➦In 1920...Westinghouse's radio station in East Pittsburgh, KDKA was issued the first-ever commercial radio license. But it would be another week before it took to the air .. with the Harding-Cox election returns Nov. 2. The audience was approximately 1,000 people.
KDKA's roots began with the efforts of Westinghouse employee Frank Conrad who operated KDKA's predecessor 75 watt 8XK from the Pittsburgh suburb of Wilkinsburg from 1916. Conrad, who had supervised the manufacturing of military receivers during WWI, broadcast phonograph music and communicated with other amateur radio operators via 8YK. On September 29, 1920, the Joseph Horne department store in Pittsburgh began advertising amateur wireless sets for $10, which could be used to listen to Conrad’s broadcasts.
The KDKA call sign was assigned sequentially from a list maintained for the use of US-registry maritime stations, and on November 2, 1920, KDKA broadcast the US presidential election returns from a shack on the roof of the K Building of the Westinghouse Electric Company "East Pittsburgh Works" in Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania.
According to Britannica.com, the first voice and music signals heard over radio waves were transmitted in December 1906 from Brant Rock, Massachusetts (just south of Boston), when Canadian experimenter Reginald Fessenden produced about an hour of talk and music for technical observers and any radio amateurs who might be listening. Many other one-off experiments took place in the next few years, but none led to continuing scheduled services. On the West Coast of the United States, for example, Charles (“Doc”) Herrold began operating a wireless transmitter in conjunction with his radio school in San Jose, California, about 1908. Herrold was soon providing regularly scheduled voice and music programs to a small local audience of amateur radio operators in what may have been the first such continuing service in the world.
Among these early receivers were crystal sets, which used a tiny piece of galena (lead sulfide) called a “cat’s whisker” to detect radio signals. Although popular, inexpensive, and easy to make, crystal sets were a challenge to tune in to a station. Such experiments were scattered, and so there was little demand for manufactured receivers. (Plug-in radio receivers, which, through the use of loudspeakers, allowed for radio to become a “communal experience,” would not become widespread until after 1927.) Early broadcasters in the United States, such as Herrold, would continue until early 1917, when federal government restrictions forced most radio transmitters off the air for the rest of World War I, stalling the growth of the medium.
After the war, renewed interest in radio broadcasts grew out of experimenters’ efforts, though such broadcasts were neither officially authorized nor licensed by government agencies, as would become the practice in most countries by the late 1920s.
|Westinghouse application for licenses|
Broadcasting got an important boost in the huge American market when about 30 radio stations took to the air in different cities in 1920–21. Most of these developed out of amateur operations, each dedicated to a different purpose. “Doc” Herrold returned to the air in 1921, but he soon had to sell his station for lack of operating funds. The University of Wisconsin’s WHA began as a physics department transmitter, but as early as 1917 it was sending wireless telegraph agricultural market reports by Morse Code to Wisconsin farmers. WHA, the first American educational outlet, probably began voice broadcasts in early 1921, though several other universities soon initiated stations with similar aims. KDKA in Pittsburgh, most often cited as the first radio outlet in the United States, had begun as the amateur station 8XK in 1916, but it was forced off the air in World War I. It reappeared on November 2, 1920, as a “commercial” voice-and-music service operated by the Westinghouse electrical manufacturer to help sell the company’s radio receivers. Westinghouse added other stations in different cities over the next two years, and General Electric and the newly formed Radio Corporation of America (RCA) soon entered the radio business as well. Detroit’s amateur operation 8MK (which debuted on August 20, 1920) soon became WWJ, the first station to be owned by a newspaper (The Detroit News).
➦In 1947...“This is Nora Drake” premiered on NBC radio. Nora solved domestic, social and child-raising problems in its daily soap slot until January 2, 1959.
➦In 1947..."You Bet Your Life" made its debut on ABC Radio Network with Groucho Marx as quizmaster and George Fenneman as his announcer. The program continued on radio until 1959 and ran on TV from 1950 to 1961.
Coughlin began his radio broadcasts in 1926 on station WJR, in response to cross burnings by the Ku Klux Klan on the grounds of his church, giving a weekly hour-long radio program. His program was picked up by CBS four years later for national broadcast. Until the beginning of the Depression, Father Coughlin mainly covered religious topics in his weekly radio addresses, in contrast to the political topics which dominated his radio speeches throughout the 1930s. He reached a very large audience that extended well beyond his own Irish Catholic base.
➦On 1999...composer/arranger/conductor Frank DeVol, a veteran of both radio & TV, died of congestive heart failure at age 88. In the 40′s and early 50′s he directed the orchestra nightly for CBS radio’s “Jack Smith Show.” He composed the theme songs for TV’s The Brady Bunch, Family Affair, Gidget, and My Three Sons. DeVol also played “Happy Kyne” on TV’s Fernwood Tonight.
➦In 2003...XM Satellite Radio announced it had reached the 1 million subscriber milestone.
➦In 2003…'Price is Right" Announcer and former radio personality (KOST-Los Angeles, KLIF-Dallas, WKBW-Buffalo, KQV-Pittsburgh, KOMA-Oklahoma City) Rod Roddy died of colon and breast cancer at 66.
➦In 2016...horror movie TV host and radio personality John Zacherle, nicknamed “The Cool Ghoul,” died at age 98. A TV movie host in Philadelphia and New York in the 1950’s and 60’s, he also hosted a TV dance show, which led to him becoming morning radio host on WNEW-FM NYC.
Zacherley made a Halloween appearanceduring a two-hour show at WCBS 101.1 FM with Ron Parker on October 31, 2007. The 89-year-old was one of the very few people left in radio that was older than the medium itself. The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia inducted Zacherle into their Hall of Fame in 2010.