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The Peter Gerry Collection

Peter Gerry: A collector of space program and remarkable technology

Peter Gerry began collecting technology of interest to him when he was a teenager. In the 1950s and '60s, the shops on Chambers and Canal streets in New York City included many that sold surplus electronics and mechanical items. Much of the material was United States Government -- mostly military -- surplus. This was material from World War II and the Korean Conflict. Peter would visit these stores on a fairly regular basis and would buy items that looked interesting or of which he had some knowledge. An example was the WW II "paratrooper beacon" -- known as the PPN-2 "Eureka" homing beacon. It was carried usually by the first group of US paratroopers who descended into an area. They would set up these beacons to alert other aircraft carrying additional paratroopers where the first group had landed. This allowed the groups to be dropped relatively close together. He had this in his collection for years until he eventually sold it. This early collecting interest was primarily about military communications equipment along with aircraft bombing and navigation systems.

As the US NASA space programs got underway, either parts, instruments, or spares that the contractors had were disposed of as surplus when needs were updated or programs were ended. That meant that surplus from US space programs began to turn up for sale at surplus stores or directly from the contractors. The NASA aerospace contractors were in many US locations, but some surplus from Grumman Aircraft (located on Long Island, NY) -- the builder of the Apollo Lunar Module, and Kollsman Instrument -- makers of optical instruments for several NASA programs as well as US Air Force aircraft -- sold surplus to dealers in the New York area. Peter found a few things at the surplus stores in NYC, but his meeting the late Bill Scripps at these stores much expanded his interest and area of collecting.

By this time, Peter had a successful job having founded a company that created software for logistics support of the fashion industry. Peter had written much of that software. He and Bill Scripps would go on what they called "junkets" trips by car to surplus (or often scrap) dealers who were known to purchase excess and "scrap" from NASA or NASA contractors. They also went to many "hamfests" where ham radio hobbyists would often bring items to sell or trade. Bill was an expert at vacuum tubes while Peter had become very knowledgeable about Cold War military electronics. Between the two of them, they would return home with a car weighted down with "stuff". Peter would often buy as many journals and books about aerospace engineering and military electronics as his car could carry. It was from his poring over these that he became a "walking encyclopedia" about military communications and aircraft navigation and weapons systems.

It was from these collecting trips and contacts made at the hamfests that many of the items in Peter's collection originated.