WGAS - Chicago



Ray-Di-Co Organization

Little is known of this station that transmitted from the Old Town area, near North & Wells Streets and was off the air by early 1923.
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WQX - Chicago



Walter Kuehl

Another early license granted to an amateur operator.  This station would vanish from the records within a few months.
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WBU - Chicago




City Of Chicago

One powerful group that saw a lot of potential in a wireless that could reach thousands or millions of people were politicians.  Several municipalities were among the pioneers in operating experimental and amateur stations even before commercial broadcasting was authorized.  Most served as a source for emergency weather and official information.
Chicago's Mayor William Hale Thompson - founder of WBU and WHT
Chicago’s flamboyant Mayor, William, “Big Bill” Thompson saw a lot of value in being on the air but for his own purposes.  On February 21, 1922, with Thompson's backing, the City of Chicago launched WBU.  Among the guests on the initial broadcast included Thompson and evangelist Paul Rader who would go onto to build several religious broadcast stations, including the internationally known HCJB in Ecuador.

The city installed a 100-watt ship transmitter atop City Hall that required a lot of work and soon the expenses began to take a toll.  The station also faced competition from the established KYW and the new WMAQ for both information and air time.  The coup-de-grace was Thompson’s loss in 1923, the new Mayor, William Dever, saw no use to continue operating the station and it was silenced on November 7th, 1923.

Thompson would return to both the airwaves and the Mayor’s office.  He would be an owner of a station he would name for himself, WHT and then won back City Hall in 1927…at the height of the “Capone” era.

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WNAJ - Chicago



Edgar Benson Co.

By 1920, Chicago was emerging as a major hot-bed of Jazz.  The arrival of Prohibition would force many .  Clubs such as Dreamland, the Moulin Rouge, Green Mill, Midway Gardens and Marigold Gardens had evolved from summer beer gardens into major amusement centers.  Even with the arrival of Prohibition in 1920…most will say that’s when the “amusement” really began.

From its earliest days, Chicago had been a hot-bed for live music.  In the 1830s, Billy Caldwell entertained travelers with his fiddle and the World's Columbian Exibition of 1893 brought many cultures and their music to the city.  By the turn of the century the city's nightlife had become world-renown.  Hotels, Theaters, Dance Halls and Beer Gardens would become popular venues and the owners sought out the best bands and entertainers.  Musician Edgar Benson saw the opportunity to find steady work for his orchestra and others and became one of the city's first promoters.

The Edgar Benson Orchestra - one of Chicago's favorites in the early 20s
The arrival of Prohibition in 1920 would force many club owners to attract crowds with entertainment rather than alcohol...especially the new Jazz music.  Benson, a cellist, and his orchestra would be in constant demand. The real musicians in his bands were pianists Roy Bargy and Don Bestor.  The orchestra would specialize in the “whitening” of Jazz…trying to put a tux and tails on the “black man’s music” that was so popular among young people; not unlike the “whitening” of R & B and Rock ‘n Roll of the 50’s.

Jazz was first heard in the black clubs on the South side but in the early 20s would become the music of the young, post-World War I generation.  Chicago became a major Jazz center with the migration of many black jazz  and blues musicians.  While mostly segregated, Jazz would migrate to other neighborhoods and clubs, minus, of course, the black musicians.

Among the many new stations that came on the air in 1922-23, Jazz and Dance music had become a popular musical format.  The primary reason was that most early stations were either owned by or based in hotels…a source of programming as well as a new promotional vehicle for both the hotel and the performers.  Benson, who had become the leading band leader in the early 20’s saw the possibilities of setting up his own station that would spotlight both his bands and booking venues.

There's no record of this station ever taking to the airwaves.  Surely airtime was limited as the 360 meter channel was getting very crowded.  Records indicate the station’s call-letters had been deleted by Summer, 1923.

Benson would thrive throughout the 20’s…taking his bands on tour and into the recording studio. By the mid 20’s, a young impresario, how had once worked for him, Julie Styne, would become a rival and then surpass Benson as the top music promoter in the city and then the country. In a show of Styne’s “chutzpah”, he named his agency Music Corporation of America (yes, THAT MCA) despite having just a couple of small time clients. Benson led the way and Styne would take him several steps higher; using radio and follow-up touring to make himself and his clients a lot of fame and money.

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WPAD - Chicago



W. A. Wieboldt & Co.

Wieboldt's Department Store at Chicago & Milwaukee Aveunes

Wieboldt's Department Store originated in 1873 with one store at Chicago Avenue & Milwaukee on the city’s near northwest side.  It grew and thrived by staying out of downtown and catering to the growing working class and immigrant populations that were streaming into the city’s neighborhoods.  They would open other locations, avoiding going directly against the bigger downtown retailers and their stores would become the center of thriving neighborhoods around the city.

Department stores saw promotional value in radio’s initial days.  The Fair Store had partnered with the Daily News to start WGU/WMAQ and other retailers, Bamberger in Newark,  Gimbles, Litt Brothers and Wannamakers in Philadelphia had already gone on the air and it appears Wieboldt's wanted to follow suit.  This station operated from the Weiboldt’s store at Ogden and Ashland and would try to survive on the crowded 360 meter band throughout 1923.  It appears to have vanished from the air lanes by early 1924.

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WCT - Chicago


Radio Corporation of America

RCA's David Sarnoff with his idol Gugliermo Marconi

This was an early attempt by David Sarnoff and his new Radio Corporation of America to build a radio station in Chicago.  Throughout 1922 Sarnoff was granted temporary licenses for special remote broadcasts.  It appears WCT was planned for that purpose.  These stations and experimental broadcasts convinced Sarnoff of the viability of establishing a permanent network.  This would happen in 1926 when RCA took control of the AT&T station WEAF and WJZ from Westinghouse and launch the National Broadcasting Company.

While WCT was never constructed, Sarnoff would continue to have designs on a Chicago station.  In 1929 NBC built lavish studios in the new Merchandise Mart and would purchase WENR from Great Lakes Broadcasting and WMAQ from the Daily News in 1931.

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WSAH - Chicago




A.J. Leonard Jr.

Yet another station authorized during the initial frenzy of 1922-23 that operated from 45th and Woodlawn on Chicago’s South Side.  The station fought for time during the final days of the 360 meter channel and would shift to 1210kHz after the dial was expanded, but appears to have vanished by the end of 1923 and the license was deleted in April, 1924.
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WWAY - Chicago



Marigold Gardens - (I. E. Dutton)

In 1895 Emil and Karl Eitel built a beer garden at  Grace & Halsted in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.  The Bismark Gardens soon became a popular summer hang-out for the predominately German clientele in the area.  By 1915 a beer hall had been opened and the Bismarck become one of Chicago’s top night spots.  A regular feature attraction was a young and very popular Ruth Etting.  The onset of World War I and anti-German sentiment led to the Bismarck changing its name to the Marigold Gardens (the name of a popular bread/bakery of the era).
A postcard from the popular and always busy Marigold Gardens
Despite the passing of Prohibition, the Marigold survived and into the Roaring 20’s as the home of many top bands of the day and continuing to attracting huge crowds.  Like many other halls of the time, the Marigold featured Jazz played by white musicians for white-only audiences.

This station appears to have operated from the club in during the Spring of 1923 an only transmitted on the dying 360 meter (833 kHz) spot.  The combination of on-channel and nearby interference would have made listening difficult.  It may be that this station operated only for special events rather than on a regular schedule.  The FRC records indicate the license deleted by July.  While this radio venture didn’t succeed, others would try in the years ahead.

The Marigold’s days of a top club faded as the action moved to the Rainbo Gardens, Uptown Theater and Aragon Ballroom. The Marigold would be turned into a sports venue; hosting many professional and amateur bouts.  In the 50’s, WGN-TV originated coverage of the Chicago Tribune’s Golden Gloves from the Marigold, by then long removed from its days as a top night club.

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WCBZ - Chicago Heights, IL



1210kHz, 1380kHz

Coppotelli Brothers Music House

The Coppotelli family ran a small music shop in south suburban Chicago Heights.   They sold musical instruments and then radio parts.  Anthony Coppotelli had gotten his amateur radio license in 1920 and would integrate his love of radio and music when he was granted a broadcast license. On May 1, 1924 he was issued a license for WCBZ and the new station would have its first broadcast on May 9th from studios at the Coppotelli Music House at 20 Illinois Street.  The 50 watt station operated on 1210kHz which would later be upgraded to 100 watts.

WCBZ featured all live music and was heard on Monday and Friday nights.  The Monday hours were designed to take advantage of the silent night in nearby Chicago.  Remote studios were also set up in the Wehrmann Building at Halsted and Emerald and at Ed Schoonover's Garage (a local car dealer).

The station was very popular and was known as the the station where the “Dixie Highway and Lincoln Highway Meet” and could be heard 500 to 1,000 miles away at night.  This fame would draw the interest of the Neutrowound Radio Corporation; a radio manufacturer in nearby Homewood.  In April, 1925 the station was sold and soon moved to a large 5,000 watt radio facility in Homewood and renamed WOK.

Anthony Coppotelli and partners would give radio another try in late 1926, opening WJBZ from their Chicago Heights store and operated with 100 watts. This station appears to have been on the losing end of the public needs argument, the station’s license was deleted in September, 1928.  Roland Coppotelli would take his radio experience and become an engineer at various south suburban and Chicago stations.

Radio would return to Chicago Heights in the 1950 when another Anthony, Anthony Santucci, would launch WCHI(FM) in the early 50’s that would evolved into WCGO(AM) in 1959.

