R. Henry Norweb, Sr.
R. Henry Norweb, Sr. was born in Nottingham, England on May 31, 1895. His father was in the lace manufacturing business there, and had developed a method of making lace mechanically which showed promise of increasing production in the Nottingham industry. However, the new technology was not well-received by the local lace makers, who feared for their jobs if mechanization were introduced. Accordingly, Mr. Norweb's father emigrated with his family to the United States, settling in different communities just outside Chicago's North Shore during the 1890's and early years of the 20th century.
In 1907 the family moved to Elyria, Ohio. There, Henry Norweb's father ran the Elyria Lace Company. Later, he was in charge of the American Lace Company. In the interval, Henry Norweb had become an American citizen through naturalization. Mr. Norweb's father is said to have distrusted paper money and was known throughout his industry for paying his employees' wages in gold coins. The family prospered in America. Mr. Norweb's father retired in the early 1920s. He died in 1929 aboard a steamship off the coast of Africa, where he and his wife had gone on tour.
Henry Norweb attended high school in Elyria. After a year's study at Oberlin College, he transferred to Harvard, where he studied American history and philosophy. He graduated in 1916, intending to enter the foreign service, but although he took the examination for entry into the diplomatic corps, his application was not approved.
Henry then traveled to Paris, where William G. Sharp was United States Ambassador. Sharp and Henry's father had been friends together in Elyria, Sharp's hometown, and the Ambassador took Henry on as his personal secretary, without diplomatic rank. Shortly afterward, the Department of State reviewed Henry's application and examination results, and he was offered the entry level rank of Foreign Service Officer, Class Four. As Henry was already in Paris, serving as the ambassador's secretary, his position was made official, with the title of Secretary of Embassy.
Henry Norweb's diplomatic career spanned most of the first half of the present century, taking in two world wars, countlessrevolutions and social upheavals, and technological advances that could not even have been hinted at when his career began. It is far too long and event-studded to minutely describe in these pages; a separate book of its own would be required to do it justice. The highlights of his career are listed in an exhibit accompanying this text.
One or two particular observations about Mr. Norweb's career should be made, however. Early, during his posting at The Hague between 1925 and 1929, Henry Norweb attended an international conference set up to oversee the allocation of radio frequencies among the attending countries. This had become necessary because the airwaves were filling up with broadcasts from more and more local radio stations, and some form of control was needed to prevent more than one station from broadcasting over the same frequency. Mr. Norweb learned a great deal about frequency allocation through this experience.
In 1937, while Minister Plenipotentiary to the Dominican Republic, Henry Norweb acted as his country's delegate to the First Inter-American Radio Conference, which was held in Havana. The conference's objectives were essentially the same as guided the earlier meeting at the Hague, only with application to the western hemisphere.
The goals of the Second Inter-American Radio Conference, organized in Santiago, Chile in 1940, were a little different, however. Henry Norweb's experience in frequency allocation was again called upon, and he acted as the United States delegate to the conference. Henry's objective in the second conference was to control frequency allocation so as to exclude pro-Fascist broadcasters from obtaining access to the airwaves. In effect, this was an early effort by the United States government to cut off the spread of anti-American, pro-German propaganda in South America. In this, he was largely successful.
Henry Norweb's last position with the State Department, before his retirement in 1948, was head of the United States delegation at the International High-Frequency Broadcasting Conference, held in Mexico City. This conference was established to discuss allocation of high frequency channels used by television broadcasts.
We can observe that Henry's involvement in this technical area began in the 1920s, with the development of commercial radio broadcasting, and ended in the 1940s, with the early development of commercial television broadcasting.