His real name was Alfred Powell Morgan, but Peter Pan might have been a better moniker for the man who led many a lost boy into the Neverland of radio and electronics through much of the 20th Century.
Alfred Morgan prefaced his 1942 publication, First Radio Book for Boys, with a brief biographical sketch. By his own account, Morgan first became interested in the new technology of radio in 1903 and garnered sufficient details from articles in Scientific American to build a simple spark set that could communicate several hundred feet.
Originally from Upper Montclair, New Jersey, Morgan attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was a radio manufacturer for many years. He was a partner of Adams Morgan, an electronics company founded in around 1910 that distributed radio construction kits. Paul Forman Godley, developer of the Paragon Receivers, joined in 1915 as the third partner. The company employed 50-100 staff in 1922/23. Due to economic problems, production was halted at the end of 1927.
Morgan wrote many books on radio and electronics. He wrote a series of books on the subject for young people, including the Boys First, Second, Third & Fourth Book Of Radio And Electronics. Morgan had four sons, which is why his books were originally written for boys, but editions from the 1970s were edited for boys and girls. Some of the projects described in his books cannot be built easily today because the parts are difficult to find, but many are based on simple parts and hand tools that can be found at a hardware or electronic supply store. Safety standards have also improved in the last hundred years, so some of the projects described would now be considered risky. Some of the books are available in reprints including The Boy Electrician (Lindsay Publications).
I've found that most of the technical books published before about 1964 neverhad their copyrights renewed, so now are in the public domain. So I amendeavoring to digitize and post some selected books relating to the"vacuum tube age" of electronics here.
The stories span the whole universe of what hobby electronics was about at the time: Ham radio, sonar, metal detectors, Hi-fi audio, tape recorders, remote sensors, radio controlled models, and so on. Nor did Frye cling to the past: When the world's first transistor radio appeared in 1955, Carl and Jerry had one almost immediately, and used it to track a tornado. ("Tornado Hunting by Radio", May 1955.)
The Carl and Jerry stories have been criticized for being a little too glib, and making electronics sound easy. One thing that not everyone remembers is that the boys occasionally taught us that not all projects work out. In "The Meller Smeller," (January 1957) the boys attempt to use an electrostatic filter to remove odors from the air. They basically attempt an electronic gas mask, and then have the bad karma to test it for the first time on a skunk. It didn't work. They buried their clothes in the backyard.
Unlike Tom Swift and most of the characters in the Sunday comics, Carl and Jerry grew up over the years. The very first stories make them sound quite young, perhaps thirteen or at most fourteen. By May 1959, the story states that the boys are 16. They got around entirely on their bikes until their respective fathers agreed to allow them to share a car in the June 1960 story, "Two Tough Customers," which may have less electronics in it than any other story in the series. (It does explain how to buy a used car sensibly.) They finally graduate from high school in June, 1961.
"You know, electronics was a nemesis for that poor guy. Electronics put the finger on him in the first place, and then a TV wagon train wrecked his alibi. His second mistake was transferring his operations from a liberal arts university to one with a strong accent on electronics."
A good many of the details we know about Frye's life are summarized in a short 1962 article in the Logansport newspaper announcing the release of an updated edition of Basic Radio Course. (The photo was actually taken in 1951, and appears in another short article announcing the release of the book's first edition in that year.) Many thanks to Lisa Enfinger for passing a scan of this along to me. Doesn't Frye look a lot like a grown-up Jerry in the photo?
Lisa also provided a clue as to why Frye patterned Parvoo University on Purdue: Her parents were very close friends of Frye's, and both studied chemistry at Purdue in Frye's era. Frye maintained a lively correspondence with both William and Margie McCaughey for many years, and probably visited them while they earned their degrees at Purdue in the late 1940s. Even after her parents moved to Tucson to teach at the University of Arizona, her mother (and Lisa too) would return to Logansport in the summers to visit, and then spent a fair amount of time with John, who would take young Lisa to the park on the Eel River in Logansport and buy her rides on their merry-go-round. Lisa's great-grandparents lived right across the street from Frye, on Spear Street in Logansport. Her father, Dr. William. F. "Mac" McCaughey, K7CET, may have been the namesake of the narrator of Mac's Service Shop. Lisa's mother's uncle, Eugene Buntain, was a classmate of Frye's at Logansport High School. The two discovered electronics and ham radio at the school and were close friends; Lisa wonders if Uncle Gene were the inspiration for Carl. 2b1af7f3a8