Search Rhode Island Radio
Providence To Have Powerful New Station WJAR
Of particular interest in radio circles is the announcement by The Outlet Company, providence, of the opening of their powerful broadcasting station recently installed by the Standard Radio and Electric Company of Pawtucket by Thomas P Giblin in inventor and engineer.
Promptly at 8 o'clock on the evening of September 6, 1922 the first performance will be given. The Outlet Company has engaged well-known artists so that the people of the State and those living far beyond its confines, have the assurance that the programmes sent out from this source will be of high quality.
Within the past week the new radio station has been tested and officially approved and in accordance with the Government scheme of identifying each transmitting station by means of symbols, the station will be known as station WJAR.
During the tests conducted by the builders of the apparatus, some very satisfactory results were achieved. While perhaps a few local radio fans happened to hear this latest addition of the list of broadcasting stations, during the progress of the tests. It will undoubtedly prove of interest to them to learn that not only were the results locally of a successful nature, but that Boston was easily penetrated and several flattering acknowledgments received of the achievements in that locality.
To the average person this statement will contain no special significance, but to the radio fan who realizes that, due to natural conditions affecting radio transmitting and receiving, Boston is an extremely hard section to penetrate. This report at once will assume interest and importance and the more when it is pointed out that the tests were conducted when the sun was at its height. One of the reports received was from the Lancaster Theater, opposite the North Station, demonstrating that the Providence station not only penetrated the Boston pocket but traversed a considerable part of its length.
This station was designed and installed under the direct supervision of Mr Giblin who has introduced into its construction certain features on which he is the holder of patent rights pending. The generating and transmitting apparatus is located on the fifth floor of The Outlet building with an exterior antenna upon the roof. The apartment in which the artists perform is a room of special design. The sides of the room are constructed of heavy pearl velour and the ceiling is of satin of the same shade, the effect being a proper acoustical arrangement to destroy echoes which would interfere with the transmission of speech and vocal and instrumental music and at the same time to secure an aesthetic effect.
In all three rooms are utilized for the entire outfit: the power room containing a high voltage motor generator set for for furnishing the transmitting apparatus, the necessary current, the studio in which the artists perform and the operating room in which is located the apparatus for transmitting the music or voice to the outside world.
The antenna or aerial is located on the roof of the building neat the corner of Weybosset and Garnet streets, partly visible from both streets. It consists of 10 parallel wires, stretched between poles 110 feet apart. These poles are 50 feet high, the total distance from the street level to the tops of the poles being approximately 115 feet. The wires are held apart by means of spreaders at each end and from these wires the 10 lead-in wires converge in fan-like fashion to the lead-in insulator and also are connected with the lightning switch.
The counter-poise system of grounding is used and is installed a few feet above the roof. The counter-poised consists of a network of wires and accomplishes a considerable reduction in the effective resistance of the whole antenna. Not only the counter-poise is used for the ground, but the metal work about the building has been carefully grounded so as to eliminate all capacity and the absorption of electrical energy which might otherwise occur. What is known as the fundamental wave length of the antenna is 200 meters, and the operating wave length of the station 360 meters, thus corresponding to a frequency of approximately 833,00 cycles per second.
The manner in which an alternating current of such high frequency is produced in this antenna by the transmitting apparatus is somewhat as follows:
Reference has already been made to the motor-generator set located in the power room. The apparatus as the name implies, consists of two electrical units, a motor and a generator mounted on a common base and constituting a complete outfit for the generation of electrical energy. The motor is run by electricity of alternating current taken from the lined of the local electric company, just as the power is taken in the ordinary way for our kitchen lights, electric flat or washing machine. This motor drives the generator, which produces a direct current which may be varied between 1000 and 2000 volts. The current furnishes practically all the power used by the entire equipment with the exception of that provided by a small filament heating transformer of the step-down type, which supplies the current for the three-element vacuum tubes. The vacuum tubes employed are of standard make and perform the function of changing this high voltage direct current to alternating current of the high frequency required for radio transmission.
The plate circuits of these tubes are charged with the current from the generator after it has passed through a proper filter system which eliminates the hum which would otherwise exist. After high voltage has been impressed upon the tubes, this energy is converted into radio frequency energy, by means of a proper oscillation circuit which is coupled to the antenna system by means of an air core transformer commonly known as an oscillation transformer. Thus by means of the vacuum tubes and their associated circuits a current of low voltage is taken from the local city mains and transformed into radio frequency energy of many thousand volts of practically any desired frequency.
