Stewart-Warner 9160 Midget Tube Radio
by Phil Macarthur
Phil MacArthur finds ways to brighten up his collection. We've heard about his colorful Flavoradios (A.R.C., June 2002) and now his brightly colored Stewart-Warner midgets. As he says, sunglasses are needed in his radio room. (Editor)
It's 1952 and Art-Deco has gone back to Miami Beach where it started. Radio designers are going with a clean, boxy look with slide rule "dials." But Stewart-Warner's Diversey Ave., Chicago, factory starts shipping truckloads of stylish, midget, 5-tube AC/DC radios that must have looked rather "retro" even then. They appear in the local Rexall, F.W. Woolworth, and other five & dime stores. They sport a rather complex Bakelite mold and are painted in one of nine bright colors The knobs are in contrasting colors.
Figure 1. This red 9160A Stewart-Warner was harder to come by than some other colors and cost a bit more than the usual $20 to $40.
The tube lineup is the usual five in miniature (50C5 etc.).
The Model 9160s must have sold well, as they are quite common today. In addition, since they were originally painted, restoration of a damaged case is rather easy. The model number was followed by one or two letters to denote case color. The Model 9160 AU was not painted since that one was in the "natural" polished brown Bakelite. The Stewart-Warner logo and dial numbers are well raised in the mold, making touch up work easier. Most colors are found on eBay for $20 to $40, although I had to give $77 for the red one, shown in Figure 1.
Midget Radios Defined
What constitutes a "midget" tube radio is always debatable. There seems to be general agreement that a midget is designed as an AC/DC table model set. The dimensions of the midgets run from 6 x 5 x 4 or 120 cu. in. for the tiny Arvin metal 442, up to 8 x 6 x 5 or 240 cu. in. for the popular General Television 4B5. The Stewart-Warner 9160s are 8 x 6 x 4 or 196 cu.in. See Figure 2.
Figure 2. Three midgets: front, a brown Arvin 442 metal; rear left, a white Stewart-Warner 9160G; and rear right, a brown General Television 4B5.
The job of brightening up any radio display room is a tough one. Most of the early sets are dark brown and few of us have any Catalins (darn it). However, with a long shelf of the 1960s Japanese 5-tube sets, a short shelf of Realistic Flavoradios, and now these lovelies from Stewart-Warner, you almost need sunglasses to tour my radio room.
(Phil MacArthur, 60 W. Schuyler, Oswego, NY 13126)
Phil MacArthur, a graduate in engineering from Rochester Tech in Upstate New York, taught mathematics at the Florida Keys Community College in Key West. Now back in New York, he continues the radio collecting he began in 1955 and would like to hear from other collectors at firstname.lastname@example.org.