The History of WMAQ Radio

Chapter 2

The city of Chicago presented an ideal servicing area for broadcasting, due to the compact downtown business section, as opposed to New York and other cities. Consequently, the Westinghouse Company sent their engineers to the Windy City in the fall of 1921, and a site for the proposed station in the Commonwealth Edison Building was agreed upon. Much of the equipment was shipped from Pittsburgh, and the Department of Commerce issued a license for operation of the new station using the call KYW on the 360 meter wavelength. That wavelength, incidentally, was common to all broadcasting stations in the United States at that time, and radio communication was under the Federal jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Navigation. It was not until almost a year later that a second wavelength, 420 meters, was allotted to radio broadcasting by the Department of Commerce.

KYW continued to operate through the Christmas season and well into the year 1922 before other parties became interested in the possibilities of also constructing and operating radio stations in the Chicago area. Throughout the winter there had been some agitation around City Hall and Federal Building for a city-owned radio station, and in February a “large" 100 watt ship transmitter was purchased by the City of Chicago. The equipment was overhauled and rebuilt, and put on the air with the call “WBU”. This station shared time with KYW, but the combined daily time of both stations seldom exceded two hours. WBU continued to operate for several years, but was finally abandoned as an expensive luxury of the City government.

Early in the spring of 1922 the Chicago Daily News decided to investigate the possibilities of radio broadcasting, mainly as a means of news dissemination. At about the same time the Fair Department Store, in downtown Chicago, also became interested in broadcasting as a means of advertising their various wares. Late in March the Fair Store and the Chicago Daily News reached an agreement whereby the Fair Store would construct a transmitter, and the completed station would be owned jointly by the two parties.

Accordingly, early in April the Fair Store and the Daily News drew up plans, applied for a Federal radio license and proceeded to buy and install the necessary equipment. Donald A. Weller was hired as the new station’s first, and only, engineer.

Introduction and main index to this site
WMAQ radio history | "Amos 'n' Andy" | "Fibber McGee and Mollie" | "The Breakfast Club"
Dick Kay | Television at the Merchandise Mart | 1970 television facilities tour | Channel 5 turns 20
The "Chicago School" of television | "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" | Dave Garroway | Mary Hartline
"Lights Out" | Sound effects | 1930 studio tour | WLS | "Empire Builders" | Barry Bernson
Floyd Kalber | The Queen of Love and Beauty | "Today's Children" | Staff announcers | Carol Marin
Ron Magers | Studs Terkel l "Chicago Tonight" | Channel 5 News scrapbooks |Roger Miller recalls
Zoo Parade | Clifton and Frayne Utley | Val Press | Len O'Connor | Johnny Erp | Bill Ray | Daddy-O
Experimental Television: 1930-1933 | Bob Deservi | Kermit Slobb | Ding Dong School | Quiz Kids
Bob Lemon | The Korshak Chronicles | KYW: The Chicago Years | WENR | O.B. Hanson | Renzo
Jack Eigen | Ed Grennan | The World's Best Cup of Coffee | Glenn Webster | Mr. Piano | Hawkins Falls
Chicago Television for Kids |
Radio Hall of Fame |The NBC News Night Report: 23 February, 1967
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