How Radio Station Came into Existence Just 25 Years Ago
By WILLIAM S. HEDGES
note: William S. Hedges, NBC vide-President in charge of planning and
development, started his career in radio as radio editor of the Chicago Daily
News. In that capacity, he was associated with the founding of Station WMAQ on
April 13, 1922 and later became president of the station. His recollections of
the station's early days---on the eve of its 25th anniversary--- follow.
In February 1922 I
was called into the office of Henry Justin Smith, managing editor of the Chicago
Daily News. He handed me a copy of the radio section of the New York Globe, a
paper which has long since gone out of existence. "What do you think of it?"
asked Smith. Being a little, cagey, I replied that I had no opinion. Do you think
we should establish such a radio section in the Daily News?" Seeing trouble
coming my way, I said no.
So I became radio editor of the Daily News, but within a few weeks I went to Walter
Strong; who was then business manager of the News and who was later publisher,
and propounded the question as to why we should devote so much space to someone
else's station and not try to get one of our own. He liked the idea and it was
decided that the new' station should become the joint venture of the Daily News
and The Fair department store.
photographs to radio...
|The Fair provided
space for the new station in what had been an old photographic studio of the department
store. The transmitter was located on the roof and consisted of a Hartley circuit
code transmitter, which had been converted for voice. It was terrible and could
not even be heard by Mr. Strong in Winnetka and its reproduction of music left
much to be desired. In the meantime Mr. Strong said, ''We'll need someone to put
programs on this station, and I know a bright girl who has had some experience
in the agency business. I think she would be ideal for the job," and so Judith
Waller was hired.
After our grand inaugural program, a magnificent show which few people could hear
or enjoy, new equipment was ordered and a modern 500-watt
(then the highest power used) transmitter was bought. The station was taken off
the air after a few days of operation, and reconstruction was started almost at
Hoover chooses WMAQ...
Daily News takes over...
|It was in October
that we were ready to come back on the air with our new station, and I so advised
Herbert Hoover, who was then secretary of commerce, that the station would return
to the air in October of 1922, and requested new call letters. Up to that time
the station had been known as WGU, but because of the fact that a station operated
by the commissioner of gas and electricity at the city hall had the call letters
WBU, we felt the similarity of sound between WGU and WBU was too great, and so
it was Herbert Hoover who picked out the call letters WMAQ. So although April
marks the 25th anniversary of WMAQ, the call letters were actually not heard till
several months later.
One block away from The Fair. department store, D. F. Kelly, then general manager
of Mandel Brothers department store, became a reluctant and bitter listener to
WMAQ. By some freak, every time he answered his telephone he could hear the programs
of WMAQ in the background. He complained bitterly, but we didn't know what to
do about it.
|About a year later
there was a change in the financial structure of The Fair. New management cane
in, and D. F. Kelly was the big boss. Taking advantage of Mr. Kelly's profound
dislike for WMAQ, I secured Walter Strong's permission to pay Kelly $13,000 for
The Fair's half interest in WMAQ. The station was then moved to the roof of the
LaSalle Hotel. These were the early beginnings of WMAQ.
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