Wilcox-Gay Model A-15
BY RICHARD ARNOLD
Richard Arnold always has interesting tales to tell about his discoveries along the radio-collecting trail. Once again he has unearthed an unusual set to share with us. (Editor)
Not long ago, I was in an antique store here in Ardmore, Oklahoma, looking at a 1947 Watterson radio, made in Texas, trying to get the owner to come down considerably from his very high (I thought) asking price of $65. All of a sudden, he said, "Oh, by the way, I have a round top radio in the back, would you be interested?"
As round tops are my life, I said yes, trying not to show too much excitement. I could just imagine an Atwater Kent, or a Peter Pan or maybe even one with a swan grille. My heart raced as he took me to the back of the store and into a junk area behind a couple of doors. He started moving things around, finally found the radio, and said, "Oops! It isn't a round top as I thought." I felt depressed. What was it?
He pulled up the wooden tombstone shown in Figure 1. Oh no, I thought, not another tombstone! Then I got a glimpse of a black metal grille that looked a lot like Art Deco. Immediately I thought, "Hey, this may be even better than some old round top."
It was an Art Deco tombstone all right. In 1920-1930, this style was often referred to as "Art Moderne" or simply "modern." The term "Art Deco" was popularized in the 1960s when a renewed interest in that art style took place. But, what is a Wilcox-Gay? Never heard of it. After looking it over some and trashing it a little -- I found that it did have some minor problems. For one, it looked as if someone had cut the speaker wires.
When the dealer asked me to make him an offer, well -- considering where he had it -- I figured he didn't think too much of it, so I offered him $30. He took it. Wow!! I have been collecting around these parts since 1985 and what we, or at least I, don't find are Catalin and Art Deco sets. So I considered this a pretty good find.
After I got it home I tried to find out a little about the radio. In 1988, the Michigan Antique Radio Club published an article on the history of the Wilcox-Gay Company in the club newsletter. I was able to get a copy of this article, which had been researched by Dolores Osborne and written by Bessie Seiter.
Wilcox-Gay started making Wilcox sets in 1926. It went out of business early on in the Depression, but managed to make a comeback in 1932 as the Wilcox-Gay Corporation. The company stayed in business until 1963 when it filed for bankruptcy and dissolved.
Figure 1. The Art Deco Wilcox-Gay Model A-15 tombstone radio.
Figure 2. The rear view of the Wilcox-Gay radio showing the chassis, tubes, speaker and, at the bottom, the location of the jumper jack for either radio or phonograph operation.
The Model A-15
This particular set is a Model A-15 made in 1937. I think it is beautiful. The cabinet is made of solid American walnut with a walnut veneer front panel that is set down into the cabinet so you can hardly tell that it is veneer. The front panel has wood grain in sections slanting in towards the center at an angle to form a "V" pattern. The Art Deco grille is painted black steel with gold cloth.The bottom where the dial scale is located is multicolored in pink, blue and black. It has a large, black-shouldered, painted-on skyscraper on the bottom and a dull, silver-shouldered dial pointer base with a long copper pointer to indicate the desired station.
A quick look at the radio would lead you to believe that it is just another AC/DC radio. But, a closer look reveals some interesting features. It is either a 5- or 6-tube set, depending on whether or not you are inclined to include a ballast tube in the tube count. The tube line-up consists of the following types: a 6A7 mixer/oscillator; a 78 IF amplifier; a 75 detector, 1st audio; a 43 audio output; and a 25Z5 rectifier. A Type L49B ballast tube is used in the series filament string to allow the set to operate on 120 volts.
Although the Type 25Z5 tube is a full-wave rectifier, it is used as two half-wave rectifiers in this radio. One half-wave rectifier supplies B+ to the speaker's field coil and the other rectifier section provides B+ to the radio circuitry.
Another unusual feature of the radio is the use of 115 kHz as the Intermediate Frequency -- a rather low frequency usually found only in much older radios. A phonograph input is provided at the rear of the chassis.
Figure 2 shows how the jumper at the bottom is connected between the two jacks for radio operation. For phonograph operation, it is necessary to remove the jumper and plug in the audio cable from the phonograph. The radio tunes 3 bands -- broadcast, shortwave and long-wave. The radio is similar to the Wilcox-Gay Model 6M6. A schematic for the Model 6M6 can be found in Rider's Volume XII, page 12-3
Since this is the only Wilcox-Gay Model A-15 I have seen in 14 years of collecting, I guess it will be a keeper.
Heide, Robert, & John Gilman. Popular Art Deco. New York: Abbeville Press, 1991.
Rider, John F. Perpetual Troubleshooter's Manual, Vol. XII, pp.12-3.
Seiter, Bessie. "The Wilcox-Gay Company." Michigan Antique Radio Club: The Michigan Antique Radio Chronicle, 1988.
Weber, Eve. Art Deco in America.
(Richard Arnold, Box 275, Lone Grove, Oklahoma, 73443)
Richard Arnold, a frequent contributor to A.R.C., has been collecting radios since 1985. Primarily interested in cathedrals and 1920s battery sets, his collection ranges from crystal sets to a 1928 American Bosch in a Pooley cabinet. The 1932 JB Peter Pan featured in the June 1991 A.R.C. is his prize.