Long Radio Works
by Art Redman
Entrepreneurs crop up in every decade. Art Redman introduces us to the Long brothers who resembled Powel Crosley in their wide interests from radios to airplanes, which they put into actual production in the early 20th century. (Editor)
Long Radio Works dates from 1912 when Leslie L. Long built and sold his first radio set at the age of twenty-three. During World War I, he picked up messages from and tried to trace a German transmitter believed to be located in the nearby hills. Unfortunately, Long was unable to decipher the code, which appeared to be an endless series of numbers.
In 1920, Long went into commercial radio production at the family farm located on Rural Route 1, later renamed NW Long Road, twenty miles west of Portland, Oregon, and one mile north of the town of Cornelius. In the radio business with Les Long was his brother George known as the "radio repairman." The other two Long brothers, Carl and William, operated the 200-acre farm raising corn and grain.
Figure 1. The Long Model B5, ca. 1926, has NA-ALD brand dials, five Type 01-A tubes, three binocular coils, and a thumbwheel dial.
Long Battery and AC Sets
The Long Radio Works made several battery radios and AC sets. The 1926 Model B5, shown in Figure 1, has NA-ALD brand dials, five Type 01-A tubes, three binocular coils, and a thumbwheel dial tuning three ganged capacitors. It sold as a complete set. The Model F5, shown in Figures 2 and 3, is a 5-tube TRF with two Kurz-Kasch style dials. These model numbers are etched in the front panels of the sets. In addition, a Model L5, a 2-dial set, consisted of a tuned detector and two capacitor ganged RF stages.
The AC sets of the Long Radio Works are difficult to identify. One 5-tube AC table radio has only a paper label inside the wood cabinet stating, "Long Radio Works -- Standard Since 1912, Cornelius, Oregon," referring to the year Les Long sold his first radio. A 6-tube TRF console, shown in Figure 4, includes Type 224 screen-grid tubes and a Jensen electrodynamic speaker, but it also has no visible model number. The only visible identification is the paper label affixed inside the cabinet. Another Long radio in existence, a 5-tube table model, has an inside paper label and a Lansing speaker. The speaker may not be original. One other midget set in the collection of an Oregon radio collector has a Magnavox speaker.
Figure 2. The Long Model F5, a 5-tube TRF with two Kurz-Kasch style dials, with the lid up.
In 1985, this collector bought a small 4-tube tombstone radio at a garage sale. The set, shown in Figure 5, had no identifying marks; however, a fellow member of the Northwest Vintage Radio Society said it was a Long Radio because he had found a similar set with an ink marking on the rear of the chassis.
To a collector who comes across an unidentified 1930s AC set, I would suggest looking inside the cabinet for a possible Long Radio Works paper label or an identification label inked by hand on the back of the metal chassis, which is typical of the tombstone and cathedral models. More than likely, the tombstone I had come across and subsequently sold had the ink label erased by time.
Figure 3. An inside view of the Long Model F5.
The Radio Collectors Guide by Morgan E. McMahon lists a Long's Radio Company. The set listed is a 1930 TRF Cardinal midget radio/phonograph combination made by Long's Radio of Los Angeles, California, which later became the Cardinal Radio Company. It has no connection with the Cornelius, Oregon, firm.
Other Long Ventures
When an aviator landed his plane next to the Long family home in 1927, Leslie Long decided he had to build an airplane. He started that same night. The plane, completed in October 1929, weighed 425 pounds, and had a 25-horsepower motor, a speed of 90 miles per hour, and mileage of 35 miles to a gallon of fuel. The planes at first were a sideline to the radio business, but soon the Longs became more famous for their plane designs.
Over the next ten years, Les and George Long built eleven light airplanes, including the Anzani and Henderson Longster. Plans of their airplanes powered by adapted motorcycle engines and sold through hobby magazines were the acme of light airplane design.
Figure 4. This 6-tube console with a Jensen electrodynamic speaker has no visible model number.
"I like to fool with things that require exactness," said Les Long. He ground telescope lenses and whittled airplane propellers by hand, and his plant became the only federally licensed one in the Pacific Northwest. Propellers are similar to fans and Long adapted them to the fruit dryers necessary to eliminate pests like vinegar flies. The fruit dryer and other industrial fans outsold airplane propellers ten to one and became the main product of the Long family business. The Long Brothers also manufactured electric fence controllers.
The radio and propeller business remained a Long family enterprise. Leslie Long refused numerous offers to go into large-scale production because he always considered himself a craftsman preferring to carve propellers by hand. The Long Radio Works was still in business in late 1939, but probably ended manufacturing when the government shut down all civilian radio production at the start of World War II.
The Long Brothers airplane business faced a decline in the late 1930s. Les Long blamed this decline on the Depression and big business competition aided by government regulation. He said that made it so difficult to make planes at home that "thousands of young men who, instead of being down in the basement constructing planes, are out nightclubbing and driving on the roads trying to wrap dad's sedan around a telegraph pole."
Leslie Long died suddenly on January 18, 1945, at the age of fifty-five years on the family farm. His brother and partner George Dewey Long "the radio repairman" passed away in 1953 at the age of 54.
Figure 5. A 4-tube tombstone with no identifying marks purchased at a garage sale.
Photo credits: By Tony Hauser, George Kirkwood, Mike Parker, and Jerry Talbot from the files of the Call Letter, the newsletter of the Northwest Vintage Radio Society.
"Carl Long, Obituary," The Hillsboro Argus, March 31, 1981, p. 10.
"First Plane Built in County is Success. Les Long, Cornelius Radio Man, Designer," The Hillsboro Argus, October 17, 1929, p. 1.
"Lester Long Dies Suddenly," Hillsboro Argus, January 25, 1945, Section 2, p. 8.
Millman, Loren H. "Worldwide Industry Rises From Modest Oregon Farm," The Oregonian, July 31, 1938, Section 6, p. 4.
Parker, Michael, Portland, Oregon, Member of Northwest Vintage Radio Society and owner of two Long radios.
(Art Redman, 7731 SE 44th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97206)
Art Redman is a charter member of the Northwest Vintage Radio Society, which was founded in 1974. He is a frequent contributor to the Society's newsletter "The Call Letter." His current interest is doing research on Pacific Northwest radio manufacturers, including Long Radio Works, Northwest Radio Manufacturing, Cole, McKay, and Magic crystal sets, as well as the firm of Hallock and Watson. He has no Long sets in his collection.