1929 Radio Exposition at The Boston Garden


At a flea market within the last year, Dick Desjarlais found a program of the Boston Radio Exposition, which was held at the famed Boston Garden, October 7-12, 1929. This find was a timely coincidence because in the fall of 1995, the doors of Boston's beloved arena closed for the last time. The program summarized here reopens those doors, if only for a moment, to recapture radio's "Golden Age." (Editor)

From its opening in 1928, the Boston Garden hosted thousands of attractions, including a myriad of amateur and professional sports events, the circus, appearances of heads of state, university commencements, evangelical revivals, and concerts, just to name a few. All this came to an end in the fall of 1995, when the new Fleet Center opened and the famous "Garden," center of almost 70 years of Boston memories, closed forever.

What is not commonly known is that in October 1929, the 9th annual Boston Radio Exposition made its first appearance in the "Boston Garden Exposition Hall."

As noted in the program, which gives a brief history of the Boston Radio Show: "During the nine Radio Expositions held in Boston, the growth of radio, from the crystal set to the complete all-electric receiver with the latest type of speaker capable of reproducing the true tones of the broadcasts, has been exhibited. This year the very latest products of the important radio factories of the country are displayed in more than 200 booths. In addition to being the oldest commercial radio show in the world, this year's exhibition of radio apparatus is the largest in the history of the industry."

The 10" x 7 1/2" glossy, 48-page program features many full-page ads extolling period consoles, including the RCA Radiola 33 cathedral console with an RCA 106 speaker, the Kylectron, a Freed-Eisemann, a Day-Fan, a Steinite, and an Earl. Also included are Silver Marshall consoles, Atwater Kent radios in Pooley and Red Lion cabinets, and the Radiolas shown in Figure 1.

1929 RCA Radiola ad
Figure 1. Note the price range in this 1929 RCA Radiola ad from the "9th Annual Boston Radio Exposition Show Program and Feature Book."

Other ads feature such tube manufacturers as Triad, DeForest, Champion (shown in Figure 2), and CeCo. In all, 60 advertisers -- radio sales and service companies, hotels, restaurants, banks and department stores, among others -- placed their ads in what the sponsors of the Exposition called their "Show Program and Feature Book."

Champion radio tube ad
Figure 2. According to this ad, Champion radio tubes were produced in Danvers, Mass., by a company noted for lamp making. Obviously, the tubes were also supposed to light up your radio life.

Figure 3 shows a "Hotels Statler" ad boasting a "Radio in Every Room." The Hotel Arlington ad, shown in Figure 4, offered a single room for as low as $2.50 and a blueplate dinner for $1.00.

Statler Hotel ad
Figure 3. A hotel chain like the Statler with 7,700 "radio-active" rooms was likely to be sold out at all times.

Hotel Arlington ad
Figure 4. The Hotel Arlington advertised everything but the most important asset -- radios in every room -- and could hardly have competed with the Statler.

The main daily events for this 6-day exposition included television demonstrations, musical programs received on the Kylectron, musical program demonstrations on Victor auditorium speakers, and theremin demonstrations.

The program also lists several live musical events, including the Amrad Concert Orchestra and Joe Rines and his Triadors, whose ad is shown in Figure 5. For convention goers following the 1929 World Series, a play-by-play coverage was provided by direct wire. Those with other interests could attend the presentation of Miss Majestic, or listen to a radio address by Massachusetts Governor Frank G. Allen.

Triad tube ad
Figure 5. Madison Avenue sales gimmicks were alive and well in 1929 -- the Triad tube had the Triadors singing its praises every Friday evening on NBC stations.

All in all, the opportunity to see so many 1929 state-of-the-art radios under one roof makes me wish for a time machine to revisit the Boston Garden when the "Golden Age of Radio" was in the making. But this nostalgia-filled 9th Annual Boston Radio Exposition Show Program and Feature Book will suffice as a reminder of the way it was.

(Dick Desjarlais, Box 629, Littleton, MA 01460)

Dick Desjarlais is an A.R.C. staff member. His interest in radio began at age 14 when he was an apprentice in a radio repair shop. This interest renewed itself when he retired from public school administration. Since 1987, he has been an active collector and dealer.

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