In order to understand how the voice is communicated to the antenna, the description of the studio where the artists performs is given. In this room are located all the necessary musical instruments, the only piece of electrical apparatus being a microphone, which is mounted on a stand so that it may be placed in the best position for the particular selection to be rendered. This microphone is so constructed that it takes the true tome to the vibration of the diaphragm, created by the voice of the artist or by the musical instrument, the minute electrical current set up in this microphone passes through wires to an instrument containing a vacuum tube, known as the speech amplified, the function of which is to amplify the delicate tones before reaching the power tubes to be transformed into radio energy. The power radiated by the antenna furnished by the vacuum tubes is, therefore, modulated in accordance with the variations in the sound waves, impressed by the voice or music, upon the delicate microphone in the studio.
In addition to the apparatus necessary for the generation of the necessary power and its transmission as radio energy, there is also required various accessory or auxiliary arrangements to insure the practical and convenient operation of the plant. Among these may be mentioned the control switch for throwing the microphone in or out of the circuit. As soon as the switch is thrown in circuit, a red lamp is automatically lighted which warns those present that strict silence must be maintained as they are now confronting an invisible audience of perhaps millions, in the outer world, and that any sound in the studio will be sent broadcast by the sensitive and ever vigilant apparatus.
In the operating room, there is also located a receiving set so that the radio operator may listen in during the three-minute intervals rest which the Government regulation compel every broadcasting station to observe, These three-minute periods of inactivity occur once in every 15 minutes and are for the purpose of permitting distress signals to be heard in case a vessel at sea is sending appeals for aid.
NEW OUTLET RADIO STATIONIS OPENS
Governor and Mayors Address Invisible Audiences at Initial Programme
MESSAGES HEARD CLEARLY
Persons Who Listen-In Send Word That They Are Greatly Pleased with Service of Powerful Broadcasting Station
Providence Journal, September 7, 1922
Persons Who Listen-In Send Word That They Are Greatly Pleased with Service of Powerful Broadcasting Station
Flashing timely messages from Rhode Island's Governor, the Mayor of Providence, and Mayors of -surrounding cities, interspersed with attractive entertainment numbers, to the Eastern United States radio world, the powerful broadcasting station at the Outlet Company swung into action last night, inaugurating a radio service that will ultimately provide two programmes a week.
The new station is credited not only with being the most powerful in this vicinity, but one with a radius rivaling the greatest in the United States. It is said that messages broadcast from it can be plainly heard in Chicago. Soon after the radio was started last night telephone calls began to arrive stating that the words spoken here could be heard with, unusual clearness. Before the programme ended similar notice was received from points as distant as Boston.
Governor San Sonci, the first speaker, digressed from the subject .of radio to preach the gospel of law and order. "At n no time in the history of the United States." he concluded. "have the executives of both State and nation been faced it with more serious problems than confront them to day, and instead of reckless criticism, every assistance of law-abiding citizens should be extended whole-heartedly to their elective representatives, regardless of political considerations in their efforts to promote the welfare of the general public.
"I'll take advantage of this occasion." commented Mayor Gainer, "to invite those to whom my message may reach tonight to visit us at the earliest opportunity. We appreciate that the advantage and blessings which are ours are held by us as trustees for the rest of our fellowmen. Come and visit us and ahare those advantages and blessings with us.”
Acting Mayor Arthur A. Rhodes of Cranston, Mayor Charles N. Lord of Central Falls, Francis P. Callahan representing Mayor Coughlin of Taunton. and Rev. Dr. Willard Scott, humorist, of Brookline, Mass., also addressed the invisible audience. Former Governor Higgins was present, but did not speak. Vocal selections were contributed by Marguerite Porter, Rose Leveront and Andreas Arup. the latter a soloist at Fays Theatre this week. Frank Rush, formerly of the Keith circuit, as story teller of the evening.
The Providence Biltmore Hotel Orchestra played under the direction of I. Nagel. The only interruption to the programme came when the Victor Phonoraph Cormpany refused to allow Lucy Isabelle Marsh, who is under contract to the concern, to sing by radio.
September 7, 1922
November 7, 1922
September 4, 1922
November 5, 1922
RADIO STATION WJAR
Rhode Island Jewish Historical Notes
VOLUME 6, NUMBER 4, NOVEMBER, 1974
Mrs. Trowbridge further recalled Leon Samuels's role in the broadcasting aspect of the Outlet Company history. He was fascinated by it, she said, and left the merchandising and retail business functions to his brother. In his home at Narragansett Pier Leon Samuels had set up a ham radio station although the actual commercial facility was installed on the top floor of the Outlet Company building (where it is in operation to this day). In 1923, she remembers, she, another secretary, an advertising man, and some other persons drove to Leon Samuels's home. He would dictate to the girls, they would take down the dictation in shorthand, and transmit it by telephone for broadcasting. They felt like pioneers and were all excited about this advanced scientific breakthrough.
