he supervised and participated in the design of AM, FM, and television broadcast facilities; prepared engineering material submitted on behalf of numerous clients to the FCC; appeared before the FCC as an expert engineering witness on frequency allocation, station assignment and field strength measurement; and determined broadcast station coverage, and fair market value of broadcast transmission properties for tax purposes

After the purchase of Jansky & Bailey by Atlantic Research, Reed served as manager of the Broadcast-Television Consulting Department. He also acted for a time as head of the telecommunications division of ARC. Work continued in the broadcast field, but starting in the 1960s a new emphasis was placed on the growing area of community antenna television (CATV), better known today as cable television. J&B/ARC began consulting on system design evaluation surveys, as well as providing services to franchise applications, cities, states, and counties on cable television issues. Because of this experience, Reed was recruited as a member of the FCC Steering Committee on CATV Standards Planning.

From that time until his retirement, Reed both supervised and participated in many projects closely related to educational and public broadcasting. Representative contracts would include engineering studies for the development, design, specifications preparation, and implementation of many statewide educational television systems, most notably in Ohio, and planning for Instructional Television Fixed Service systems. He also served as an engineering advisor to the Educational Television Stations Division of the National Association of Educational Broadcasters and as a consultant to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting on Clear Channel Broadcasting matters, Low Frequency Broadcasting in the U.S., and for the Geneva World Administrative Radio Conference in 1979.

Reed was a member of the National Association of Educational Broadcasters and the Television Allocations Study Organization of the FCC. He was a board member of the National Broadcasters Club, a president of the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers, and served on the editorial review board of Educational Broadcasting Review. He was also a longtime member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, who awarded him their prestigious "Centennial" medal in 1984.

In retirement Reed engaged in consulting work for various clients, and also made his expertise available to Montgomery Community Television, the local production and oversight entity for cable television in Montgomery County, Maryland. A lifelong "Ham" radio enthusiast, he continued to broadcast from his home-based "shack" in Silver Spring, Maryland. Reed died December 10, 2008.

About Jansky & Bailey

(The following first appeared in a J&B promotional brochure printed in 1964.)

Jansky & Bailey was founded in 1930 by C. M. Janksy, Jr., and Stuart L. Bailey, each of whom possessed considerable unique experience in the field of radio engineering. Radio-telephone broadcasting had its origins prior to World War I. At this time, Jansky was active in the establishment of an experimental broadcast station at the University of Wisconsin where he was a student. The station, perhaps the first in the United States, was operated under the call letters WHA[1] to explore the potential of radiotelephony as a communications medium and to gather data on radio transmission, reception, and propagation phenomena. Later, Jansky was asked to serve as a member of the radiotelephone conferences called by then-Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover. These pivotal conferences formed the basis for the Radio Act of 1927, which created the Federal Radio Commission (now the FCC). Bailey's activities prior to 1930 involved the study of field strength measurements, the evaluation of radio antennas and the development of automatic marine radio beacons and radio range equipment.

The first activity engaged in by the partnership of Jansky & Bailey was broadcast engineering. The firm was the first to represent broadcasters before the Federal Radio Commission. Pioneering contributions were made to broadcasting in these early days. The first practical mobile field strength measurement instrumentation for the broadcast band was developed. Coverage standards for broadcasting were developed which resulted in a "Standard Coverage and Market Data Service" used by many stations. The young company built the third FM broadcasting station in the country, W3XO, in 1938 and operated it until 1946. The first portable broadcast field strength set and the first field strength equipment able to measure radio frequency pulses of the Loran type were other Jansky & Bailey achievements. The company made extensive use of field measurements and equipped a variety of vehicles for this purpose. During and immediately after World War II, important programs were carried out for the Army in the study of propagation and vehicular antennas in the MF, HR, and VHF frequency ranges. Extensive development effort was also applied to the field of printed communications and early equipment was developed which would work through noisy circuits.

The partnership was incorporated in 1953 and became a subsidiary of Atlantic Research Corporation in 1959. In 1960, division status was achieved. As of 1994, after more than a third of a century of growth and expansion, Jansky & Bailey made up three technical operating divisions of Atlantic Research Corporation.

[1] The station operated as 9XM in its earliest, experimental days. -Charles Howell


The collection is arranged into nine series:

  1. Series 1: Educational Television
  2. Series 2: Jansky & Bailey Materials
  3. Series 3: Business Files of Oscar Reed
  4. Series 4: Jansky & Bailey Divisions of Atlantic Research Corporation - Reports
  5. Series 5: Non-J&B/ARC Reports
  6. Series 6: Promotional Materials and Brochures
  7. Series 7: FCC Materials
  8. Series 8: Personal Materials of Oscar Reed
  9. Series 9: Nonprint Materials

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Papers of Oscar Reed, Jr., were donated to the University of Maryland at College Park Libraries by Oscar Reed, Jr. in April of 1994.

Processing Information

The Papers of Oscar Reed, Jr., were organized into nine series, then further broken down into subseries as noted. Paper clips, staples, rubber bands, and plastic ring bindings were removed and replaced with plastic clips where needed. During processing, all items were removed from folders, envelopes, and binders and placed in acid-free folders. Duplicates were discarded. Newspaper clippings were photocopied onto acid-free bond, and the clippings were discarded. Photographs were cleaned with an approved cleansing agent and placed either in acid-free envelopes or between sheets of acid-free bond. Once the folders were labeled, they were placed in acid free boxes. Lastly, reference books, magazines, and journals were transferred to the National Public Broadcasting Archives' reference shelf.

The Oscar Reed, Jr. Papers
Processed by Charles E. Howell.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2017-11-12: Finding aid reviewed and edited by Rebecca Thayer.
  • 2019-01-15: Finding aid reviewed and broken links removed by Jen Wachtel.
  • 2021-08-20: Jim Baxter re-wrote the collection abstract.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742