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Vintage Radio

An insight into the manufacture of quality valve radios in the USA nearly 100 years ago.

By Kevin Poulter

In the 1920s, radio manufacturing proliferated. Yet from the thousands of companies that then existed, few images of production were ever taken or remain. It was considered a breach of security for an employee to photograph inside a factory so some factories eventually closed without a single photograph taken.

Fortunately the US company Wells Gardner produced some images, most likely for salesmen to show stores that they were a big operation and not just a suburban garage or tiny factory. This provides us with wonderful insight into the manufacturing techniques of the late 1920s.

Click for larger image
Click for larger image

In 1925 production started at Wells Gardner with a discussion between the Manager, Sales Manager and Design, regarding the best radios to meet market trends. In the mid to late 20s, the only choices were a console radio, a “coffin” bread-box style, or a mantel in a wooden cabinet – and how many valves to have in the design. As was common practice, a number of brands were used, with many consoles and huge table sets sold under the M. Wards’ “Airline” name.

This strongly influenced the selling price and most manufacturers had economy and top-end models. It appears that Wells Gardner mainly supplied the top end of the market, as many of their radios were nine-valve.

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