Ralph J. Begleiter in a detailed study of the Outlet Company's role in commercial broadcasting wrote as follows: "Leon became interested in wireless broadcasting in 1919 and 1920. At home, he fiddled with the latest versions of then very primitive wireless receivers he saw the value to the store of having an Outlet Company broadcasting station. It would be a public 'first' which would attract attention and prestige to the Outlet Store. The store could benefit from increased sales that would result." "The Samuels brothers . . . belonged to a political 'club' in which former Governor James Higgins, who had served a one year term in 1907, was also a member. [Theater owner] Edward Fay, and a young electronics experimenter, Thomas P. Giblin, were also present at some meetings of the group. Here the Samuels brothers became intrigued by the radio feats of Giblin, who had already broadcast recorded music over his experimental radio station on an upper floor of his home since 1919 . . .in course of his experimentation Giblin received financial help from Leon. By 1922 Leon convinced Joseph to allow him to go ahead with Giblin's proposal to install a radio station at the Outlet store as a public relations gimmick. In April 1922 word was out in Providence that the Outlet would be setting up a powerful radio station. Radio, by then, had become a national craze and the Providence Journal gave the news much attention. But WEAN went on the air first in June, 1922."
Giblin had another reason for the setting up of an Outlet radio station. He had begun to turn out radio receivers, called "RadioEar" sets, which the Outlet sold. Begleiter elaborated further on the origins of the station: "WJAR, the Outlet Company station, went on the air September 6, 1922. The first voice was that of Ray C. Blanchard (who had set up and operated the store's radio set department), who introduced Governor Emery J. San Souci. . . . Also Providence Mayor Joseph Gainer, the Samuels brothers, and former Governor Higgins spoke". The station opened purely as a publicity gimmick for the store . . . the fact that the Outlet Company was proud of its radio station as a mark of prestige is indicated by the fact that a picture of the store, with WJAR's antenna perched conspicuously atop the roof, was used on Outlet Company stationery until well into the 1940s and 1950s, even though the antenna was removed from the roof in 1935."
Programming in the early days was unstructured. Lillian Rubinstein recalls playing the piano on the radio in the late 1920s while she was a student at Pembroke College. She was on the air with Celia Moreau, the team being called "The Girl Friends". She considered it a lark to give of her talents and time and to receive fan mail with requests for selections. A lark was all she realized for she performed without pay. She also accompanied singers on the programs, one of whom was Peter Bardach's mother. Sources for piano and vocal talent were suggested by Blanchard, the Samuels brothers, and Ed Fay. Two early announcers were James A. Reilly and James Boyle ("JAR" and "JB"), the first of whom was said to have givin his initials to the station's call letters. This was really an untrue fact. 8
In the early days all expenses incurred by the radio station were allocated to the radio department of the store or to its advertising budget.
As innovators and promoters who turned all of their enterprises into advertising for their store, the Samuels brothers on October 9, 1923 placed an advertisement in the Providence Journal announcing that WJAR would broadcast live from New York the World Series between baseball's Yankees and Giants. "Colonel Samuels had followed the series annually, on occasion taking time off from work in Providence to travel to New York for the games. On October 10th he chartered a private railroad car to transport specially purchased equipment from RCA to Providence which would make the games audible on the streets outside the Outlet Company store. A crew of Outlet delivery men unloaded heavy loud speakers and amplifiers on the day of the second game, speakers were moved to the front of the store on Weybosset Street to accommodate the crowd….World Series broadcasts were accomplished using the tie-line between Radio Stations WEAF [of New York] and WJAR. For Colonel Samuels the link was a boon to Outlet Store business. The Providence community was impressed with WJAR's ability to broadcast the World Series live from New York.
Joseph Gettler, who became the station's manager in 1924, succeeded in turning WJAR into a money-making appendage to the store over the next ten years. "In October of 1933 Joseph Gettler had his last promotion fling; for $1250 he secured a demonstration of a new broadcast medium TV for the Outlet Store. In a ground floor window, radio announcer 'Sud' Abbott stood in front of a camera, which consisted of a rapidly rotating disc, and his image was transmitted to a receiver in the 5th floor auditorium. His friends said he looked terrible, because he had refused to paint his face with the dark purple makeup required for early TV pickups.
Biography of a License:
The fifty-year history of a commercial broadcast station
byRalph J. Begleiter Columbia University
Graduate School of Journalism Class of 1972
Professor Fred W. Friendly May 15, 1972
(c) Ralph J. Begleiter, 1972
Leon Samuel became interested in wireless broadcasting in 1919 and 1920. At home, he fiddled with the latest versions of then very primitive wireless receivers. Perhaps as early as 1920, Leon saw the value to the store of having an Outlet Company broadcasting station. It would be a public "first" which would attract attention and prestige to the Outlet Store. The store could benefit from increased sales that would result.
