in September the new Western Electric transmitter was shipped
and installed in the control room above the third floor studios
of the station. It was a type 1A 500 watt broadcast transmitter,
the first of its kind to be built by Western Electric. The speech
input equipment consisted of a single Western Electric type 8-A
amplifier, operated entirely from batteries. Inasmuch as no high
voltage battery supply in compact form was available, it was necessary
to use 350 volts from no. 6 dry cells---which made quite an impressive
array of batteries. The actual studio equipment consisted of one
Western Electric double-button carbon microphone, and the studio
itself was a room about 25 feet square and 14 feet in height.
The floor of the studio was carpeted and the walls were covered
with a treatment of light scrim; the ceiling was covered with
ozite, held in place by wooden strips.
Weller continued as the only operator, engineer, technician
and general maintenance man.
had always been some confusion between the two similar Chicago
calls, WGU and the city-owned WBU. So at the time a new station
license was applied for a change of call letters was also requested.
The result was a new Chicago call: “WMAQ”. The
500 watt transmitter was assigned to operate with a frequency
of 750 kilocycles on a clear channel, replacing their old allocation.
After a thorough testing, which included “listening tests”, the
new station was at last ready to return to the air.
a great flourish of publicity WMAQ went on the air again with
two special dedicatory broadcasts the evening of October 2nd,
1922. Two elaborate programs were directed by Miss Judith
Waller, and the new transmitter operated to perfection under
the guidance of engineer Weller. The first broadcast from 7:00
to 7:30 p.m. featured the comedian Ed Wynn. The second period
was from 9:30 to 10:00 p.m., and presented various local opera
stars and musicians. Fully publicized by the Daily News, the program
had a large listening audience, and the new station WMAQ was a
during the following months WMAQ maintained a regular daily schedule,
except Sundays, of two broadcast periods: 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. and
9:30 to 10:00 p.m. On December 6th a third period was
inaugurated in the afternoon from 4:30 to 5:00 p.m.
the late days of 1922 there were many and various artists and
entertainers heard over WMAQ, and the celebrity list was about
as interesting as could be imagined. A great many stage stars,
musicians and entertainers graciously consented to come up to
the top of the Fair Building
and talk or sing into the “little tin can”. It is possible that
much of the co-operative spirit was urged on by curiosity, but
a great many prominent and famous entertainers were heard from
the small one-room studio. Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians made their first broadcast over WMAQ
that winter. And a few of the other artists heard were George
Arliss, Rosa Raisa, Ben Hecht, Giacomo Rimini and Arthur Kraft.
Don Weller, in telling about these early days at WMAQ, said that
“most of the celebrities that performed over the air were badly
afflicted with mike fright. Strange as it may seem, the actors
and actresses were the most severely afflicted. I recall the complete
exhaustion of Fritz Lieber after several
Shakespearian readings, and I also recall that Maurice Guest was
completely overcome and relaxed for fully a half hour after his
had just completed “The Kid”, was not at all affected, however,
inasmuch as he was only about five years old at the time.”
November 28th WMAQ began the first of a regular series
of educational programs, presented by the University of Chicago. These programs continued almost
unbroken until the present day.
talent for most of the broadcasts was often recruited at the last
minute, the use of phonograph records became quite popular for
fill-in purposes. Pickups were made acoustically from the horn
of the phonograph, with the microphone often suspended far down
into the horn in order to pick up “low level” recordings.