Muchow Collection Memories
BY STEVEN R. MUCHOW
The June 2000 issue of A.R.C. paid tribute to Dr. Ralph Muchow in a "Collector Profile" written by his son Steven at our request. Now that the Muchow collection is slated for auction in August, Steve has graciously consented to add more memories of the evolution of the collection and some thoughts about the upcoming auction, certainly a major event for collectors. (Editor)
It has been a little over a year since the passing of my father, Dr. Ralph Muchow of Elgin, Illinois. An avid collector and historian, "Doc" Muchow assembled what many consider to be one of the finest private collections of radios in the world. Radios from this collection will be auctioned on August 3, 4, and 5, 2001, in conjunction with the annual Antique Radio Club of Illinois (ARCI) "Radiofest" to be held in Elgin, Illinois. Antique Radio Classified asked me to share some personal thoughts about my dad, the radio collection, and the upcoming auction.
This 1906 Collins spark transmitter telephone combination uses an induction coil.
A Cooperative Effort
Clearly, this collection was a result of my dad's passion to preserve radio history. However, he also understood that it could only have been realized with the enthusiastic assistance of family and friends. He welcomed those who wanted to become involved, and those that did participate enjoyed it tremendously -- despite sore backs from carrying consoles up flights of stairs!
I can't begin to estimate the number of wooden shelf units we assembled during the past 30 years! He was fastidious, and only an item that he felt was "museum quality" would find its way to a shelf for display. This often meant many hours of restoration (mechanical and electrical) before the piece would earn his approval. Often my brother Dave was enlisted to help with cabinet restoration, while I nursed the radio chassis back to good health. As a result of this attention to detail, the items on display are truly fine specimens and worthy of any museum environment.
Many sets in the collection are considered quite rare and, indeed, some are one of a kind. Several fine pieces from the collection are pictured in this article.
Preparing for Radio Meets
Doc truly wanted to share his enthusiasm, and those completing a tour of this incredible collection would walk away with a new appreciation of wireless and radio history. As I think back over the past three decades, I can remember him preparing for radio meets where he would enter radios in contests, and often assemble the accompanying display documentation in the hotel room the night before the event.
His radios often won 1st Place and "Best of Show," and there were colorful ribbons and awards that he brought home and proudly displayed. Many of these same radios will be available in the August auction. He developed numerous friendships at these meets and, although I had not met these collectors, I felt that I knew them through his stories. I remember the smile on my dad's face when he walked in the door with a new "treasure," and we always looked forward to the story that accompanied the acquisition.
Auctioneer Richard Estes has serious pre-auction work to do in the Wireless Room.
I think of the many ARCI Radiofests when the "radio museum" was opened one full day for visitors. Somehow, even with little existing space, we managed to add a new radio display to the collection each year for that event. Without fail, the weekend prior to Radiofest would find the entire family (including the children) dusting the rooms, building display signs, and ensuring that all hands-on displays were working properly.
Early Wireless Sets
To me, one of the most impressive parts of the collection is the number and variety of early wireless sets and related accessories. This can only be appreciated by the view of floor-to-ceiling radios one encounters when entering the "wireless room." Many visiting collectors claim this to be their favorite room as they find themselves surrounded by sets representing the true roots of radio.
Names from the radio history books like Marconi, Kennedy, Western Electric, Grebe, Leutz, Atwater Kent and others "come alive" in this room. Many of these sets won ribbons and awards in contests at the numerous radio meets Doc attended over the years. Some of his favorite pieces were those manufactured by the Thomas E. Clark Wireless Telegraph & Telephone Company based in Detroit, Michigan, in the 1900s.
A beautiful 15-tube Zenith lowboy console.
Trying to find any early wireless equipment once used in the Midwest is a challenge, and he felt that Clark items truly represented early radio from that region. Clark started building wireless sets in 1901 and outfitted several Great Lakes passenger boats in the early 1900s. He is considered a true wireless pioneer, and several of his company's pieces are on display in the collection.
This ornate Howard Model 5-A highboy console would be a standout in any living room.
Another unusual item is the 1906 Wireless Telephone designed by A. Frederick Collins. Collins was an inventor who also authored many books and articles on wireless topics. This wireless telephone uses an induction coil and is a product of his Collins Wireless Telephone Company. Also available in the auction will be a rare hardbound book containing a complete set of informative Collins Wireless Bulletins for the year 1909.