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WQJ - Chicago




Calumet Baking Powder Co. (Rainbo Gardens)

Ad promoting the opening of the Rainbo

As a bustling metropolis Chicago had developed a varied and active nightlife.  The scene was heavily influenced by the many groups that immigrated to the city.  Each brought their customs and music that blended with others to form a unique American experience.  Music Halls and Beer Gardens would spring up all around the city and neighborhood bars and tap houses were major social and entertainment venues before movies and television.

Competition among these clubs would become intense.  Bigger and better clubs were being opening all the time.  Following World War I, Fred and Al Mann took control of the Moulin Rouge, a beer garden and dance hall on Clark Street in Chicago’s growing Uptown neighborhood.  They renamed it the Rainbo Gardens and soon turned it into one of the most popular night spots in the city.   Despite, or in spite of the imposition of the Volstead Act, better known as Prohibition, the Rainbo would offer Jazz and elegance as the lure rather than alcohol…or at least that was the concept.

The Calumet Baking Powder Company was founded in 1889 with its recognizable Indian-head logo.  The company aggressively promoted and saw radio as a means to reach a new and younger market.  By 1924, ballroom broadcasts had become very popular programming on radio. Thousands tuned in nightly to hear the many stations and dance bands, and the bands were more than happy to find radio stations who would spread their names, push sales of sheet music, phonograph records and personal appearances.

Nightly radio remotes were drawing large crowds to the nearby Edgewater Beach Hotel as well as many downtown hotels and night spots.  The new medium was quickly becoming an important promotional vehicle for attracting a young generation anxious to go out and have a good time. The Manns saw radio as an important asset to their club and in mid 1924 they found a backer/partner in the Calumet company.  A new radio station, WQJ was granted a license to broadcast in June, 1924.  The station would share the night time airwaves with WMAQ and operate with 500 watts on 670 kHz from a transmitter atop the Rainbo’s dance hall.

A Calumet Baking Powder ad promoting WQJ
The Rainbo Ballroom with the WQJ Tower
For the next 4 years, WMAQ and WQJ shared time with WQJ coming on the air when the Rainbo was swinging.  The broadcasts were especially popular with DX’ers or long distance listeners, who could hear the station’s signal, even at low power, as far away as Europe and Australia.  One may have heard Three Stooge, Larry Fine, as he served as the Rainbo announcer until he was discovered at the club by Stooges founder Ted Healy.
WQJ’s demise began with the passing of the Radio Act of 1927 that set public interest standards as a major requirement in keeping a license.  The Rainbo was having some troubles as well. Despite the veneer of respectability and style, the club was regularly raided by the vice squad for violating liquor laws.  Many famous, or infamous, gangsters were regular customers and the rise of the Uptown Theater, Aragon Ballroom, Green Mill and other clubs made it more difficult for the Manns to keep the place going as strictly a Dance Hall.

While WQJ survived the Order 40 reshuffle and remained in its time share arrangement with WMAQ, the FRC encouraged the two station to merge.  Following a late night raid, the Rainbo closed in February, 1928 and WQJ was without a home.  In April, the Calumet Baking Company sold WQJ to the Chicago Daily News; the owners of WMAQ.  As part of the deal, the baking powder company received free announcements on WMAQ over the next 8 years.  This agreement would continue even after the Daily News sold WMAQ to NBC in 1931.

Another busy night in the Rainbo Gardens
The Rainbo prior to its demolition in 2000
The Rainbo would re-open in many forms in the years ahead.  It hosted Jai Ali in the 30’s, wrestling in the 40’s and was the home of the Kinetic Playground, an underground music spot in that featured greats such as Jimi Hendrix and The Who, in the late 60’s.  Many others remember the Rainbo for its skating rink that remained in operation until the 90’s.  In 2005, the building was demolished…but the memories of the Rainbo endure.  The Calumet Baking Powder company was sold in 1929 to General Foods, but one still sees old Indian head baking powder cans on supermarket shelves.
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WDBY - Chicago




North Shore Congregational Church

In 1923, J. C. O’Hair founded the North Shore Congregational Church at the corner of Wilson & Sheridan Road in the bustling Uptown area of Chicago.  As with other fundamentalist preachers of the time, O’Hair was out to save souls…especially in the wild Jazz-age prohibition hotbed of Uptown.  A way to reach those souls was on the device many were listening to:  radio.  In Summer, 1924, the church installed a 500 watt transmitter and hammock antenna atop the church, tuned it to 1160 kHz, and received a license to operate.  The Commerce Commission assigned the arbitrary call-letters WDBY with the station transmitting primarily on Sundays.  Some joked the call-letters stood for “We Delight In Bothering You”.  The new station would share the channel with WLTS…an early student-run station at Lane Technical Institute.

It appears the call-letters did bother Reverend O’Hair who would change the call-letters to WPCC in Fall, 1925.  The station would continue to operate on Sundays only until it lost its license in 1930.

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WTL - Chicago



H. G. Sall

The Webster Hotel in Lincoln Park - Home of WTL, WTAS and WORD

This appears to be a temporary license granted to the Webster Hotel to operate at 10 watts on 1120kHz; a frequency also used by Zenith's portable station WSAX.

The prestigious hotel overlooked Lincoln Park with a very popular auditorium that regularly hosted concerts and dances as well as serving as a recording studio.  The hotel would later host the studios of WTAS and WORD.

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WORD - Batavia, IL & Chicago



1080kHz, 1090kHz, 770kHz, 1190kHz, 1480kHz, 1490kHz

People's Pulpit Association

Radio was an intoxicating new tool for religious groups.  Fundamentalist preachers flocked to the airlanes in its early days reaching out to new converts and shut-ins far and wide.  A single broadcast could reach more people than a month worth of touring and services.  The "Roaring 20s" was an era of heightened religious awareness in the country.  Sects searching for a better society formed their own communities (such as Alexander Dowie and Glenn Wilbur Voliva in Zion) or prepare what what they sure believed were the end of times.  One group that emerged in this era were the Watch Tower Tract and Bible Society; better known as the Jehovah Witnesses.

The organization was founded in 1881 and had risen set up churches and halls around the country.  Under the direction of Judge Joseph Franklin Rutherford, they created the “People’s Pulpit Society” in 1909 to use newspapers and magazines to get out the word.  Radio was especially attractive to Rutherford, as his group believed that radio waves could heal or ward off evil spirits.  In late 1924, Rutherford applied for licenses to operate a new radio stations in New York City and Chicago.

The Chicago station would be located at the Melhorn farm, Tract Association members who lived east of the west suburban town of Batavia.  They constructed a studio in the Melhorn home as well as in the transmitter building that was connected to two 200 foot towers.  A studio also was set up at the Webster Hotel in Chicago.  On December 28, 1924 WORD began broadcasting with 500 watts on 1080kHz.  The new station shared a channel also used by WJJD that had just begun operations from nearby Mooseheart.
The first WORD programs were heard on Wednesday and Friday nights and featured sermons and religious musical programs; many originating from the Melhorn farm.  Through it's new broadcast podium, Rutherford and his followers, known as the “Russellites” would stir controversy among other religious groups.  As the radio dial became more congested through 1926, WORD would rise above the noise by installing a 5,000 watt transmitter.  The high-powered signal reached out across the North American continent at night but also created anger from many nearby radio listeners.  The poor selectivity of crystal sets and early tube radios combined with WORD's big signal meant it was the only station they could hear...blocking out the market reports and music from Chicago.

In 1927 Charles Erbstein's revived WTAS would share time and transmitter time with WORD and the station re-tuned to 1090 kHz.  Erbstein died in May and WTAS faded again from the airwaves. Next WORD would shift over to 770kHz (along with WAAF and WBBM), next the station was heard at 1100 (the channel used by WRM at the University of Illinois) in late 1927 and finally on 1190kHz (sharing with Neutrowound Radio’s WOK and the Triannon Ballroom's WMBB…also transmitting with 5,000 watts via WOK’s transmitter south suburban Homewood).

The Webster Hotel - WORD's Chicago home
WORD's Transmitter site on the Melhorn Farm in Batavia in 1939 - The towers remained until the late 60s
When the dust settled and the new FRC issued Order 40 on November 11, 1928, WORD was assigned the far end dial position of 1480 kHz, sharing the channel with Zenith’s WJAZ in Mount Prospect and Bill Bill Thompson’s station, WHT from Deerfield.  The station would operate primarily during the daytime and started to feature more secular and brokered programming from their Chicago studios.  All the 1480 stations shifted to 1490 in 1930.

In 1930, the station shifted to 1490 and took control of the former WHT/WSOA and renamed the Deerfield station, WCHI, still sharing time with Zenith’s WJAZ and restricting all the stations to daytime operation.  In 1931 the FRC examined the 1490 frequency status; giving priority to WCKY from Covington, Kentucky.  WCHI and WJAZ were relegated to daytime only status and launched lawsuits to overturn the FRC's ruling.  The FRC would prevail and WCHI along with WJAZ would fade from the air by the end of 1931.

While WORD would fade from the airwaves and memories of listeners, a small remnant of the station still exists.  It's the concrete bases for the station's two tower T-Antenna...now located in the flower bed of a housing complex.  A silent reminder of a time when the area was still rural and the voices of the Melhorn's poured out over 5,000 watts.

