WASHINGTON -- In the photograph, Nathan Stubblefield stands beside a device that looks like an old-fashioned telephone -- except it has a 2-foot high metal coil attached.
A Jan. 12, 1903, article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch contains a reporter's description of a demonstration of the wireless broadcasting system Stubblefield invented in 1892.
'In a few moments came the signaling 'buzz' and the voice of Stubblefield's son saying, 'Hello, can you hear me. Now I will count to ten, etc.' The voice was quite as clear and distinct as it was 500 yards from the transmitting station,' the reporter wrote.
That, says grandson Troy Cory, proves Stubblefield, working from his laboratory in Murray, Ky., broadcast the first radio signals in 1892, not Guglielmo Marconi.
Marconi's 1895 demonstration of a wireless device to send dots and dashes of Morse code has historically been considered the first broadcast of sound, hence the first radio broadcast.
Troy Cory disagrees.
'This is the first radio of all time,' he said Thursday, holding a replica of his grandfather's device at a demonstration at the Smithsonian Institution. 'If we had a tube here, we could broadcast around the world. This is the very first radio of all time.'
'What Stubblefield did was send voice, the thing you hear today,' he adds.
But Smithsonian officials aren't so sure.
They class Stubblefield with a group of inventors who improved on existing technology, but who failed to patent or market their devices.
'We have no problem with Stubblefield as an interesting and even important figure,' says Bernard Finn, a curator at the Division of Electricity at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.
But it was Alexander Graham Bell who first broadcast sound without using wires, says Elliott Sivowitch, a historian with the museum.
When asked about Stubblefield, he says: 'In my opinion, you can make an argument that his inductive system is limited in distance and scope. You can call it a type of wireless broadcasting.'
One person who is convinced is Rick Wood, a engineering specialist with LTV Missiles and Electronics Group in Dallas who took vacation time to build the model and make the trip to Washington with Cory.
Wood, a radio buff, used information about Stubblefield to build a model of what he believes was the first radio broadcaster and receiver, similar to the transmitter and receivers Stubblefield set up in various neighbors' homes.
He says Stubblefield's invention differs from Marconi's only in its frequency and the size of the coil used as an antenna to broadcast sound.
'The Stubblefield system is an inductive system which is also in use today,' he says.
The Washington demonstration is part of a campaign by Cory, whose real name is Keith Stubblefield, to get recognition for his grandfather, who received offers ranging from $50,000 to $500,000 for his invention.
But he refused to sell.
'He was a fool when it came to business,' says Cory's publicist, Christopher Harris.
The state of Kentucky was willing to recognize one of its own as the invention of the now-ubiquitious radio.
Gov. Wallace Wilkinson issued a proclamation declaring Stubblefield the inventor of radio, and officials at the National Museum of Radio in Dallas have hung Stubblefield's portrait.
But the Smithsonian isn't budging.
'There are others who did very similar things,' said Sivowitch.