De Forest marine transmitter, of questionable age, was acquired
and adapted for voice transmission. As a functioning piece of
equipment it left much to be desired---but it was the only kind
of radio equipment available and, as such, it served its purpose.
One tube, type unknown but of De Forest make, comprised the entire
tube complement. It was rated at 250 watts input, which probably
accounted for the optimistic accounts of 250 watts for the entire
transmitter. Actually only about 100 watts was fed to the antenna,
a quantity which could only be estimated. The single tube was
modulated by means of a transformer inserted into the grid circuit;
the primary being coupled to a small telephone transmitter mounted
on the end of an insulated handle. The insulation was necessary
because part of the transmitter was “hot” with radio frequency
energy, which fed back into the grid circuit.
antenna was a typical ship installation, mounted on the roof of
It was a four-wire flat top suspended between the top of the water
tank at the east end of the building and a brick chimney at the
west end of the building.
transmitter was installed on the fourth floor of the Fair
and the studio was located directly under it, on the floor below.
The station was assigned the call “WGU, and licensed to operate
on the common frequency of 360 meters (833 kilocycles). This measurement
could only be approximated, as the only frequency meters that
were then available consisted of a coil of wire, a condenser and
a thermo-millameter calibrated against the Federal Radio Inspector’s
trial program---actually the first broadcast---was put on the
air the afternoon of April 12th, from 4:30 to 5:45
p.m., and all the equipment was checked and tested for the grand
opening of WGU the following evening.
first formal broadcast was put on the air the night of April 13thm
1922. It consisted of a musical program lasting about thirty minutes,
from 7:00 to 7:30 p.m., and featured Sophie Braslau, Leon Sametini
and a few other Chicago
artists and musicians. The program was directed and announced
by Miss Judith
Waller, a name destined to be synonymous with the Daily News
station for many years to come.
hal always been a question as to whether anyone actually hears
that initial program from WGU. With the large building surrounding
the decidedly inefficient transmitter and antenna, it was a miracle
if the 360 meter signal ever crossed State Street. In fact, the program was not
only the first broadcast, but also the last broadcast using the
venerable De Forest transmitter. WGU was closed down the next
day, and negotiations were soon begun to acquire newer and finer
equipment, built especially for radio broadcasting. In spite of
difficulties, there were a few optimistic persons at the new station
who firmly believed in the possibilities of radio. Particularly,
they were Miss Judith Waller and the Radio Editor of the Daily
Hedges. And with their help, the idea of continuing the station
did not die down with the closing of WGU. The Daily News made
arrangements to broadcast news bulletins and feature programs
over the more successful KYW station, and an order was immediately
placed with the Western Electric Company for new equipment.
manufacturing processes were slow in 1922, due mainly to the increased
demand for radio equipment, and it was several months until a
new 500 watt transmitter was delivered to the station atop the
the meantime, other new stations came to Chicago. In May, 1922, a
station was opened in the Palmer House using the call “WAAF”.
Early in June, WDAP began operation in the Wrigley
and later in the same month Walter a Kuehl’s WQX went on the air.
Other stations had applied for licenses to go on the air that
fall, and the problem of allocating so many stations on two single
wavelengths became an impossible feat. Finally, the Department
of Commerce, under Secretary Herbert Hoover, reorganized the entire
broadcast band. New and separate channels were set aside for different
classes of stations, according to the operating power and according
to geographical location. The old 360 meter channel had at last
ceased to exist as a catch-as-catch-can boiling pot for all stations—and
this meant that a new frequency would have to be assigned to the
Fair-News station when it again went on the air.