Emerson Model BD-197 -- "Mae West"
BY RICHARD ARNOLD
Another interesting set caught Richard Arnold's eye as he continued his pursuit of unusual antique radios. This is a sought-after set, but its subtitle alone seems to be enough to attract attention. (Editor)
The Emerson Model BD-197, also known as the "Mae West" and shown in Figure 1, is a radio we don't see very often. At least the one I have is the first that I have ever seen, and I've been collecting since 1985. Needless to say, I was pretty thrilled when I found it. A rear view is shown in Figure 2.
Information on this radio is about as scarce as the radio. I've been told that some advertising might have been found in the Saturday Evening Post, but I have no access to such material.
Figure 1. The Emerson Model BD-197 "Mae West."
The unusual design of the Mae West makes it one of the more sought-after sets. How many collectors know that the cabinet was designed by a Russian immigrant? He was Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky (1901-1964). The cabinet was made for Emerson by the Ingraham Radio Cabinet Company, Bristol, Connecticut.
As shown in the photos, this set has seen better days, but at least, it's evident that here is a unique style. The BD-197 is 9" tall, 13" wide, and 61/2" deep at the base. It is really nothing more than a glorified AC/DC set. It contains 6 tubes, one of which is a ballast tube. Three of the tubes use 6.3 v filaments -- a 6A7 oscillator-mixer, a 6D6 IF amplifier, a 6Q7 that functions as a detector, an AF amplifier, and AVC. Two other tubes are a 25L6 output and a 25Z5 half-wave rectifier. A 49 v 3CR-241 ballast tube finishes the line-up. The operating line voltage ranges from 105 v to 125 v AC/DC.
Figure 2. Rear view of the "Mae West."
On the front of the cabinet between the conical dial face and speaker grille are two small lights. The one on the left is blue and indicates use of the shortwave band. The other is red and indicates use of the broadcast band. The radio's tuning ranges are 540-1730 Kc for the broadcast band and 5.6-18.0 Mc for shortwave.
According to Rider, all BD chassis having numbers above 1,580,950 had a production change. One was a 4-point tone control. My set has a serial number BD 1,718,667 and has this added feature.
The four wooden knobs, left to right in Figure 1, are used for the following: music/voice-tone control, on/off volume, band switch, and tuning. The dial-scale pointer is fixed into the plastic cover at the 6 o'clock position, and the dial scales move behind it. The center spiral tips that are over the conical cones are plastic, as are the larger rings located at the back of the cones.
The grille cloth over the speaker area is a gold color and is formed into a cone. It is not stiff, but pliable.
Finding this radio has made me want to go on with "the hunt." What a great hobby!
Rider, John F. Perpetual Troubleshooter's Manual. Vol. IX, 9-32 and 9-33.
(Richard Arnold, P.O. Box 275, Lone Grove, OK 73443)
Richard Arnold has been collecting radios for 15 years. His interest is primarily in cathedrals and 1920s battery sets, and his collection ranges from crystal sets to a 1928 American Bosch in a Pooley cabinet. His prize is the 1932 Jackson Bell Peter Pan featured in the June 1991 A.R.C.