Mark Kelley (W0BG) has published an article on DX Coffee looking back on 100 years of ham radio. Here’s a clip:
When you first glance at the title, Ham Radio USA – 100 Years and Counting, you can’t help but think out loud and ask yourself when ham radio had its real start. If ham radio in the USA really is to have its centennial celebration this year, that necessarily means that we’re assigning the year 1912 a great deal of significance. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the formative years of ham radio and leave the modern for another discussion at another time.
[...]No doubt there are many of us who have been asked regarding the origin of the word “ham,” a word which has come to define our hobby. Although you may not take this as the final word on the subject, you will find this particular interpretation interesting, as there would seem to be no reason to doubt its authenticity. The word ham actually appears in the publication “The Telegraphist” in September of 1884 when referring to a not so good telegrapher as a “duffer” or “ham.” The word “duffer” may be defined as an incompetent or clumsy person, one with little professional training or experience. Although today we take great pride in being called a ham in 2012, being called a ham, at least in the context mentioned here, was unflattering and derogatory at best, during the day of the land line telegrapher of 1884 per this particular citation.