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WEBH - Chicago



810kHz, 820kHz

Edgewater Beach Hotel

The later part of the 19th and early 20th century are often referred to as the “Gilded Age”; Elegant living was the American dream and many sought to build their version of it.  For most, they lived in a congested city.  This was especially the case in Chicago where it's ever-expanding industries and the immigrants that worked in them made getaways to the country or outskirts a special occasion.  While the wealthy could afford to build mansions along the lake shore, the expansion of surface and rail transit opened up these areas to anyone who could afford the five cent fare.
The Edgewater Beach Hotel - A little bit of Havana minutes from downtown Chicago
The northward expansion of the elevated trains in 1900 opened up many new areas to the growing middle-class and those seeking to move away from the crowded central city.  The Uptown, Lakeview and Edgewater neighborhoods flourished with nightlife and a thriving resort/hotel industry.  No hotel would symbolize this era of elegance than the Edgewater Beach Hotel.  Built by John Tobin Connery and James Patrick Connery in 1916, this hotel, built directly on the Lake Shore at Foster Avenue & Sheridan Road soon became a popular destination for the rich and famous.  Its tropical motif was like a vacation in Havana for the price of an elevated ride.

The hotel’s ballroom became one of the top night spots in the city with the top bands of the day performing in the huge ballroom.  Shortly after constructing the hotel, the owners allowed Ralph Mathews and his Chicago Radio Laboratories to build an experimental station on the hotel’s grounds.  The company would change its name after its popular station, 9ZN, and become the Zenith Radio Corporation.

In 1923, Zenith received a commercial radio license for WJAZ and based it at the Edgewater. They constructed the “Crystal Studio” a state-of-the-art facility adjacent to the ballroom.  The station formed a partnership with the Chicago Tribune and featured music nightly from the hotel that were heard across the country.  The broadcasts were a big success and by March, 1924 the Chicago Tribune had become a partner and was operating the station.  WJAZ would start using the call-letters of WGN..while Zenith continued to hold the station’s license.  In April, the Tribune/Zenth partnership ended, the Tribune would purchase WDAP from the Drake Hotel and move their WGN call-letters to that station on May 1, 1924.  WGN would continue to broadcast from the Edgewater but also from many other venues around the city.
The WEBH Crystal Studio in the Edgewater Beach Hotel
WEBH Control Panel & Transmitter
When the partnership with the Tribune fell through, Zenith decided it no longer wanted to operate the Crystal Studio.  It sold the station facilities to the hotel took who renamed it WEBH.  Just like WJAZ, WEBH would share time with WGN on 810kHz with 500 watts.  It was at this time the station began to feature comedy skits featuring Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll.  They appears on the air and entertained listeners for free meals at the hotel.  They introduced radio listeners to “Sam ‘n Henry” who soon would head for a new radio home, for pay, at WGN.  The team would reach even greater fame beginning in 1928 with a move to WMAQ and the National Broadcasting Company to become a national sensation as Amos ‘n Andy.

When the National Broadcasting Company was established in 1926 WEBH would be one of the network's initial Chicago hook-ups.  The station also became the launching pad for many big band stars who would appear at the hotel just to be heard on the station…even at 1,000 watts WEBH was heard far and wide at night.

The station didn’t limit its broadcast activities exclusively to the hotel.  In August, 1925, WEBH broadcast the big premier of the Uptown Theater.  The station had studios built in this theater, billed at the time as the largest in the country.  On December 24, 1925, WGN took over Charles Erbstein’s Villa Olivia transmitter site and moved from 810.  WEBH would go into a time share with WJJD…a station transmitting from Mooseheart and owned by the Loyal Order of Moose.

To counter the rising interference, in 1926 WEBH increased its transmitter power to 2,000 watts and then in early 1927 shifted over to 820 kHz.  It’s not certain if the station decided to avoid going through the re-licensing due to the Radio Act of 1927 or no longer felt the station was needed as the hotel continued to do remote broadcasts with other stations (most notably WGN).  In the end, WEBH was not allocated a new channel and broadcast its last in Spring, 1928.

Radio would return to the hotel in 1958 when air personality, Buddy Black would build a new FM station, reviving the WEBH call-letters…the station would operate from the hotel until it was abruptly close in 1967.  Today that station is WLIT.

Radio returned to the Edgewater Beach when WEBH-FM began operations in 1958
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WFKB - Chicago



1380kHz, 1340kHz

Francis K. Bridgeman

Little is known of this station that transmitted from Chicago’s south side  It was licensed to Francis K. Bridgman who received a license on April 17,1925 and began transmitting with 100 watts on 1380 kHz from 45th and Woodlawn.  The station shared time with WCBZ, a station that began its life at the Coppetelli Brothers Music Store in Chicago Heights.  This operation would be purchased by the Neutrowound Radio Company who re-located the transmitters and studios to its factory in south suburban Homewood using a 5,000 watt transmitter.   In 1926, WFKB could be found on 1340kHz, sharing time with Clinton White’s WCRW, “The Gold Coast Station”  from the Pine Grove Hotel and WPCC operating on Sundays from the North Shore Congregational Church at Wilson and Sheridan Road in Chicago’s Uptown Area.  WFKB upgraded to 500-watts but surely had a difficult time cutting through both the noise and intense competition (Chicago would be home to over 40 radio stations in 1927).  Before the FRC would clean up the band, WFKB fell by the wayside, it’s license was deleted on January 25, 1927.
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WIBO - Chicago



1330kHz, 720kHz, 980kHz, 570kHz, 1480kHz, 560kHz

Nelson Bros. (Russo and Fiorito Orchestral Exchange)

Chicago is a city of neighborhoods.  The city grew quickly as several waves of immigrants would move into an areas.  Irish, German, Poles, Italians, Jews and Scandinavians would first concentrate in the congested central city and then spread out to one of the new middle-class neighborhoods.  These areas would have their own character...it's own businesses, social services and entertainment venues.  People would identify themselves by the neighborhood they grew up or lived in as a form of identification.

While these neighborhoods were somewhat insular; a place where an immigrant could go to hear their native tongue, they also interacted in exchanges of culture and ideas.  Radio would symbolize the segregation and integration of these communities.  Many early stations began to cater to these groups with news and music in their languages while being a window into the new “melting pot” that many young Americans were an active part of.

By the mid 20s the Uptown neighborhood on Chicago's north side was booming.  Luxury hotels and apartments rivaled those of Downtown and the affluent Hyde Park neighborhood on the South Side and it's night life was second to none.  The “white light” district at Lawrence & Broadway was evolving into a second downtown, drawing people from all over the city via the elevated railways.

The area's bustling clubs, dance halls and hotels competed for the feet and ears of a restless young generation.  A popular way to reach them was on the radio.  Musicians and promoters also saw the value in regular radio appearances that boosted ticket sales at their performances.  One such musician was Ted FioRito.  Ted’s bands had done several successful broadcasts via WEBH, WGN and WJAZ from the Edgewater Beach Hotel.  During the summer of 1925 he was in charge of musical entertainment at new Uptown Theater and wanted to have greater control over his bands exposure.  He would form a partnership Alvin Nelson, President of the Nelson Brothers Bond And Mortgage Company in building a new radio station to promote his band and venues.  Nelson saw radio's value in reaching out to the Swedish population in the nearby Andersonville neighborhood. In April they were granted a license to operate WIBO.

Ulysis Sanabria - early television pioneer - began transmitting video from Chicago in 1926
W9XAO - Chicago's First Television Station - On The Air
In the beginning the fledgling station operated with 10 watts on 1330kHz; sharing time with the more powerful and popular WBBM that was operating from the Broadmoor Hotel.  By Fall, 1925, WIBO installed a 1,500 watt transmitter and built studios at Broadway and Rosemont.  The station was now heard across the city.  Nelson provided programs directed at the Swedish and German communities; some of the first ethnic and foreign language broadcasts in the city.

 By early 1927 WIBO had shifted to 720 kHz;  trying to share time with WCRW and Radiophone’s WHT.  In the Fall they were heard on 980 kHz; switching places with WGN who would still be heard on 720 over 80 years later.  The Radio Act of 1927 would attempt to sort out the dial hopping mess.  With over 40 Chicago stations the new FRC would have a difficult time finding a place for everyone.  Several of the smallest stations would be phased out and their licenses deleted.  Others, including WIBO, would be required to share a frequency with other area broadcasters.  With Order 40 on November 11th, the station was assigned to 1480kHz at the far end of the dial.  Even worse, they would have the share that channel with Zenith’s WJAZ, WHT and WORD, a religious station owned by the People’s Pulpit (Jehovah’s Witnesses). 

The 1480 arrangement didn't last long and by the end of 1928 WIBO shifted to 570 kHz, the former KYW frequency, lowered power to back 1,500 watts (still plenty to cover Chicago) and shared time with WPCC, the 500-watt station of the North Shore Congregational Church that operated mostly on Sundays.  The station constructed a transmitter site at Greenwood and Dempster Roads in northwest suburban Des Plaines.  In late 1929, the FRC shifted both WIBO and WPCC to 560 kHz.

With its new position at the top of the dial, WIBO would prosper.  It filled its broadcast day with a variety of shows produced in its studios, nationally syndicated shows via transcription and live remotes from area venues.   It also carried programs from the NBC “Blue” Network and was listed as the Chicago affiliate of the American Broadcasting System.  One day in 1927 a young husband and wife vaudeville team took to the airwaves as part of a dare.  Jim and Marion Jordan soon became regulars and would use that experience to go on to WENR and the NBC network as Fibber McGee & Molly.  The station, like many others, also carried play-by-play of the nearby Chicago Cubs with Jimmy Corcoran and Bob Hawk.

A young woman stands in front of the huge television "camera" next to a WIBO microphone.
Jim and Marion Jordan took a dare to perform on WIBO...this led to one of radio's most endearing radio couples...Fibber McGee and Molly.
The real innovative side of WIBO was one that wasn’t heard, but seen.  In 1928, Ulises Sanabria, a young Chicago engineer, along with an engineer at the Federation Of Labor’s WCFL, began an experiment of sending pictures over the air…early television.  In 1926, Sanabria had successfully demonstrated an electrical scan system of sending pictures over the air and formed a company to perfect his work.

