I Like Majestic Art Deco Radios
BY RICHARD MAJESTIC
Richard Majestic's first article for A.R.C. was about a Grebe radio. Obviously, we thought that he might also be interested in Majestic radios, and we were not to be disappointed. Here, Richard presents a tour though his collection of Grigsby-Grunow Majestic Art Deco radios from 1933 to mid-1934. (Editor)
My current collection of Grigsby-Grunow Majestic Art Deco table radios, covering the period of January 1933-July 1934, is pictured in this article.
Three good examples of small table radios from the Art Deco period are the Grigsby-Grunow Majestic Models 49-B, 44-B and 194, all from 1934. They each utilize the 440, 4-tube chassis. A superheterodyne utilizing only four tubes, these sets perform as 5-tube superheterodynes since the 6F7 pentode is used in a reflex circuit and functions both as the IF amplifier and first audio.
My Grigsby-Grunow Majestic Model 49-B, shown in Figure 1, stands only 111/2 " tall. The radio was obtained from a friend in California who saw it at a yard sale some years ago, but at that time, it wasn't for sale. Last month the same family had an estate sale, and he bought it for me for only $100. The condition is original and excellent.
Figure 1. The Majestic Model 49-B.
Figure 2. The Majestic Model 44-B is in need of restoration.
My Grigsby-Grunow Majestic Model 44-B was obtained from a California seller on eBay. It also stands only 111/2" tall. As seen in Figure 2, the condition is "as purchased" and in need of rescue. When it is fully restored, I expect the value to be considerably more than the purchase price of $86.
Figure 3. The Majestic Model 194 is unusually tall for its width.
The Grigsby-Grunow Majestic Model 194 miniature Gothic tombstone is only 14" tall and another stunning example from 1934. The radio was obtained from a friend in California. The set was missing the chassis, and the cabinet was in poor condition. I located a working chassis in good condition and I oil-stained the cabinet and knobs. Figure 3 shows the result.
The Grigsby-Grunow Majestic Model 59 "Studio" is raw Art Deco. It is a compact and highly collectible Depression era tombstone radio, as shown in Figure 4. The radio measures 131/2" high, 10" wide, 9" deep. With its finely polished aluminum grille bars, twin escutcheons, contrasting two-tone veneers and machine-like knobs, it truly has a majestic appearance that screams "Art Deco," whatever way you look at it!
Figure 4. The Majestic Model 59 "Studio."
It covers two bands, standard broadcast (535-1550Kc) and shortwave (1480-4440Kc), selected by using a switch on the chassis at the rear. Precision tuning is achieved through the use of a 5.5:1 planetary drive on the tuning condenser. It features an interesting and somewhat unconventional 5-tube superheterodyne chassis that has not one but two IF stages with AVC.
Because of its use of "duo" type tubes, its 5-tube lineup is equivalent to many other manufacturers' 6 and 7-tube receivers. The tube complement is the following: 6A7 (local oscillator and mixer), 6F7 (1st IF amp using the pentode section, and 1st AF amp using the triode section), 6B7 (2nd IF amp using the pentode section, and 2nd detector and AVC using the two diode sections), 42 (AF power amp), and 80 (rectifier). The estimated manufacture of the Studio Model 59 was 400 radios.
The Grigsby-Grunow Majestic Model 291 table radio is shown in Figure 5. It is in the Art Moderne design, utilizing carefully matched walnut and sporting a two-tone treatment. The radio is a 9-tube superheterodyne using 21/2-volt tubes. It features automatic volume control (new for 1933), automatic synchro-silent tuning using a Type 58 tube, tone control, full-wave duo-diode detector, and an 8" speaker. Every amplifier tube is a pentode.
Figure 5. The Majestic Model 291 in 2-tone walnut.
I purchased this radio from a man in Florida for $350 on eBay, which was too much considering the radio electronics was in very poor condition. The set required over $200 in parts and 10 hours of rebuilding. The case had been refinished. The knobs are not original, and I replaced the grille cloth with an exact copy replacement. After restoration, and in this condition, this model is worth considerably more than I have invested in it.
The Grigsby-Grunow Model 411 Majestic-Six is a very small, compact radio, only 103/5" wide and 7" tall. See Figure 6. The set employs a superheterodyne circuit, and has a single pentode as both local oscillator and mixer. The inherent sensitivity, selectivity, and tone quality of the superheterodyne is a feature of this receiver. Majestic called it a "Six," but it's really a 5-tube circuit.