Atwater Kent a Favorite
Doc was especially fond of Atwater Kent radios and related advertising materials. One of the unique Atwater Kent sets is a Model 90 chassis built into a decorative water fountain manufactured by the Electric Radio Clock Fountain Co. of Irvington, New Jersey. Most likely, this custom 1932 piece was intended to be placed in a hotel foyer, or perhaps it was owned by a wealthy entertainer.
I remember the excitement when he first brought this set home. There was anxiety about getting it to work, and it was also clear that we were in for some restoration work. The vintage rubber tubing carrying water to the fountain section was brittle, and so had to be immediately replaced. After a bit of lubrication, the water pump started rotating and soon water was shooting high into the air. The radio required only minor attention, and new green foliage was placed around the water basin.
A Martin French 3 tube receiver with adjustable coils.
The real story here is that this restoration took place in our family kitchen with parts spread all over the counter for over a week! I'll never understand how my mother was able to work around this pile of "stuff" and keep her composure for that length of time. She was very understanding, and this fact (perhaps more than is realized) contributed to my dad's ongoing commitment to preserving radio history through his collection.
E.H. Scott and Other Collectibles
Another room in the collection that is a favorite is the "Scott Room." This room features striking wooden consoles, each containing a classic E.H. Scott chrome chassis. Not only is it fun to tune in stations using a "magic eye" tube, but the sound quality is far and above what you will hear on today's modern AM receivers. Operating these receivers is a real treat!
A World War I Western Electric 936 transmitter and receiver.
Often overlooked amidst the radios are the many advertising and accessory items that are, by themselves, very collectible. These include items such as the Majestic Eagle, hanging banners, radio lamps, neon radio service signs and even a workbench from the Atwater Kent Manufacturing Co.! Visitors claim that it is these "extra" items that enhance and set this collection apart from others containing only radios.
Perspective on the Auction
We are now focusing on the auction in August and trying to put it all into perspective. Suddenly our family was not unlike other families confronted with the awesome task of having to decide the fate of a radio collection. It was especially difficult to consider dismantling a collection that not only has been enjoyed by so many, but has also become an expected attraction at annual ARCI Radiofests for the past 25 years.
This transmitter, key and receiver were used by Admiral Byrd in his first trip to the South Pole.
After considering several options, we decided that it would be best to auction the items. We have been working very closely during the past months with radio auctioneer Richard Estes and his very capable staff to prepare for the August event.
People from all over the world have visited the Muchow collection in the past 30 years. Dad would remind me that as collectors, we truly are temporary caretakers of these historical artifacts. The radio auction in August will provide others with the opportunity to "carry the torch" and share these outstanding examples of radio history with future generations.
Photo credit: Richard Estes
(Steve Muchow, 633 Canyon Lane, Elgin, Illinois 60123. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Place, dates, and times of the auction: Hemmens Convention Center, Elgin, Illinois; August 3 at 4 p.m. -- tubes and advertising items; August 4 and 5 at 10 a.m. -- radio auction.
Radiofest XX will run August 1-5 in conjunction with the auction.
Northern Electric R-11, R-1 and R-15.
BY RICHARD ESTES
Time is flying by as we approach the August dates for the Ralph W. Muchow estate auction. We have journeyed to the museum several times in preparation for the actual moving of all the items to the auction site at the Hemmens Convention Center in Elgin, Illinois. Among the logistical problems are the many large ornate consoles to transfer. We hope to have these beautiful radios lined up at the outer perimeter of the auction ring to afford the best possible viewing.
We have requested 100 tables to be used to display the other types of radios and related items. All the display units, cabinets, and shelving used in the museum will be used for the same purpose at the auction. As the items are removed and the display unit becomes empty, it too will then be sold.
For the Friday auction on August 3rd, Bob Dobush will test the tubes so that before you bid on any tube or lot of tubes, you will know their condition. Hopefully, this will help the buyers and eliminate any confusion.
We have received the Hemmens Center's permission to hang as many of the advertising pieces as possible. There are some large tapestry-type dealer showroom pieces, and we hope to have these arranged for easy viewing. We will set up as much of the display advertising we can, as well as light up the neon signs and any other electrified advertising.
The actual moving will begin on July 27 and will continue each day until completion. Prior to the moving, we will spend several days wrapping and tagging items. Response to our ads in A.R.C. is nothing short of outstanding.
Dave and Steve Muchow have provided us with the history and data on many of the items. When possible, we will try to pass this information along to the buyer.
(Richard Estes, 7404 Ryan Rd., Medina, OH 44259)