On June 12, 1928, Chicago’s first television signals were broadcast…the video via WCFL and the audio on WIBO.  In 1929, Sanabria built TV studios at 6312 N. Broadway and began experimenting with W9XAO, a high-frequency station that sent out a video signal from atop WIBO’s studios and the audio heard by tuning in WIBO’s main audio signal.  The studio featured a camera that took up an entire wall.  Talent sat, under very hot lights, in front of the wall and performed. These transmissions would be seen all over the country.  Other stations would establish similar TV experiments, including WMAQ.  Sanabria would publicize his work by placing a television receiver in a store window or at special events that quickly attracted a crowd.

Sanabria would go on to form the Western Television Company and introduce the “Visonette”, the first commercial television set, and would upgrade the model over the next few years.  In 1933, Sanabria gave television demonstrations at the city’s Century of Progress giving millions their first exposure to what would one day replace radio as the dominant entertainment source in the American home.

While WIBO survived the re-licensing as part of Order 40 in 1928, it soon came under FRC scrutiny as the commission continued to re-organize the radio dial.  A main mission of the new Federal Radio Commission was to reduce interference and promote radio service in areas they felt were under-served.  In 1931 Ralph Atlass, owner of WJKS that was licensed to Gary, Indiana requested to take over WIBO's powerful 560kHz frequency.  Atlass would cite Gary and Indiana qualified as being an under served area and justification for his station gaining full time status on the channel.  The FRC would agree, proposing to allow WJKS to move and revoke the licenses of WIBO and WPCC.  Both stations would appeal the ruling that led to a legal battle that worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.  On May 15, 1933 the highest court in the land ruled in favor of the FRC…WIBO and WPCC lost their licenses and WJKS was granted full-time use of 560.  The station, along with Sanabria’s video work came to a halt and WJKS took over the channel renaming itself WIND…W-Indiana.

The radio dream of Alvin Nelson came to an end.  Atlass would buy WIBO's Des Plaines transmitter site and move his newly acquired WJJD to the site.  The Nelson Brothers name would live on via the Chicago airwaves as the owners of a highly popular and heavily advertised Uptown furniture store.  In the 60’s, everyone knew “Nelson Brothers Loves Me”…but unfortunately that wasn’t the case with the Supreme Court in 1933.

The Western Television "Visonette" from the early 30's...this electrical scan set picked up the audio from WIBO
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WMBB - Chicago



1200kHz, 1190kHz

Trianon Ballroom (Woodlawn Theater)

The elegant, large dance floor of the Trianon,
The 20's is remembered as the Jazz Age...referring to a generation of young people who coming into their own in a world very different than their parents.  Many were the children of immigrants who desired to be “Americans” and embraced the many new technical and cultural innovations of the times.  Jazz music would be one of those innovations, radio another.

Jass music originated in the late 19th century as a mix of southern blues and evolved in the clubs of New Orleans; working its way up to Chicago along the riverboats and railroads.  It's syncopated rhythms  created a unique sound that became a dance sensation but also controversy.  Black musicians, who were originators of the music, were restricted to clubs in their own neighborhoods or the few black and tan clubs.  While their music was popular, they were not.  Music promoters and dance hall and club owners sought white-only bands that could play the black man's music.

Two brothers, William and Andrew Karzas had a concept…creating an elegant ballroom where young people could mingle and dance to “safe” (translation: White-only) bands.  In 1922, they raised the vast sum of $1,000,000 and opened the Trianon Ballroom at 62nd and Cottage Grove on Chicago’s bustling south side.  The ballroom exuded opulence…with matrons walking the floor to ensure dancers didn’t get too carried away, and with a steady stream of the most popular dance bands around.  It was a formula that would be golden for the Karzas.

The rise of radio remote broadcast brought the sounds of the ballroom into homes across the city, Midwest and the nation.  Every night thousands were tuning in to radio broadcasts from the Edgewater Beach, the Rainbo Gardens, the Chez Paree, the Marigold Gardens and the Paradise Ballroom.  Promoters and ballroom owners saw the value of building and owning their own stations that would ensure they’d have a place on the ever-crowding airwaves.

Even the poorest kids could pretend they lived the good life at the Trianon strolling this lavish staircase
Bandleader and Broadcaster Ted FioRito - a favorite at the Trianon
The Trianon first took to the airwaves via Charles Erbstein’s WTAS in 1923; running telephones lines 50 miles to the station's studios at Villa Olivia.  The flamboyant Erbstein was a big fan of jazz and that ran in contrast to the Karzas’ standards of “safe” music, but the arrangement had worked well for both.  By 1926 Erbstein had sold WTAS to the Chicago Tribune and broadcasts from the Trianon would be heard on WGN but it had to compete for airtime with other locations that were heard on the station.   The Karzas needed a new broadcast outlet/partner.  In association with the people who financed the Trianon, the American Mortgage and Brokerage company. the Karzas would go into the broadcasting business when their station, WMBB…the World’s Most Beautiful Ballroom, began operating with 500-watts on 1200 kHz in Spring, 1925.

For the next two years, listeners could tune in nightly to the Trianon broadcasts on WMBB that shared time with WGES, who had begun broadcasting from Guyon’s Paradise Ballroom (a competitor of the Trianon) on the city’s west side.  In late 1926, the station joined forces with WOK…a station owned by the Neutrowound Manufacturing Company of Homewood…moving to 1190 and sharing WOK’s powerful 5,000 watt transmitter.  With this power boost, the Trianon was now heard across the country like the other Chicago ballrooms.  In 1927, the Karzas added to their ballroom empire, opening a North side companion hall to the Trianon, the Aragon, in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. Remotes from both ballrooms would be a major feature of WGN. It’s not known if any Aragon shows were ever relayed broadcasts via WMBB.

The high-powered signal would be short-lived as both WMBB and WOK were deemed not serving in the public interest when the dial was re-organized on November 11, 1928 and their licenses deleted.  Both WMBB and WOK would pass from the radio scene, yet Trianon broadcasts would continue on local stations and network hook-ups for the next 20 years.  American Brokerage and Mortgage would hit hard times in the depression; going bankrupt.

The new rules of the Radio Act of 1927 would end the era where ballrooms and promoters owned their own radio stations.  The rise of network radio would supersede the local stations in importance to promoters.   The Trianon would continue to prosper during the Swing Era of the 30s with regular broadcasts over national hook-ups or via WGN's 50,000 watts.  Change would come following World War II when the area around the ballroom would became part of the city’s expanding black belt and whites would move to other neighborhoods.  Big Band music would also lose its luster and a new generation had other ideas about music and dancing.  In its final years, the ballroom hosted Rhythm and Blues shows until it was closed on February 7, 1964.

Del Lampe and his orchestra performing for the wireless audience from the Trianon bandstand
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WHT - Chicago



1260kHz, 720kHz, 750kHz, 980kHz, 1480kHz

Radiophone Broadcasting Company

If 1920’s Chicago had a face, it would be that of its flamboyant Mayor William Hale Thompson…better known as “Big Bill”.   His political rise began as an Alderman at the turn of the century making a name for himself as a reformer.  In 1915 he was elected mayor and re-elected in 1919.  The man was larger in life in many ways…size-wise and in ambition.

William Hale "Big Bill" Thompson...founded WHT and named it after himself.
Thompson claimed to be a populist; defeating a splintered Democratic party and soon amassed a powerful political machine of his own.  He was a strong opponent of the U.S. entry into World War I, a very vocal supporter of Germany (earning him the nickname “Kaiser Bill”) and igniting a long-running battle with the King Of England.

Ever the promoter, Thompson was fascinated with the wireless and it’s ability to attract people...a captive audience and a politicians dream.  Shortly after KYW became the city’s first commercial radio station in November, 1921, Thompson had the city apply for its own license, WBU, that operated for a short time in 1922.  Thompson officiated over the station’s inaugural broadcast and would be heard regularly on radio for years thereafter.

While being elected as a reformer, Thompson turned to the business community to feed his machine and looked the other way to the rising crime that soon would give Chicago an international reputation it still can’t shake.  Thompson had bigger ambitions than just being Mayor of Chicago, he wanted to be President.  To fund his political war chest, he would shake shake down city drivers and inspectors for $3 a month…the modern age of machine politics had begun.

The Thompson machine hit a bump in 1923 when his popularity had waned in the aftermath of the Race Riots of 1919 and he chose not to run for re-election.  William Dever, Thompson's political nemesis won.  Thompson was out of City Hall, but he wasn’t out of the limelight.  He now claimed he was off on a “scientific mission” to the South Sea’s (he never got beyond New Orleans), Big Bill was planning his political comeback, and radio would play a role.

In Spring, 1925, Thompson, along with business partners, Carter Blatchford and Matthew Bliesius created WHT Radio…named after Thompson.   A studio complex, including a large theater organ were built in Wrigley Building and the new station signed on 1260 kHz with 1,500 watts…plenty to be heard at that time.  Once again, like WBU,  Thompson would host the station’s opening as well as featuring an invocation from Paul Rader, the famed preacher of the Chicago Tabernacle. Thompson asked him to provide 14 hours of programming on Sunday for the new station.  Rader gladly took on the challenge, hooking up telephone lines to his North Clark Street church where his Sunday services and sermons were broadcast via WHT.  In 1926, Rader would get his own station…WJBT that would outlast WHT and form a partnership with WBBM, enabling Rader’s programs to be heard in Chicago for the next decade.  
Big Bill voting early and often...a Chicago tradition.
The new Wrigley building, built by Thompson's friend and partner, William Wrigley. WHT built studios, including a theater organ. Later the facilities would be used by WBBM and WIND.
Music was an important part of the new station; featuring organ concerts from the Wrigley Building.  Program Director, Pat Barnes, became a radio favorite with his “Pick-Ups”…short poems and essays.  Thompson appeared regularly, still hoping to become not only a local political power, but a national one as well…he built WHT to reach far and wide.