The radio uses 300mA series heaters and a ballast tube, which had been replaced with a silicon diode. The single-unit type construction is used in a compact receiver of good performance.
Figure 6. The Model 411, although called the Majestic-Six, has a 5-tube circuit.
The entire radio is enclosed in a cabinet of pleasing design with birch wood inlays and wood knobs. I refinished the wood case with ten coats of lacquer and polished the aluminum grille. The grille cloth is original, as are the knobs.
The Grigsby-Grunow Majestic Model 461 Master Six radio is a striking example of the new trend in cabinet design (early 1934). See Figure 7. Its distinct Modernistic lines, together with a center panel of beautiful matched walnut and a glistening chromium bordering grille, make the Master Six a cabinet of unusual beauty.
It is a 6-tube superheterodyne with delayed automatic volume control, tone control, full pentode amplification, and Majestic's colorful tone with a 61/2" speaker. The mid-sized radio is 17" tall and heavy because of the large power transformer.
I obtained the 461 on eBay for less than $100 in 2002. I did a complete electronic restoration but have not refinished the cabinet. This radio performs well and plays loud and strong. The IF transformer, which usually fails, cabinet, chrome grille, grille cloth, and knobs are all original and in good condition.
Figure 7. The Model 461 Master Six is a 6-tube radio.
The Grigsby-Grunow Majestic Model 463 Century Six table radio, seen in Figure 8, has a beautiful "waterfall" chrome grille. It is dubbed the "Century Six" in honor of the 1933 World's Fair and "Century of Progress." This set was introduced to the public in June 1933.
The Majestic 463 is a 6-tube radio offering the AM broadcast band. The initial advertising for this radio reads, "Modern design lends new charm to this table model. Note the rich combination of black walnut and lace wood, and the polished chromium grille and escutcheon plate."
Figure 8. The Majestic Model 463 Century Six.
The cabinet and the chassis have both been given extensive renovations. The cabinet was refinished and the grille cloth replaced with a period reproduction over a new/old stock Majestic chrome grille. The chassis was restored using two new/old stock replacement IF transformers. The tubes were also replaced using new/old stock Majestic spray shield tubes where applicable. All capacitors and filters were replaced, and the set was properly aligned as well. All veneer along the base perimeter of the cabinet has been firmly re-glued to the cabinet to avoid any future problems. The three unique scalloped, circular wood knobs are original to the radio. The knob on the left side of the cabinet is the on/off tone control knob. The knob above the chrome escutcheon is the volume control, and the tuning knob is below the dial.
With its highly stylized and unique chrome grille and its escutcheon surrounded by Hawaiian Lace wood veneer, this set is sure to become the focal point and center of attention of any room in which it is placed.
The Majestic 463 was even featured in a close-up after the opening credits of the television show "Dynasty" in the early 1980s. Dimensions of this radio are 123/4 " tall, 131/4" wide & 91/4 " deep.
I obtained the 463 in February 2009 for $300 and still need to restore the electronics and chassis condition. The chassis and tuning condenser are very rusty, and the IF transformers were replaced by the previous owner and are black Miller coil replacements that are wrong on this chassis. I'll find new/old stock IF transformers and intend to chrome plate the chassis and refinish the tuning condenser.
In its current condition, the 463 radio plays, but not well. The 51/2" speaker appears to have been reconed and that might explain the average tone. The Model 461 sounds like hi-fi in comparison, even though the electronics is the same.
Hard to find is the Gothic style Majestic Model 310-A tombstone radio with cathedral window- shaped grille cutouts. See Figure 9. This is an extremely beautiful design, quality-built, pre-1934 set. It's a 6-tube, one-band superheterodyne radio with what looks like original finish, grille cloth, and knobs. I bought it on eBay from a sell-it store for $177. Figure 10 shows an ad for a very similar set, the Model 311.
Figure 9. The Majestic Model 310-A tombstone.
Shown in Figure 11 (see print version) is a pre-June 1933 Majestic Model 370. This is a tabletop 5-tube radio that looks 100 percent complete and is in very good condition. The on/off volume knob is loose but works. The eBay seller says he turned the radio on and was able to get a clear signal. The case shows wear and a couple of larger scratches on the right front. The case measures 123/4" wide by 73/4" deep by 111/4" high. This is a complete, not yet restored classic. A bargain -- I paid less than $100.
Richard A. Majestic has more than 30 years experience in broadcast television and radio engineering design and management for such companies as Voice of America and Sony Electronics. He holds ten patents for electronic designs and instrumentation. Now retired, he is the president of the New Mexico Radio Collectors Club. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.