Corbett Cabinet Mfg. Co. Follow-up
BY DALE DAVENPORT
In the December 1999 issue, A.R.C. published a letter from Mary Detsch of Lebanon, N. H., requesting information about her grandfather's company the Corbett Cabinet Mfg. Co. Dale Davenport first replied with an address from the 1925 "Radio Manufacturer's Directory": Corbett Mfg. Co., 1415 East St., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Additional research led Dale to more information to share with Ms. Detsch and our readers. (Editor)
Advertisements for Corbett cabinets appear in a number of mid-1920s radio magazines, but most are without pictures. The Corbett cabinet, shown in Figure 1, appears in an ad that lists eight cabinets, but it is likely there were other styles available, if one sent for the LC-27 folder mentioned. The Corbett cabinets were aimed at those who constructed radios at home, but most cabinet manufacturers solicited large volume business from radio set manufacturers.
Figure 1. A Corbett cabinet as pictured in an ad for the Corbett Cabinet Mfg. Company. ("Citizen's Radio Call Book," March 1927.)
Figure 2 provides another example of a Corbett cabinet. This one houses a Browning-Drake radio. Often the cabinet was designed by the set manufacturer; so, it's quite likely there are Corbett cabinets that may still exist but are not identified as such by any sort of label or stamp.
Figure 2. A Browning-Drake radio in a Corbett cabinet.
The Corbett ad showing a sample of the company's cabinet work seems to be something a bit out of the ordinary as far as I've been able to determine. A little speculation might be in order here.
The Advertisement-Article Connection
Citizen's Radio Call Book was a quarterly publication out of Chicago and rather openly "pushed'' companies and products from that area, though not exclusively. Issues featured many "how to" articles for construction of the (at the time) most popular sets for home construction. Home construction then still accounted for perhaps half of the radios in operation.
Each issue's featured construction articles were supported by large display ads of the companies whose products were used in those construction projects. It seems that the construction articles were specifically tailored to those that bought advertising space. Perhaps it also worked the other way around. In any event, this unabashed endorsement of an advertiser's products went on for most of the periodical's life.
Construction articles for sets tended to lean towards the big expensive superheterodyne type sets, and each issue would feature from 7 to 12 construction articles. Very often the principal parts manufacturer's advertisement would appear on a facing or following page of the magazine.
Figure 3. A cabinet of unknown manufacture that resembles a Corbett cabinet.
Corbett Cabinets and the
"Citizen's Radio Call Book"
The March 1927 issue of Citizen's Radio Call Book has several construction articles for sets that are housed in Corbett cabinets or those of similar appearance. One of them the Browning Drake construction article states as much: The Phasatrol radio, shown in Figure 3, is housed in a cabinet that resembles a Corbett cabinet; however, the cabinet manufacturer is not specified.
Several construction articles show cabinets that look almost identical, but they are made by other cabinet companies like Fritts and Excello. The look-alike cabinet shown in Figure 4 is an Excello product. The inference seems to be that any one of the three cabinets could be used on any of the projects. All three cabinet companies have ads in this issue.
The general cabinet style, with the front two corners chamfered at a 45° angle was a fairly popular one at the time, though I'm not sure who designed and first produced it. Its popularity lasted for perhaps another year or so.
Figure 4. This Excello cabinet is a look-alike Corbett with similar detailing.
Someone with better resources than mine may come up with more or different pictures and details about Corbett. Apparently, this was a fairly substantial company, if one can judge from the advertising of the time.
There were at least 50 or 60 and perhaps more companies in the U. S. making cabinets at the time, and most of them advertised little, if at all. Some advertised only locally or sold a rather limited production through local or regional outlets. Some too sold most or all of their production to a local or regional set manufacturer.
The series of cabinets pictured all have a distinctive "applied" Repwood decoration on the front comers. (Repwood was a material made from glue and wood flour and molded to look like "carved" wood. Used for a number of years as cabinet decoration, it met its zenith in production of complete Repwood cabinets by or for the Crosley Company.) The cabinets made by Fritts, Excello, and perhaps others used similar but distinctive decorations. Quality of construction might vary too.
(Dale Davenport, 622 S. 18th St., Fort Smith, Arkansas 72901)
Dale Davenport has worked in commercial broadcasting as an announcer, news director, owner, and engineer. He has been a collector since age 14, and his wide-ranging interests include Metrodyne, Steinite, and early AC sets. His prize is a Crosley Ace 3B portable.