By 1927, William Dever had fallen out of favor.  His aggressive enforcement of prohibition as well as the hated “Sunday Law” that restricted hours of clubs and restaurants led to his fall from grace. Thompson played the populist card again; appealing to labor while taking money from both big business and Al Capone’s syndicate.  He won re-election, signaling the start of one of Chicago’s wildest and most violent periods.

In 1928, Thompson’s political allies won victories in what was known as the “Pineapple Primary” due to the bombing of opponent’s offices.  A year later, the nation was shocked with the St. Valentine’s Day massacre.  Chicago’s image of a lawless town was international and Thompson would end up sparing with the King of England; threatening to punch him in the nose.

Thompson’s return to power would be beneficial for WHT Radio as well.  In 1926, it began operating from a state-of-the-art 3,500-watt transmitter located on Waukegan and Telegraph Roads in north suburban Bannockburn.  A year later, as the radio dial got noisier, the output was increased to 5,000 watts.  The frequency was shifted to 720 kHz, but the station had to share time with WCRW and WIBO.

In Fall, 1927, WHT and WIBO would trade frequencies with the Chicago Tribune’s WGN and WLIB…moving to 980 kHz.  Thompson’s station would survive the dial re-organization of Order 40 in November, 1928, but was forced move to the far end of the dial, 1480 kHz, and share time with Zenith’s WJAZ, WIBO and WORD, a station owned by the People’s Pulpit Association.  WIBO soon moved to 570 kHz and later up to 560; WHT tried to make do on their new assignment.

The rise in crime along with the first waves of the Depression began to take a toll on both Thompson and WHT Radio.  In early 1929, the radio station was sold to a Chicago advertising executive…the restrictive time and poor dial position had drastically reduced WHT’s hours and audience.  Over the years Thompson had made enemies with the Chicago papers; especially the Tribune who owned WGN/WLIB and the Daily News and their WMAQ.  By Spring, 1929, WHT had become WSOA featuring syndicated programs.  A year later the station was sold to the People's Pulpit Association; owners of WORD.  The Jehovah Witness station would re-brand itself as WCHI before going silent in 1932.

The battle between Thompson and the Tribune raged in 1930 when Thompson tried to defeat Ruth Hannah McCormick’s Senate bid.  McCormick was the aunt of Chicago Tribune publisher, Colonel Robert McCormick…who used both his paper and WGN Radio to attack Thompson…a fight would carry over to the 1931 Mayoral election.  Despite running a spirited, and racist, campaign, Thompson was soundly beaten by Anton Cermak.  Big Bill would try to run again in 1939, but his days of being the boss were over.  Thompson died in 1944, leaving behind a larger-than-life legacy as well as a strong box filled with $1.5 million in cash.  The last legacy was the WHT Tower in Deerfield that became a local landmark for years after the station went off the air.

Evangelist Paul Rader...he officiated over the opening of WBU in 1922 and WHT in 1925. He also provided Sunday programming on WHT, later getting his own station: WJBT.
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WLTS - Chicago



1160kHz, 620kHz

Lane Technical High School

At start of the 20th Century Chicago schools and educators were at the forefront of  transforming public education.  The city's public school system made education available to all, including the many children of immigrants; many who were barely literate.  Carl Schurz would develop the modern High School; focusing on both higher education and vocational training.  Lane Technical Institute was established in 1908 to fill the growing demand for trained labor in the city’s expanding industries.

Other schools would open, including the Albert Grannis Lane Manual Training High School at Division and Sedgewick in September, 1908.  This school would excel in training students in the new electronics field.  In 1923 a group of Lane students started a radio station as a private project.  They applied for an FCC license on June 25, 1925 to operate their station, WLTS, with 100 watts on 1160 kHz.

Chicago's original Lane Technical High School at Division and Sedgewick Streets - home of WLTS.
While broadcasting station had long existed at Universities (WRM, now WILL, at the University of Illinois began operating in 1919) but WLTS would hold the distinction of being one of the few radio stations owned by a high school (WEHS in Evanston being the other).  WLTS was licensed to share the channel with WDGY and then WPCC, the station transmitting, primarily on Sunday, from the North Shore Congregational Church.  The frequency would get a bit more crowded in 1926 when WHFC, then transmitting from the Hotel Flanders in the Lakeview area began operating.  By January, 1927, WLTS had shifted to 620 kHz and moved in with the new Chicago Federation of Labor station, WCFL.

When the station’s license was reviewed in January, 1928 as part of the Radio Act of 1927, the FRC determined the station wasn’t operating in the public interest and recommended the station’s license be deleted.  Lane Tech and the Chicago Board of Education would try a couple times to have the station’s license reinstated, but the cost of legal representation halted those efforts. WLTS’s license was revoked on June 25, 1928.

WLTS faced the plight of many other educational stations of the era.  Many colleges took to the airwaves during this time…many evolving from radio clubs on homemade transmitters.  The easy ability to gain a license helped these stations find their way onto the dial, but soon they faced overcrowding and pressures from commercial broadcasters who coveted their frequencies and air time.  The Radio Act of 1927 would be a disaster for many of these small stations who could neither afford the legal costs or afford the higher operating expenses that came with meeting the new FRC technical standards.  Only the largest educational stations would survive.

The FRC’s successor, the FCC, would address the need for educational radio in 1941 and then again in 1945 when it set aside a portion of the new FM band for non-commercial use.  The Chicago Board of Education would be one of the first to return to the airwaves; launching WBEZ on 42.5 MHz on April 15, 1943.

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WOK - Homewood, IL & Chicago



1380kHz, 731.1kHz, 1190kHz

Advanced Automobile Accessories Company

When commercial broadcasting was authorized in 1920 it faced a big problem.  How would it be commercial?  The first stations were promotional outlets for the electrical company or newspaper or hotel that operated it.  Radio manufacturers sprang up to fill the growing demand for sets and parts and used their own stations to promote their brands.  In 1922 Chicago Radio Laboratories' (later Zenith) WJAZ promoted its parts in its elaborate Crystal Studio.  All-American Radio signed on WENR from their factory.  The radio's biggest selling point in its early days was selling radios.

In 1916 the Myle Mayker Company opened its doors in south suburban Homewood.  The company, owned by Harvey Cory and James Ferguson, focused on making machinery parts.  They would on automobiles becoming the Duplex Shock Absorber Company in 1919 and then the Neutrowound Radio Manufacturing Company in 1925.   This new company specialized in low-end “breadboard” radios and saw that the best way to advertise their product was to own their own radio station.  In April, 1925 they purchased WCBZ from the Coppotelli Brothers and moved the station from Chicago Heights to their factory at Western & 183rd Street.  The frequency was shifted to the unusual setting of 731kHz (that must have created a loud whine on many radios when the signal interacted with others) with the WCBZ 100-watt transmitter.  The new station would take the call-letters WOK.

On July 20, 1925 WOK would be heard on 1380kHz with 500-watts and the station was powered entirely by batteries.  Shortly after that, on September 2nd a 5,000 watt transmitter would begin operations giving WOK a powerful voice around Chicago by day and the country at night.

The majority of WOK's programming were remotes from Chicago area hotels and clubs.  Studios were built in the Morrison Hotel at 79 West Madison.  Shortly after signing on, the station would share its frequency with WMBB, the new station set up at the Trianon Ballroom on Chicago's South side.  The two stations would remain linked for the rest of their radio lives.  WOK also would share the frequency with WFKB, a 100 watt station operating in the Woodlawn area and owned by Francis Bridgeman.

Tragedy would hit the station on July 10, 1926 when engineer Lester Wolf was electrocuted while trying to repair the station's powerful transmitter.  He's buried in the Homewood Memorial Gardens and his tombstone has the inscription: “A martyr to radio who gave his life in the service at radio station WOK”.

Tuning in WOK and the world with a 6-tube Neturowound wireless receiver
In late 1926, to get a better dial position (and with virtually no government regulation to stop them), WOK, along with WMBB moved to 1190 kHz, WMBB would now send their programming through WOK’s transmitter.   At this time  Neutrowound began to have financial troubles and the Triannon took over ownership of WOK.  The Neutrowound Company would be dissolved in 1930.  The two stations would now be consolidated.

The passing of the Federal Radio Act of 1927 would give the new Federal Radio Commission the authority to regulate the crowded airwaves and determined the both WOK and WMBB didn’t meet their public interest standards.  The stations would spend the next several years suing for a new license claiming challenging the validity of the FRC and claiming “air rights” that could only be taken from them with some form of compensation.  They would lose the case and both WOK and WMBB were ordered off the air in May, 1928.  WOK-WMBB continued to operate while their status was being litigated with reports that upwards of 20,000 watts were used from the Homewood transmitter site that surely created havoc with radio listeners for miles around.  By mid 1929 the station would remain silent and the Trianon attempts to keep the station alive would come to an end when its appeals ran out in 1931.

While the company was no longer in business and the station long since silenced, the WOK transmitter site in Homewood would remain standing until it burned in 1973.  The Trianon would remain one of the south side's top dance venues until it was closed in 1954.  Radio would return to the Homewood area when WHFH began transmitting from Homewood-Flossmoor High School in 1965.

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WOCG - Sycamore, IL




Triple Alliance Radio Station

In the summer of 1925 Frank McDonald rolled his portable station, WIBL, into far western Sycamore, the county seat of De Kalb County.  The town was the home of several amateur radio operators; several who would try their hands at commercial broadcasting.  Parishioners at St. John's Lutheran Church were also constructing their own station.  Money was raised and church member Paul Nehring and several church board members would construct the station which was granted the call-letters WOCG or “Watch Our Church Grow”.

