Jacksonville Antique Radio Society Exhibit
at the Jacksonville Beaches Museum & History Center
BY GERRY LUKACH
Though the exhibit described below was already a thing of the past when the story was submitted to us, Gerry Lukach reminds us of how important such outreach activities are to the preservation of radio history. We encourage all clubs to take advantage of any opportunities to exhibit the radio treasures so often hidden away in private collections. (Editor)
The purpose of any antique radio club is to promote the history of radio and to exhibit the radio sets of yesteryear. Show any young person, with an ipod around his neck, a vintage radio, and he will probably ask "what are those glass jars inside?" With the advances in electronics and the use of recorded media, satellite radio, internet streaming, etc., the knowledge of real old time radio is dwindling.
The Jacksonville Antique Radio Society was formed to help keep vintage radio alive and to reach young people who are interested in the subject. Our desire is to encourage that interest and to show people that radio collecting has been and still is an exciting hobby. There are a hundred years of history in the subject that spans from the first dot-dash signals, through battery-operated sets of the 1920s, wonderful consoles and Art Deco models of the 1930s, low-cost, plastic radios during the 1940s, and the introduction of the transistor sets of the 1950s.
Our club was tasked with an exhibit in the new Jacksonville Beach Historical Society Museum, Jacksonville Beach, Florida, that would fill one exhibit room and show an interesting cross section of radio history. If a radio club is of any size, members' radios could easily fill a small warehouse, let alone a small exhibit hall. The club decided to show a few radios from each radio era, and the exhibit was held from June to September, 2006.
Figure 1. 1920s battery radios and consoles. Rear, left to right: an American Bosch Model 48C, a Magnavox Model 75, and a Blue Ribbon model by the Chicago Nipple Company. In the foreground is an early battery set and horn speaker.
Sets of the 1920s
Battery radios of the 1920s included a Magnavox Model 75 lowboy console which was sold as a fine piece of furniture that would hide the batteries in an integral battery compartment. Another small console that is relatively rare is a Blue Ribbon model manufactured by the Chicago Nipple Company. This model also housed the speaker, radio, and batteries in a single cabinet. Both sets are shown in Figure 1.
The Radiola III and its competitor the Crosley 51, both shown in Figure 2 (see print version), were manufactured in 1924 and were the radio purist's basic radio; i.e.; two tubes, battery power, the requirement for a long wire antenna, the longer the better, and all connections and wires exposed. All the batteries were usually installed under a table or bench, and the single listener sat next to the set using headphones. There were amplifiers available that could boost the signal high enough to drive a horn speaker.
Later in the 1920s, power supplies were added to the radios so that they could operate on AC power that was being installed in homes. A 1928 Atwater Kent Model 52 was a radio that could feel at home in any part of the house. It looked similar to an oil fired stove of that era. The more traditional American Bosch Model 48-C, also in Figure 1, was designed as a piece of furniture that could be displayed proudly in a parlor.
Sets of the 1930s
Radios of the 1930s spanned a varied range of styles, from the massive wood consoles to the low-priced, wood, table models aimed at the general public during the Depression. The cathedral style was born to provide a fancy looking radio while keeping the cost in the market to consumers.
Zenith had a reputation for providing well built, good-looking sets that would stand out in a home and make the owner the envy of the neighborhood. The Zenith Model 9S262 shutterdial is a fine example. It could receive broadcast bands and multiple shortwave bands, and was housed in a solid, multiple veneer cabinet. Its nine tubes assured good reception even in remote areas.
The 1938 Zenith Model 6S238 chairside, shown in Figure 3, was the epitome of urban elegance. A man could sit in his favorite easy chair with his pipe and brandy and be able to just reach over and adjust stations and sound without moving out of his chair.
Figure 3. A Zenith Model 6S238 chairside (1938), shown with a period chair, suggested a relaxed evening listening to favorite programs.
Sets of the 1940s
The 1940s was a period of transition for radio. Large consoles were becoming less popular because of cost, and because of a newer invention that would take over the space in the parlor, television. The manufacture of radio sets during the war years was essentially halted except for military models. New molded plastics were becoming more popular also. Zenith introduced a line of well-made, Trans-Oceanic, portable radios that would continue into the 1950s as sought after sets with long range receiving capabilities.
As mentioned earlier, the exhibit at the museum ran for a period of three summer months and provided something different from the normal museum items. All visitors seemed to appreciate the display, as well as the background broadcasts of old radio programs throughout the day. These broadcasts included Charlie McCarthy, and mp3s of the Arthur Godfrey Show and the Don McNeil Breakfast Club. The exhibit also promoted our radio club and helped to add members, always a boon to any club.
The Jacksonville Beaches Museum and History Center is a local museum that mounts exhibits of area history and other subjects of interest to the local population. It is located at 380 Pablo Ave., Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Though the exhibit which is the subject of this article has closed, JARS has been invited to mount another exhibit in the near future.
Gerry Lukach traces his interest in radio to age three when he had fun listening to shortwave on an old Stromberg-Carlson Model 58T radio with his grandfather. He still owns and listens to that set. A collector since high school, he confines himself to small, space-saver sets. He enjoys restoring basketcases, as well as his involvement with the Jacksonville Club, which provides enjoyable learning experiences at each meeting.
For information about the Jacksonville Antique Radio Society (JARS), meetings, programs, and other radio-related activities, e-mail the club at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Website: www.jarsradioclub.com.