The WENR-KYW Station Collection
Processed by: Karen J. Fishman
2.0 lin. ft
ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY / SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTES / PROVENANCE
The WENR-KYW Station Collection documents the history of two radio stations in Chicago, Illinois, during the early days of radio broadcasting. A core group of on-air talent (singers, musicians, actors and comedians) as well as engineers, music directors and other administrative personnel began their broadcasting careers with Station KYW and then moved to Station WENR, where they remained until WENR was sold to NBC.
The history of Station WENR cannot be accurately retold without an accounting of the history of Station KYW, a joint venture of the Westinghouse Corporation and The Commonwealth Edison Company. Station KYW first began broadcasting on November 11, 1921. The station broadcast every performance of the Chicago Grand Opera Company that season.
The station provided musical, dramatic, cultural and educational programs to Chicago listeners. News was provided by the station's "World Crier" service which broadcast information about national and world events on the hour and half-hour, around the clock. The station broadcast its first baseball game in 1922, providing listeners a play-by-play account of the opening game between Chicago and Cincinnati.
Other programs included the Midnight Revue, which brought listeners entertainers such as: The Duncan Sisters, Wendell Hall, Dead Daddy Harry Davis, Uncle Bob, Little Jack Little and Paul Ash.
The joint venture dissolved in 1926 and the Edison Company soon became affiliated with four other companies and organized The Great Lakes Broadcasting Company. They purchased two radio stations, WENR and WBCN.
WENR was initially owned and operated by the All-American Radio Corporation, and WBCN was owned and operated by the publishers of the Southtown Economist , a weekly newspaper that covered many Southside Chicago communities.
On June 1, 1927, Station WENR began broadcasting from the Spanish Garden Studios, which were located in the Straus Building on South Michigan Avenue. It became one of Chicago's most popular radio stations and offered listeners orchestral music, children's features, home service talks, comedy teams, plays and operas. Programs included The Weener Minstrels, The Smith Family, Mike and Herman, and the WENR Derby, an original radio horse race run twice each day.
In the fall of 1928, WENR was ordered by the Federal Radio Commission to share the same broadcast frequency with WLS, a station previously owned by Sears, Roebuck and recently acquired by The Prairie Farmer. WLS was awarded 5/7ths time, and WENR only 2/7ths time. This disastrous decision was immediately appealed, but it took over a year for the decision to be reversed. At that time WENR was granted half time with WLS.
WENR was acquired by NBC in 1931 and became, along with WLS, the Chicago outlets for the Blue Network. The majority of the station personnel were incorporated into NBC, and WENR soon lost its local identity and personality. In August, 1943, WENR was sold to ABC and continued to share time with WLS, but eventually the two half-time licenses were combined into one and by 1954, the WLS call letters were used full time. WENR became an ABC-FM facility but by 1964 the call letters were dropped and the change made to WLS/FM.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTES
The WENR-KYW Station Collection spans the years from 1921 to 1971, with the bulk of the material dating from 1927 to 1933. The collection documents the personnel and broadcasting history of radio stations KYW and WENR. Material types include photographs, correspondence, pamphlets, notes, reports and newspaper articles.
The collection is divided into the following series:
Series I: Station WENR - Book I, Book II, Book III
Series II: Station KYW - Book I, Book II
Series III: WENR Special Survey of 18 Stations
The WENR-KYW Station Collection was donated to the Library of American Broadcasting in 1971 by Paul McCluer, a former station announcer. He collected the material at the request of William S. Hedges, a founder of the Broadcast Pioneers Library. Mr. McCluer contacted many former employees asking for contributions and assembled the materials into scrapbooks.
Series I: Station WENR - Books I, II, III, 1928-1932, 1970 (1.0 lin. ft.)
This series contains a variety of materials documenting the history of Station WENR. All materials from each scrapbook were kept in original order. Photographs make up a large percentage of documents in Books I and II. Other documents include correspondence, reports, pamphlets, personal reminiscences, programming material and promotional material. Book III contains the WENR Sign-off Theme and extra copies of material from the other books.
Series II: Station KYW-Books I and II, 1921-1946 (0 .5 lin. ft.)
This series contains documents pertaining to the history of Station KYW. All materials from each scrapbook were kept in original order. Photographs are included in Books I and II was well as program schedules, correspondence, pamphlets, scripts, articles and press releases.
Series III: WENR-Special Survey of 18 Broadcasting Stations, 1929 (0.5 lin. ft.)
This series contains materials pertaining to a survey of 18 broadcasting stations conducted by Paul McCluer for The Great Lakes Broadcasting Company and Station WENR. McCluer visited 22 principal network affiliates outside Chicago and inquired about internal operations, salary scales, union policies, rate structures, local programming services, operating expenses and profits. The collection includes survey of 17 stations. These include:
- WJR - Detroit, MI
- WHAM - Rochester, NY
- WGY - Schenectady, NY
- WEEI - Boston, MA
- WTIC - Hartford, CT
- WEAF - New York, NY
- WJZ - New York, NY
- WCAU - Philadelphia, PA
- WBAL - Baltimore, MD
- KDKA - Pittsburgh, PA
- WFBM - Indianapolis, IN
- WDAF - Kansas City, MO
- WHO - Des Moines, IA
- WOC - Davenport, IA
- WCCO - Minneapolis, MN
- KSTP - St. Paul, MN
- WTMJ - Milwaukee, WI
For further information, contact the Library of American Broadcasting.
Library of American Broadcasting
University of Maryland, College Park