The 10 watt station operated briefly on 1460 kHz and was managed by Raymond sellers.  The featured speaker was the church's pastor, Reverend Erdmann William Frenk.  Unfortunately this venture would run into financial difficulties that led to Sellers and Paul Nehring Jr. deciding to more the station out of the church.  They formed a company called Triple Alliance Radio Corporation that operated the station and also sold radio parts.  New studios were built across of the De Kalb County Courthouse on Main Street.  The FRC would officially license the station on August 12. 1925 . Neither Sellers or Nehring were licensed broadcast engineers and this would result in the station having its license revoked on December 8th.  It's reported WOCG did one final broadcast on Christmas eve...an illegal broadcast as the station no longer had a license.  The Triple Alliance Company would be dissolved in March, 1926.

Radio would return to De Kalb County when WLBK began operations in December, 1947 and to Sycamore when WSQR signed on in June, 1981.

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WJBN - Sycamore, IL




St. John Lutheran Evangelical Church

St. John's Lutheran Church had first taken to the airwaves when WOCG began operating in August, 1925.  The station was established by Calvin Sellers who would have a falling out with the church shortly after broadcasting began and moved the station out of the church.  Another congregant and amateur radio operator, Albert Waldo would offer to build a new transmitter to connect to the antenna that was already on the church's roof.  A license for WJBN was granted on October 12, 1925.  The new Sycamore station used the 1170kHz frequency that portable station WIBL had used earlier in the year for their demonstration at St. Albans church with an output power of 10 watts.

The main mission of WJBN would be to broadcast St. John's services with the poplar Pastor Frenk to shut ins.  Financial problems that plagued WOCG and led to the station's move would also lead to the demise of WJBN as broadcasts would be discontinued and the license was canceled in January, 1926.

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WPCC - Chicago



1160kHz, 1340kHz, 570kHz, 560kHz

North Shore Congregational Church

J. C. O'Hair - the spiritual leader of the North Shore Congregational Church as well as WDBY and WPCC Radio.
The 20s were a decade of exciting changes and transformations.  The rise of the car, motion pictures, recorded music and, of course, radio brought Jazz and Swing music into the national limelight.  While wildly popular with young people, the race and racy nature of the music was a major concern for the paragons of society; just as rock ‘n roll would undergo a similar scrutiny in the 50s and 60s.  There were “souls” being lost to the music and lifestyle, and thus radio would be the place to save them.  Or at least so thought Reverend J. C. O’Hair, pastor of the North Shore Congregational Church.

Radio's ability to deliver a message to many people over a wide area was a magnet to many preachers who would use this new medium to expand their own ministries.  In Chicago, Paul Rader of the Chicago Tabernacle and Glenn Wilbur Voliva of the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church in Zion had already taken to the airwaves and other churches and congregations were heard on commercial stations.  In 1924, O’Hair installed a transmitter in his church at the corner of Wilson and Sheridan Road in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.  The station was assigned WDBY, which congregants joked stood for “We Delight Bothering You”.  O’Hair would take to the airwaves on Sunday to preach salvation to those who were being tempted by the evils of modern life…including Jazz music.  O’Hair brought in his own musicians and invited listeners to grab their hymnals and join in.  He also was critical of other faiths and that would attract controversy.

In late 1925 O’Hair was granted new call letters for his station, WPCC…”We Preach Christ Crucified” and began broadcasting on Sundays and evenings on 1160 kHz using the former WDBY’s 500-watt transmitter.  This station shared the frequency with WLTS…a student operated station based at Lane Technical Institute.  By Fall, 1926 the 1160 frequency had become a little busier when WHFC, the Hotel Flanders station, broadcasting from Halsted near Montrose moved to the channel.  By the end of the year, WPCC would jump to 1340 kHz in a time share with Clinton White’s WCRW that was broadcasting from the nearby Embassy Hotel at Diversey and Sheridan Road and WFKB, Francis Bridgeman’s station broadcasting from the Woodlawn neighborhood on the city’s south side.

The passing of the Radio Act of 1927 would bring into question religious broadcasting ability to serve the public interest.  This was a tricky matter as along with the growth of radio preachers were some of questionable operators; faith healers who spread a little religion between their medical cures.  Also stations like WPCC operated only part-time and had difficulty justifying the expense of upgrading hours and facilities.

J. C. O'Hair On The Air...open your hymnal and join in.
The North Shore Congregational Church at Wilson & Sheridan in Uptown - WPCC's base of operations
The Uptown Baptist Church still preaching to the Uptown area in 2008
O’Hair encouraged his listeners to bombard the new Federal Radio Commission with letters, which they did…the station would be re-licensed and on November 11, 1928 was paired on 570 kHz with nearby WIBO, owned by Arne Nelson with studios at Broadway near Devon.  O’Hair would broadcast on Sundays only while WIBO played the heathen Jazz and promoted nearby Uptown nightlife during the week.  In Fall, 1930, WPCC and WIBO moved to 560 kHz.

While WPCC survived the 1928 broadcasting shake-out, it would soon find its existence challenged again.  In 1930 WJKS in Gary, Indiana applied for full time use of the 560 frequency.  The challenge was based on the lack of a full time radio station serving the Indiana and more specifically the Gary region…by then the second most populated area in the state.  The Federal Radio Commission would rule in favor of WJKS in 1931 but WIBO and WPCC took the matter to court.  On May 8, 1933, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the FRC’s ruling and authority, giving the 560 kHz frequency to WJKS (operated by Frank Atlass) and forcing WIBO and WPCC to go silent.

O’Hair would continue to preach over the airwaves…broadcasting via WSBC, WCBD and WLS until the mid 50’s.  He would retire from his Congregation in 1972.  Today the North Shore Congregation Church is the Uptown Baptist Church…still trying to save souls, but this time with the many immigrants and low income families that moved into the Uptown area.  The church where WPCC transmitted from still stands with its “Jesus Saves” sign (probably located the WPCC hammock antenna once stood) is an area landmark.

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WJBT - Chicago



1260kHz, 640kHz, 770kHz

John S. Boyd (Chicago Tabernacle)

Paul Rader - popular religious leader whose voice was heard on various Chicago stations, including WJBT, in the 20s and early 30s. He went on to establish International Broadcast station HCJB in Quito, Equador that is still spreading the word worldwide today
Evangelist Paul Rader was no stranger to radio.  At the request of Chicago Mayor William Hale Thompson he spoke at the opening of the City of Chicago’s short-lived WBU in 1922.  When Thompson put WHT on the air in 1925, Rader was again invited to participate, this time filling 14 hours of programming on Sunday…a challenge Rader took on with a flourish.  Rader had risen to fame in evangelical circles with his association with the Moody Bible Institute and as a popular speaker around the country.  He formed his own congregation, the Chicago Tabernacle, in 1922 that he would lead for the next 11 years.

With the lift of the license freeze in July, 1926, Rader would decide to separate his programming from that of WHT and was issued his own license for WJBT which he would say stood for “Where Jesus Blesses Thousands”.  While he controlled the station Rader never controlled the license. While the station had a small transmitter and antenna installed at the Chicago Tabernacle much of WJBT's airtime was leased from other stations.  At first he would take over the WHT transmitter and frequency for his Sunday programs.  The partnership with Thompson's station would end when WHT had to change frequencies and hours that limited his Sunday air time.  Rader and John Boyd, who controlled the license, would briefly transmit from their own transmitter on 640kHz. Then in late 1926 a new partnership was formed with WBBM; the station owned by Leslie Atlass and Stewart-Warner Battery company.  WBBM had moved into the Wrigley building where some of WJBT's programming originated.  WJBT would be heard on WBBM’s 770 kHz frequency every Sunday, just as it had on WHT, originating from the Chicago Tabernacle on Clark & Berry Streets on Chicago’s north side.

With the implementation of the Radio Act of 1927, WJBT’s time-share with WBBM was allowed to continue with Sunday broadcasts.  Rader, like J. C. O’Hair saw radio as a means to save souls and to present an alternative to the fast-paced dance and jazz music that was dominating the airwaves.

Listeners would hear good old fashioned preaching and hymnals…a format that would draw a wide audience across the Midwest and the nation on WBBM’s strong 10,000 watt transmitter.

Rader’s popularity continued to grow.  He was invited to do a program on the new CBS radio network, but soon saw his mission to bigger and better callings.  In the early 30’s, the FRC was continuing to clean up the clutter of stations and call-letters.  While WJBT offered programming separate from WBBM, it was just like a remote broadcast, not as a separate station, thus the Commission ordered the dropping of dual call-letters and WJBT would fade from the air in Fall, 1931.  Rader would move on from the Chicago Tabernacle in 1933 and establish the world’s first international religious station, HCJB in Quito, Ecuador in 1937.

The Chicago Tabernacle - WJBT's radio home. It's not certain those towers on the church existed as the station never owned a transmitter; leasing time from WHT and WBBM
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WKBA - Chicago




Arrow Battery Company (Joseph Silverstein)

This license was issued to the Arrow Battery Company, owned by Joseph Silverstein who also operated WSBC from Wabash and Roosevelt Roads on Chicago’s near south side.  This station appeared to work in tandem with WSBC, operating on WSBC’s old 1430 kHz frequency with 200 watts (WSBC had moved to 1040 kHz).  It may have been used to carry programming when WSBC was off the air.  The station would operate through the end of the year before going silent.
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WKDR - Kenosha, WI



700kHz, 930kHz, 610kHz

Edward A. Dato

Very little is known of this station.  It could have been a portable as it went on the air in August, 1926 on 700 kHz with only 10 watts of power.  The licensee, Edward Dato gave the Drake Hotel in Chicago as his address.  This station shuffled around the noisy dial during its brief life, supposedly transmitting from the southern Wisconsin city of Kenosha.  By late 1926, WKDR had shifted to 930 kHz, then off to 610 kHz in Spring, 1927, back to 930 kHz in the Summer and finally to 1210 kHz at the beginning of 1928.

