Last journal entry we dove into the history of the phonograph, a record player created by Thomas A. Edison. Keeping in the theme of music players our entry today will be about the next step in technology, the radio. Starting with one of the newest items in our shop, a working vintage Philco radio.
In 1892 the Helios Electric Company was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the starting point of the Philco brand. Back then their main product was the storage battery. It wasn’t until 1906 that the company became the Philadelphia Storage Battery Company. The name was then shortened to Philco during the company’s 1919 advertising campaign by James M. Skinner, a chemist who rose up the ranks to eventually become the company’s vice president and general manager.
In 1923 Philco first started making batteries for consumer radios. In 1927 Philco started their weekly Friday night radio broadcast, the “Philco Hour”, which eventually became a regular NBC program. Around the same time the RCA company developed the technology enabling radios to be plugged directly into the wall. Making Philco’s Socket-Power units, which allowed radios to be plugged into an electrical outlet but still required a battery to function, obsolete. It was at this time that Philco decided to inquire into making their own radios, releasing their first radio in 1928.
The same year Philco bought the Wm. J. Murdock Company and spent massive capital to retool their newly acquired factory to fit it for mass production by incorporating assembly line techniques similar to the ones used in the automobile industry. This allowed Philco to be the third-biggest company in radio sales by 1929, only behind Atwater-Kent and Majestic(at that time the Grigsby-Grunow Corp). By the year of 1930 they had successfully become the country’s leading radio maker having sold over 600,000 radios and grossed approximately $34 million.
Further into the Depression era, Philco was one of the first to produce the cathedral radio, a table radio with an arched top that resembled a cathedral. One of their most popular cathedral radios was the ‘Baby Grand’. Although a beautiful Art Deco style there was also an economic reason too for its’ design. It only took one piece of wood to form both the top and sides. Thanks to this the models could be produced and sold for cheaper prices, enabling more sales despite the Depression going on.
In 1939 the company began to diversify and produce other items than just radios. Branching out into air conditioners, like the Cool-Wave, and TVs in 1939, and joined by refrigerators in 1940. In 1953 the Philco company created the surface barrier transistor. In 1955 Philco entered into a contract with both the U.S. Navy and the National Security Agency to build a specialized scientific transistorized computer, based on their new transistor technology. On April 28, 1955 Chrysler and Philco made the announcement that they had made the world’s first all-transistor car radio. In 1959 the company developed the world’s first battery powered portable transistorized TV called the “Safari”.
All of these extra products eventually took their toll however, and by 1960 Philco had applied for bankruptcy protection. On December 11, 1961 Philco was bought by Ford Motor Company, who then sold the company to GTE-Sylvania in 1974, which was then finally acquired by Phillips Consumer Electronics Corporation in 1981.
A smaller, but unique collectible brand of radios is the Remler brand founded in 1918 in San Francisco, California by Elmer Cunningham, a businessman who is best known for his bootlegged, albeit cheaper and yet with the same good quality, vacuum tubes, or the amplifying device that controls the electric current between electrodes in an evacuated container. Based off the De Forest’s Audion Tube, he called his version the Audiotron Tube.
In 1919 the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), who also produced vacuum tubes, took legal action against Cunningham for his violation of the De Forest and Fleming patents, however thanks to the US District Court for North Carolina’s decision this proved to be quite fruitful for him instead. He could only use his own Audiotron Tubes for 90 days and only on 5000 units, however after the time was up RCA would have to supply him with tubes and packaging, all of his own choice, until the date of the De Forest patents expiration, and all items would still retain his name, labels, and trademarks. Not only that but his company was now part of the RCA company and because the vacuum tubes were being produced quicker and with the growing demand of radio sets he started his own radio company, Remler, in 1918. The story is that Remler got its’ name from Elmer using his name spelled backwards and adding a ‘R’ at the end for radio.
Our last brand we’ll mention is Admiral, an appliance brand founded during the Depression by Ross Siragusa as the Continental Radio and Television Corp., a small phonograph and radio company, and later became the Admiral Corp., a leading appliance manufacturer. During World War II the Admiral corporation supplied the U.S. military with electronic equipment. With the help of all the military contracts the company made during the war, Admiral began producing television sets and became one of the major manufacturers of televisions that same era. This success allowed them to venture out into larger appliances, such as refrigerators, ranges, freezers, and air conditioners, by the 1950s.
A lot of the early electronic and appliance companies and manufacturers owe their achievements to the overall success of their decision to adventure into the world of radios. Just like a lot of today’s startup companies, the companies of back then were never content to rest on their laurels. Through hard work, trial and error, and the determination to never back down even in the face of adversity and potential financial ruin, we can see the admirable American spirit of our predecessors still shining as brightly back then as it does now whenever we hold a vintage RCA radio in our hand, or turn the knobs of an antique GE tube radio.
Whatever your music needs are Park and 2nd is also home to a variety of collectible and vintage radios, records and an assortment of unique musical instruments. So whether you’re a history buff, an inspiring and appreciating inventor, or a vinyl record junkie, come on down to Park and 2nd Collectibles, located in Historic Sanford, and check out our unique collection of collectibles, vintage, and curiosities from all over. All of which have their own story to tell.
Park and 2nd Collectibles
200 S Park Ave #100
Sanford, FL 32771
Phone: (407) 334-4560
Mondays 10am – 4pm
Tuesday to Saturday 10am – 6pm