Mary Texanna Loomis, one of the few prominent women of early radio history,
was born on August 18, 1880 near Goliad, Texas. Little is known of her early life, but it appears she had a fairly middle-class upbringing. She was probably well schooled, with an early interest in music and languages (she mastered French, German, and Italian). Her early years were spent in Buffalo, New York, and she later relocated to Virginia.
During the early years of World War I, Miss Loomis became interested in the new field of wireless telegraphy. There was a family precedent; her cousin, Dr. Mahlon Loomis, had conducted early wireless experiments with moderate success. Dr. Loomis may have been the first person, in 1865, to send and receive wireless signals. Miss Loomis mastered wireless telegraphy, becoming competent enough to be granted a license by the United States Department of Commerce.
After the armistice in 1918, Miss Loomis, thoroughly fascinated with the field now called “radio”, decided to turn her expertise into a career. Also, she wanted to do something that would honor her pioneering ancestor. Her idea was to do this by founding a radio school. Though radio was indeed, for many years, a profession dominated by men, Miss Loomis took no notice and around 1920 founded the Loomis Radio College in Washington, DC.
The Loomis Radio College quickly gained an excellent reputation. Miss Loomis set high standards for the school, and it attracted students not only from the United States, but Europe and Asia as well. Miss Loomis enjoyed teaching as much as she enjoyed radio itself. In an interview, she said, “Really, I am so infatuated with my work that I delight in spending from 12 to 15 hours at it. My whole heart and soul are in this radio school.” She authored the textbook used at the school, Radio Theory and Operating, today regarded as a classic of early radio technical literature. The Loomis Radio College offered a six-month course leading to a first class commercial radio license, and a four-year course leading to a degree in Radio Engineering.
Miss Loomis also intended that her students understand more than just the inner and outer workings of radio. In addition to a radio laboratory (with equipment constructed almost entirely by Miss Loomis herself), the school maintained a complete shop capable of teaching carpentry, drafting, and basic electricity. She reasoned that many of her graduates might find themselves at sea, or in other challenging situations, and she wanted them adequately prepared. “No man”, Miss Loomis said at the time, “can graduate from my school until he learns how to make any part of the apparatus. I give him a blueprint of what I want him to do and tell him to go into the shop and keep hammering away until the job is completed.”
The Loomis Radio College appears to have been in existence at least through the middle 1930s. Research has not turned up any further information regarding the later history of the Loomis Radio College, or of Mary Texanna Loomis herself. However, her legacy lives on in the form of her textbook, recently reprinted in electronic form.
Loomis, Mary Texanna. Radio Operating and Theory
. Washington, DC: Loomis Publishing
Bishop, H. O. "Mary Texanna Loomis." The Dearborn
, 31 December 1921.