With its low power, it appears WKDR either didn’t re-apply or the application for a new license from the Federal Radio Commission didn’t meet the public interest standards…it’s license and call-letters were deleted in March, 1928.

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WLBR - Belvidere, IL.



595kHz, 930kHz, 1400kHz

Alford Radio Company (W. A. Wallingford & George H. Allison)

While technically outside Chicago, the town of Belvidere that is 75 miles west of downtown Chicago had a fascinating radio history in the 20s.  In 1921 the Rheinhart family constructed the Apollo Theater that hosted movies, plays and organ recitals from local entertainers.  A year later the Belvidere Amusement Company, a subsidiary of the theater, applied for a radio license. Rheinhart contracted local radio operator and engineer, William Wallingford to built and operate the station that would have studios and antenna at the theater.  A license was issued in October, 1922 and programming on WOAG (Watch Our Audience Grow) began on November 17th.  The station was hear on 360 meters (833 kHz) with 20 watts.

A second Belvidere radio station would also appear in 1922.  This was WTAH that granted a license to the Ferro Manufacturing Company in September, 1922.  This station was owned by Carmen Ferro and operated from his home on Columbia Avenue.  Like other early stations, WTAH also operated on 360 meters. 

In May, 1923 the station was reassigned to 1270 kHz, WOAG would shift to 1340 kHz.  WTAH would broadcast for an hour on Tuesday and Fridays.  In early 1924 the station's owner would claim he was unable to compete with the Chicago stations and WTAH would vanish from existence in May.  In January WOAG would shift to 1100kHz and increase power to 100 watts.  Programming from the Apollo Theater would be heard late nights on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

The Apollo Theater in Belvidere - Home for WOAG and WLBR
In June WOAG would seek to move to the Central Park Gardens in Rockford and the station's programming became sporadic.  After one license extension, the Commerce Department would cancel the station's license on September 8th after it was determined the station was no longer on the air.   The move to Rockford would fall through and the radio equipment sat, unused, in the Apollo Theater.  In February, 1926 the Belivdere Amusement Company would again apply for a license...this time for a portable station using the WOAG equipment but the request was turned down.

Wallingford would remove the equipment from the theater.  He would form a company with George Allason called Alford Radio Company that manufactured radio kits.  A studio was built at the company's offices on Logan Avenue and on February 13, 1927 his new station, WLBR, would begin transmitting.   Just like WOAG, this station featured local musical talent.

Known as an electrical wizard, Wallingford had built several other radio stations.  He built the transmitter used by WPCC in Chicago and KFLV for the Swedish Evangelical Mission Church in Rockford that would later become WROK.  Wallingford offered free air time to local churches and preachers, but the most popular programs on WLBR would be the late night jazz shows.

When WLBR began operations Wallingford searched for any clear spot on the radio dial he could. This would include “nudging” the station off channel.  He tuned his 15-watt transmitter to 695 kHz.  By early, 1927 the station would re-locate at 890kHz.  In April the station received a temporary license to operate at 1400Khz then in late May had shifted to 1000kHz.  At the end of the month WLBR settled on the crowded 930Khz local frequency.

All the dial shuffling surely took its toll on the station as well as Wellingford's interest.  The station moved to the nearby Julien Hotel and then discontinued broadcasting in July.  On October 24th the station was sold to the Rockford Broadcasting Company however the WLBR equipment was never sent to the new owner.  The station never returned to the air and the license was officially deleted in November, 1928.

Belvidere would return to the airwaves when WKWL, now WXRX(FM) in February, 1971.

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WOBB - Chicago




Longacre Engineering & Construction Company

In Fall, 1926, the Commerce Commission and Herbert Hoover were prevented from regulating radio.  They had to issue licenses to whomever wanted one with no authority to assign frequencies or regulate power.  The radio dial became a mad scramble for the best dial position and hours. What followed was a game of musical chairs…stations moving to whatever channel they thought they’d best be heard on.  Most operators worked out time sharing arrangement with others to try to self-regulate and assure their station was heard.  It became very confusing and some operators chose to bend the rules to gain an advantage.  These stations would move their frequencies in between the assigned, recognized channels, such as Dr. John Brinkley’s famous KFKB in Milford, Kansas, that would shift to 695 kHz (Brinkley would do this same trick again in the 1930s when his first powerhouse station, XER would operate on 845 kHz).  Early transmitting equipment would regularly drift from their assigned frequencies and the whine of off-tuned transmitters heterodyning on each other was a common annoyance in those days.

One small Chicago station would avoid the broadcast band altogether.  WOBB would try to claim a spot at the very top of dial, 540 kHz, operating with a whopping 5 watts.  The license was assigned to Longacre Engineering and Construction Company and could have been operated as a portable station.

The station would only broadcast from October through December and probably still faced interference on that channel.  Operating on “split-frequencies” would greatly increase the noise at night as most stations calculated their operating frequency by indirect methods and many early radios had poor selectivity and rejection.  There's strong probability that most radios couldn't tune to 540kHz.  WOBB would be cited by proponents for a reason for Congress to grant the Commerce Department the authority to regulate the frequency, power and operating hours of radio stations.  That authority would be granted with the passage of the Radio Act of 1927.  WOBB would go silent by early, 1927.

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WPEP - Waukegan, IL



1410kHz. 1390kHz

Maurice Meyer

Radio arrived in Lake County in 1923 when Glenn Wilbur Voliva took his teaching into the ether with WCBD; transmitting from the Shiloh Temple in Zion.  Nearby Waukegan would be heard on the local airwaves when Maurice Meyer was issued a license and opened WPEP from the Madrid Ballroom on December 11, 1926.  Meyer, a city Policeman and Building Commissioner would own the station as well as play jazz and ragtime piano on the air.  He even met his wife while operating WPEP.

The new station was first heard on December 26, 1926 on 1410 kHz with 250 watts from a transmitter located at the Madrid Ballroom on North Street.  WPEP was heard nightly from 7:30pm until 10pm with music and news programs that was well received by local listeners.  While broadcasting a basketball game the transmitting equipment was destroyed in a fire.  Meyer would move the station to his home on Hazel Court near downtown.

In Spring,1927 WPEP would shift to 1390 kHz, sharing time with WHFC from the Hotel Flanders on Chicago’s North Side, WEHS out of Evanston, as well as two Joliet stations: WKBB and WCLS. The time share would get even more crowded in early 1928 with WKBI from Lincoln Avenue and Irving Park Road on Chicago’s north side.

WPEP didn’t fare well with the implementation of the Radio Act of 1927.  It apparently didn’t meet the public interest standard and wasn’t issued a new license.  In May, 1927 the station was ordered off the air and Meyer did his last broadcast on August 24th.  The station would fade from the airwaves when its license was deleted on September 28th.

Waukegan would be the home of WCBD in 1935 when it moved into the Karcher Hotel after the Shiloh studios burned down.  The city would get its own station when the Waukegan News-Sun started up WKRS in September, 1949.

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WJBZ - Chicago Heights, IL



1440kHz, 1430kHz

Roland G. Palmer & A. Coppotelli

The Coppotelli Brothers along with engineer Roland Palmer entered broadcasting when they opened WCBZ from their Music House in Spring, 1924.  The brothers ran their station where “The Lincoln and Dixie Highways Meet”, playing records from their store several nights a week.  The station's live music and personality made it a popular sound within the area.  A year later, WCBZ was sold to the Neutrowound Company.  The station would relocate up the Dixie Highway in Homewood and change its call-letters to WOK.

WJBZ - Transmitting from the Chicago Heights National Bank
The Coppotellis would return to radio in November, 1926, this time their station was called WJBZ operating with 100 watts on 1440 kHz from their music store at 11th and Halsted.  On January 7, 1927 the station moved to new studios in the Thomas Hotel.  WJBZ would be heard have to struggle for air time with WENR, the All-American Radio Company station that would be sold to Samuel Insull’s Commonwealth Edison (who would consolidate this station along with WBCN and move to 1040 kHz), WRAF transmitting from La Porte, Indiana and WNBA from west suburban Forest Park.  By early, 1928 the studios would move to the Chicago Heights National Bank.

Unlike its popular predecessor, WJBZ would offer mostly recorded music with few live musical shows.  Once again the station played up its location at the intersection of the Lincoln and Dixie Highways with the slogan “The Crossroads of the Nation.”  Despite it's elaborate set-up, listeners complained about the music selected and the station's make-shift hours also limited its possibilities to be successful.  When the new Federal Radio Commission gained the authority to regulate broadcasting, WJBZ wouldn't be re-licensed.  The station would go silent and the license canceled in November, 1928.

Roland Palmer would use his experience to either build or operate radio stations around the Chicago area and worked as a consulting engineer.  Anthony Coppotelli would continue in radio...sorta.  He opened up the Chicago Heights Radio Hospital and then moved to the Glenwood area where he operated Glenwood TV and Electronics in 1954.

Radio would return to Chicago Heights in the early 50’s when Anthony Santucci opens WCHI(FM)…an early FM venture that would go silent, but Santucci wouldn’t…getting an AM license in 1959 and setting up WCGO.

