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The Golden Age Of Radio Receivers |    October 1st, 2015 By Todd Nebel The Golden Age of Radio Receivers could be termed the period of time when radio manufacturers in the decade before World War II competed to produce the best radios the world had ever seen — before or since. Between 1930 and 1941, American manufacturers responded to a great demand and produced a superior product which still works effectively and still is in great demand at flea markets and antique stores throughout the country. The mostly wooden-framed radios from this period were made of quality workmanship and product and can to this day cost hundreds of dollars more than their original asking price (depending on their condition). These radios were entirely American in origin, parts and labor by American corporations who cared not only about profit but in the quality of each one of its products. In 1930, the majority of radio receivers were in the form of a console. However, as the depression worsened, people began buying less expensive radio sets. The industry then produced the classic sets we know as “cathedrals” or “depression” models which were more compact and less expensive table models for home use. By 1933, table models made up 74 per cent of all radios sold. Between 1935 and 1941 the radio audience zoomed to 28.5 million, or 81 per cent of American homes as compared to 67 per cent at the start of 1935. At the same time, a previously insignificant element, car radios, went from 9 per cent in 1935 to 27 per cent or 7.5 million automobiles, in 1941. By 1938, the United States owned half the world’s radio receivers and more American homes had radios than telephones, vacuum cleaners or electric irons. The American radio audience ran from top to bottom in the social and economic scale and included everything in between. It could be said,that the radio audience was the whole of the American people. At the outset of the 1930′s, RCA controlled the majority of radio’s vastly superior superhetradyne circuit up until the 1931 model year. However, it was at this turning point that RCA was required to divest following an antitrust litigation and subsequently General Electric and Westinghouse, former manufacturers for RCA, began to manufacture independently in 1935. The Philco Radio Company was one of the major radio producers during this “golden age.” It remained behind RCA as a seller of radios until 1940, when it sold an equal number of radio sets. Heavy promotion, pioneering battery-operated portable radios, automobile radios and a line of efficient battery operated radios destined for rural listeners all made Philco the growing giant of the period. Next in importance was the Zenith Corporation whose dynamic president Commander Eugene F. MacDonald promoted aggressive selling as well as concentration on the home radio market versus diversification. Here, as well, innovations brought success — large, round and easily read dials on radios starting in 1935, a simple radio antennae to improve reception and an inexpensive shortwave AM portable radio. Another new company, Emerson Radio was mainly responsible for introducing the small, inexpensive table radio in 1933. Emerson’s prices kept getting lower until, by 1939 Emerson was selling radios at under $10, naturally encouraging many families to own more than one set. Another aggressive firm, Motorola, moved into the automobile market and by 1941 was selling one-third of all car radios, and offered push button sets tailored for specific car instrument panels. The common thread of all these firms was their aggressive salesmanship and pricecutting rather than major technical development. Meanwhile RCA, onetime leader in the radio receiver field, was now losing out in other areas of the radio market as well. While remaining the largest maker of radio tubes in 1941, Sylvania and Raytheon were now moving in on RCA’s market share. And in the loudspeaker business, Magnavox was making great inroads as well. Most of RCA’s problems were due to declining market share from increased competition after divestiture. It wasn’t until World War II, under the great leadership of David Sarnoff, that RCA experienced a resurgence by developing military communications and in further developing the entire radio-electronics industry. Other firms which were once important in the manufacturing of radios, such as Grigsby-Grunow and Atwater Kent, withered away during the depression. Increasingly tight competition among the remaihing firms led to narrow profit margins and very little advanced research by the onset of the war. Circuitry became more standardized, parts became interchangeable, and manufacturing became even more streamlined and simplified. Many firms were now selling similar small table models, chairside radios, large floor consoles — some with phonographs — and automobile radios. The major results were more reliable and efficient radios at low prices and a growing multi-set audience.