Re: Photo: Rock Island Boxcar With A Load Of Radios

Bob Chaparro

Why Radio Was "Special" In The Early 20th Century

I've seen several photos of boxcars with banners proclaiming their load of radios. The reason was radio was something new and special in the early 20th Century.

In 1919, Frank Conrad, a Westinghouse engineer, began broadcasting music in Pittsburgh. These broadcasts stimulated the sales of crystal sets. The popularity of Conrad’s broadcasts led to Westinghouse establishing a radio station, KDKA, in 1920. In 1921, KDKA began broadcasting prizefights and major league baseball.

Westinghouse broadcast news and entertainment programs to entice people to purchase the radios they manufactured. And many manufacturers profited from selling an item that combined entertainment with furniture.

There were five licensed radio stations in 1921. By 1930 there were 618.

Annual sales of radios were $60 million in 1922. By 1929 they were $843 million.

Going from almost nothing in 1920, by 1934 sixty percent of the nation’s households had radios.

Bob Chaparro

Hemet, CA

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