The Freshman Polydyne



Searching for unusual radios is one of the attractions that draw collectors to swap meets. Jerry McKinney shares information about his find ­ an "unusual," if not "weird" radio. (Editor)

Last fall at the Music City Vintage Radio and Phonograph Society swap meet in Nashville, Tennessee, a fellow collector pulled out the unusual, if not weird, looking radio, shown in Figure 1. Since I am a cathedral and tombstone collector, I made my way to the set and was able to negotiate a purchase price. While not a "true" cathedral or tombstone, this unique set is a precursor to those styles and a neat conversation piece.

Although I have not found any information about this cabinet, the label on the chassis identifies this set as a Polydyne Model S-C-15, or possibly S-G-15, as the label is faded. The label also indicates that the radio was "'Manufactured by the C-F Co., Inc., New York" a tipoff that the set is a Freshman.

I could not find a reference to the model number 5-C-15 or 5-G-15 in Rider's, but a little research in Radio Manufacturers of the 1920's, Volume 2 revealed that this is the same basic chassis used in the Freshman Models Q15 and Q16.

the ornate Freshman Polydyne

Figure 1. A front view of the ornate Freshman Polydyne. Note the dial lamp above the tuning dial. The toggle switch centered between the two control knobs is the radio's on/off switch. This color photo proves Jerry McKinney's point that his Polydyne is "unusual, if not weird."

"Charlie" Freshman was a sharp businessman known for his cost-cutting tactics. Realizing that he could sell radios directly to the larger department stores, he created the Polydyne label essentially the same radio as in his Freshman line. Therefore, he could cut out the middleman and make more money for himself, while offering these sets to the stores at lower prices.

It seems that the Polydyne was created close to the end of the Freshman Company's existence, before it merged with Freed-Eisemann in November 1928. I have looked through dozens of late 1920s radio magazines and found scores of Freshman ads, but none for Polydyne. I have theorized that if the sets were sold directly to the department stores and not via the jobbers, it stands to reason that the Polydyne would not have been advertised much, if at all, in the trade magazines.

I believe and this is simply my opinion that Freshman may have contracted with some local cabinetmakers (it is known that Sonora made some console cabinets for him) to make a few high-end cabinets to sell to some of the more upscale stores. Perhaps this set could be one of those radios. If this theory is true, then maybe there are other similar sets out there.

The set stands 21" tall, 191/2" wide at the base, and 11" deep, making it a fairly large table set, which could more easily compete with the large highboy consoles of this era. The front, top, and sides of the cabinet are covered in a very thin pressed wood veneer. The veneer has a vine-like flower design stamped into it. The cabinet is in remarkably good shape considering the fragility of this material.

My favorite part of the set is the recessed grille area with a hand-painted picture for the grille cloth. There is a light in the recessed area above the grille cloth that illuminates the picture when a switch on the front panel is turned on. The cabinet has the appearance of a southwestern/Hispanic style with straight line edges. The grille picture continues this theme with stucco buildings in the scenery.

The radio is a 5-tube TRF AC set with the following tube complement: Types UX-171-A (2nd A.F.), UX-226 (1st AF), UX-227 (detector), UX-222 (1st RF), and a UX-280 (rectifier). The schematic drawing depicts a typical TRF circuit of the period, except for the power transformer. Five separate filament windings are used. Power transformers with multiple windings were not unusual. For example, the RCA Radiola Model 18 used a total of 4 filament windings. But the 5 filament windings used in the Polydyne and the Freshman Model Q-15 and Model Q-16 may be a record.

Each of the Polydyne's tube filaments operate at a different voltage. The Type UX-280 rectifier needs a separate winding because of the high voltage B+ present at its filament. The remaining 4 tubes require the following filament voltages: UX-171-A, 5.0 volts; UX-222, 3.3 volts; UX-226, 1.5 volts; UX-227, 2.5 volts.

In addition to the large tuning dial, there is a volume control, an on/off toggle switch, a tone control, and in the upper left hand corner a toggle switch that controls the grille light. This light has its own AC power cord so it was most likely installed by the cabinet maker. The balanced armature-type speaker is rather large at 10".

Luckily, the set had been electrically restored and needed only a new Type UX-222 tube to make it work. The cabinet needed only cleaning and a touch up of a few dents in the veneer.

If anyone else out there has a receiver similar to my Freshman Polydyne, please let me and A.R.C. know. Who knows, maybe this old radio is not an only child after all.


Douglas, Alan. Radio Manufacturers of the 1920's, Volume 2. Vestal, N. Y.: The Vestal Press, 1989.

(Jerry G. McKinney, 406 N. Franklin Ave., Fayetteville, TN 37334)

Jerry G. McKinney, a dentist by profession, has been collecting antique radios for 22 years. His main interests are cathedrals and tombstones of the 1930s, but he cannot resist an occasional 1920s set or a unique console.

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