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WNBA - Forest Park, IL



1440kHz, 1200kHz, 1250kHz

Michael T. Rafferty

Beautiful gardens greeted visitors to Forest Park but the real fun were in the background...the roller coasters
Prohibition was a major contributor that made the “Roarin' 20s” roar.  The Volstead Act would have a big impact on Chicago and make it internationally renown.  One of the biggest businesses in the city was its breweries; many founded by German immigrants and enjoyed by all at the many taverns, roadhouses and tap houses in every neighborhood.  Instead of going dry, Chicago's thirst went underground.

The suburbs surrounding Chicago became a haven for the bootleggers, rumrunners and other colorful characters who took advantage of being outside the reach of Chicago Police to wet their whistles.  Speakeasies became the place to go not only for some hooch but also to place a bet and hear some of the best live music.  Those who ran these establishments became larger-than-life characters.  One such person was Michael “Mickey” Rafferty.

Forest Park, a small community just west of Chicago proper had become a popular destination for day-trippers.  Large cemeteries along the Des Plaines River drew a steady stream of visitors.  The city's elevated railways would reach the area at the turn of the century and many saw a trip to visit a departed one as a social event.  For many it was a rare day in the country; away from the congestion of the city.  Beer Gardens, Taverns and other amusements sprung up around the area to give these visitors a good time.

In Fall, 1905 local promoter E. A. Cummings bought land adjacent to the Des Plaines Avenue elevated station and opened the Forest City Amusement Park in 1907.  The park would fill 17 acres with rides and amusements as well as a bandstand and beer garden.  It must have been quite a place in its prime as those who visited compared it more favorably than Riverview and White City;  the other major Chicago area amusement parks of the time.

Forest City would enjoy prosperity but its life-span would be short.  A fire in 1918 would destroy many of the most popular attractions, but the Park continued to operate.  The onset of Prohibition would close down the beer gardens.  Another fire in 1922 sealed the park’s fate…closing its doors for good.  Today thousands ride through where the Forest City Amusement Park once stood…on their daily commute up and down the Eisenhower Expressway.

The Steeple Chase was one of several popular roller coasters
10 Cents could cool you down on a hot summer day at Forest Park
In July, 1925 Rafferty, a truly Runyanesque character, opened the Triangle Cafe near the park and the elevated lines at Des Plaines Avenue at Harrison Street.  It was billed as serving “soft drinks”, including the popular “near beers”, but that was the facade as one could order something a little stronger or bring in their own “ingredients”.  The backrooms were alive with people placing bets at the gambling tables or on horse races.  Rafferty kept the place rollin' and the local police and politicians well greased.  The Cafe had a “wire room” as well as secret tunnels where the booze was stored and made for a handy getaway if the place was raided.  Rafferty surely resembled the Henry Gondorf character in the 1974 movie “The Sting”.

In early 1927 Rafferty followed in the steps of night club owners such as Charles Erbstein and Butch Crowley and decided to build a radio station.  In January he was granted a license for WNBA. The station joined a very crowded dial on 1440 kHz with 200 watts from studios at the Triangle Cafe.  Programming included the popular amateur shows where performers would be yanked off the stage if the crowd thought it was warranted.  The station would have to share its frequency with WENR, then owned by the All-American Radio Company of E. N. Rauland…just prior to Samuel Insull’s Commonwealth Edison purchasing the station and consolidating it with WBCN on 1040 kHz, also WJBZ from the Coppotelli Music House in Chicago Heights and WRAF operating out of La Porte, Indiana.

Over the next few months the station would hop around to find a clear spot…to 1200 kHz in February, 1250 kHz in April until settling back on 1440 kHz by the end of May.  The station's poorly tuned equipment would be an irritant to local listeners and station operators as the transmitter was known to drift off its assigned frequency and the modulation splattered all over the place.

When the Federal Radio Commission issued new licenses in 1928, WNBA wouldn’t be included.  No doubt Rafferty's dubious character would have been an issue.  It appears WNBA would cease operating in late 1927 but it's license wouldn't be deleted until November, 1928.

The end of Prohibition would also see the end of the popularity of the Triangle Cafe.  The building would become a Moose lodge and would burn down in 1961.  Today Forest Park is a quiet town where people joke there are more residents below ground than above long removed from its days as a major amusement center.

The casino at Forest Park hosted many top bands of the 1900s and 1910s
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WSOA - Chicago & Deerfield, IL



1480kHz, 1490kHz

Radiophone Broadcasting Company

As the number of radio stations grew, so was a need for all types of programming.  Most early stations were built around music provided by ballrooms and hotels, employed their own musicians and filled time playing phonograph records. This worked well when stations operated just a few hours a day or week, but as stations grew bigger and expanded their broadcast hours and competition grew, a market developed for self contained programs to fill time.

A Transcription Disc - a 16-inch platter that played either for 15 minutes at 78RPM, 30 minutes at 33RPM or an hour at 16RPM
In 1924 the Brunswick Record company of Chicago was one of the first recording companies that saw radio as an important way to promote and sell its records.  It made its recordings readily available to stations as well as develop special programs and advertisements for radio play.  Most of these shows featured recognized talents that made these free programs attractive.  Soon many stations would play these programs to fill time.  Brunswick and others began to see how these hows could generate advertising revenue through subscription sales to stations as well as placing advertising within the program.

In 1927, at the prompting of promoter and salesman Ray Soat  Brunswick formed the National Radio Advertising Company.  Soat, an Omaha businessman, would package 15 minute radio programs that would be sold to advertisers, then placed on radio stations in either a barter (programming for free air time) or brokered at a low or bulk rate.  The company would grow quickly as the demand from both stations and advertisers would increase.  NARC pioneered in program syndication which would grow into a major part of broadcasting.  In 1928, Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden would use transcription discs and participating sponsorships to enable their characters Amos ‘n Andy to be heard on stations across the country.

Former Chicago Mayor William Hale Thompson and his political allies had established WHT Radio from Chicago's Wrigley Building in 1925.  The station gained popularity and a powerful 5,000 watt transmitter in north suburban Deerfield.  Thompson would use the station to win re-election in 1927 and soon lost interest in the station that bore his name.  In 1928, Order 40 assigned WHT to share the 1480 kHz frequency with Zenith’s WJAZ; also transmitting with 5,000 watts from Mount Prospect and WORD, owned by the Watchtower Society with studios in the Webster Hotel with their broadcasts originating from a 5,000 watt transmitter in west suburban Batavia.
As radio programming and competition grew, WHT relied more and more on sustaining and brokered programs and aired many NARC programs.  Soat would open a company office in the Wrigley Building and in early 1929 took control of the station, renaming it WSOA.

Soat’s ownership would be short-lived.  By 1930, the Federal Radio Commission began to focus on the concentration of radio signals; trying to bring local and regional service to areas that were under-served.  Cities like Chicago that had a large number of stations would lose stations at the expense of stations operating in areas that the FRC (and politicians) felt deserved their own local or regional radio service.  This standard would be used in the case of WJKS in Gary, Indiana when they applied to move to 560 kHz.  The FRC would rule that Indiana and the northwest section of that state was under-served which would force two existing Chicago stations: WIBO and WPCC off the air.  This standard would also be applied to the 1480 frequency WSOA was operating on. WCKY from Covington, Kentucky, a state that had no regional radio service, would apply for full-time use of that frequency.  At the time, the station participated in a long distance time share with the Chicago 1480 stations at night, and the FRC would rule in favor of granting the Kentucky station full time use of the channel at night.

To complicate matters further, in Fall, 1930 the FRC would then move all the stations to 1490kHz and squeeze the Chicago time shares even further by reducing their status to daytime only and removing the valuable evening prime time hours.  The reducing of hours would lead Soat to sell WSOA to the Watchtower Society: owners of WORD in October, 1930.  They would merge WSOA with their WORD under the new call-letters of WCHI and transmit from the former WHT/WSOA Deerfield transmitter. 

A transcription player (with recording head)...big and bulky but the mainstay of many radio stations during the 30s and 40s
In Summer 1932, WCKY gained clear channel status on the 1490 kHz frequency and WJAZ and WORD/WCHI would fade into history.  NARC would go on to work with Brunswick in producing and distributing transcription programs throughout the 30’s and into the 40’s.  WCKY would move to Cincinnati where its 50,000 watt signal booms into the Chicago area once the sun goes down.
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WCHI - Chicago & Deerfield, IL




Watchtower Society

The Watchtower Society; the media arm of the Jehovah Witnesses had built their Chicago station, WORD, on the Melhorn farm in west suburban Batavia in late 1924.  The station would upgrade to a powerful 5,000 watts and locate studios in the Webster Hotel in Chicago.  Throughout the 20’s, WORD would move around the dial; sharing time and surviving with a combination of religious shows along with brokered music and ethnic programs.

Due to Order 40 in November, 1928, WORD was assigned to a time share with Zenith’s WJAZ and WHT, later WSOA…all operating with 5,000 watt signals on 1480 kHz.  Shortly after the frequency change, WHT was sold to Raymond Soat and the National Radio Advertising Company.  All the 1480 stations would have difficulty trying to adjust to the very restrictive time share.  In October, 1930, he sold WSOA to WORD…who would then rename their consolidated station as WCHI.  Programming originated from the Webster Hotel. And used the former WHT/WSOA transmitter in Deerfield with the Batavia site as a back-up.

By 1932 the FRC would give WCKY in Covington, Kentucky full time authority on the channel, forcing WJAZ and WCHI to share the daytime hours and eliminating either Chicago station from operating in the prime time evening hours.  Zenith once again tried question the government’s ability to regulate the airwaves; a battle they won in 1926 but lost this time.  The stations would be forced to shut off by April, 1932.  WJAZ would leave the air followed shortly by WCHI.  The Watchtower Society would remain in broadcasting for another decade when they sold their New York station, WBBR.

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