The Samuels brothers, both prominent community members, belonged to a political "club" in which former Governor James Higgins, who had served a one year term in 1907, was also a member. The group probably served as a kind of advisory council to then Governor Beeckman. The manager of a Providence theater, Edward Fay, and a young electronics experimenter, Thomas P. Giblin, were also present at some meetings of the group.
Here the Samuels brothers became intrigued by the radio feats of Giblin, who had already broadcast recorded music over his experimental radio station on an upper floor of his home since 1919.
In the course of his experimentation, Giblin received financial help from Leon Samuels, v/ho grew closer to the broadcaster than did his brother Joseph. Giblin, who claims to have invented in 1917 the concentrated inductance coil, used in tuning radio receivers, secured an experimental broadcast license from the U.S. Secretary of Commerce in 1919, According to his aunt, Teresa Donnelly, Giblin would string a microphone wire from his house on Sprague Street in Providence next door to hers and broadcast her piano-playing on his station when he wasn't using Victrola records.
Giblin's broadcasts were heard three nights a week for about two hours a night. The next year, in 1920, Giblin built a more powerful transmitter for his company, Standard Radio and Electric, in Pawtucket. This 150-watt transmitter was licensed as 1XAD by the federal government, and its operator claimed it was heard in Florida, Montreal and along the Mississippi (not unusual because of the lack of other stations using the airwaves at the time).
All this impressed Leon Samuels, and in 1922, he convinced Joseph to allow him to go ahead with Giblin's proposal to install a radio station at the Outlet Store as a public relations gimmick.
In April, 1922, the word was out in Providence that the Outlet would be setting up a powerful radio station. Radio, by then, had become a national craze, and the Providence Journal gave the news much attention. Giblin began moving the 1XAD equipment to the fifth floor of the Outlet Store building and by August the bugs were being worked out of the studio and transmitter set up.
There was another radio station being born in the summer of 1922 in Providence, WEAN, owned by the Shepard Stores, Outlet’s biggest competitor. Those who remember today recall anxious tension as the two stations competed for the honor of being first in Providence. WEAN won, going on the air in June.
It turns out Thomas Giblin had an ulterior motive for setting up the Outlet Store radio station. He had begun to turn out radio receivers for public sale, and suddenly, in the late fall of 1922, Outlet Store advertising in the Providence papers featured Giblin "RadioEar" sets in the store's radio department on the first floor.
Leon Samuels did not personally manage the installation of the station; he was too busy helping his brother run the store. But he did follow its progress closely, and it was he who would be remembered as the father of the station.
The man who, together with Giblin, supervised the station's beginnings, was Ray C. Blanchard, who was hired by the Samuels brothers in 1922 to help set up and operate the store's radio set department. Blanchard had a record of radio operation while he was in the navy, and apparently the Samuels brothers felt it would be enough to have him and Giblin do everything necessary to the operation of the department and the station. They were the only staff when the station went on the air.
Blanchard and two Commerce department inspectors, Walter Butterworth and Charles Kolster, went to Boston in August to apply for call letters for the new station. They came back with WJAR. Blanchard recalled, "We didn't like the damn call letters, but we had to take them." The station's first license, as WJAR, was dated August 2, 1922, and was slated to expire November 1 the same year. (All radio station licenses were issued for three-month periods in the early 1920's.)
The station was authorized to broadcast on a frequency of 360 meters as were all stations, and at a power of 200 watts there were no limits on the hours of operation. The license was made out to J. Samuels & Brother, Inc., the company which then owned the Outlet Store.
In the event ships at sea were broadcasting emergency messages, WJAR's license required it to monitor them and go off the air itself to permit emergency communicators to use the frequency.
WJAR, The Outlet Company Station, went on the air September 6, 1922. The first voice was that of Blanchard, who introduced Governor Emery J. San Souci. The Governor, using the opportunity to make a political speech, sounded a law-and-order note:
"At no time in the history of the United States have the executives of both state and nation been faced with more serious problems than confront them today, and instead of reckless criticism, every assistance of law-abiding citizens should be extended wholeheartedly to their elective representatives regardless of political considerations in their efforts to promote the welfare of the general public."
Blanchard then introduced the other dignitaries who came to the WJAR studio to celebrate the opening: Providence Mayor Joseph Gainer (who talked about the glories of his city), the Samuels brothers, and former Governor Higgins.
The opening program featured a humorist, Rev. Dr. Willard Scott, who was imported from Brookline, Massachusetts, as well as several soloists and the Providence Biltmore Hotel Orchestra under the direction of I. Nagel. The original plan went awry when the Outlet received a telegram from the Victor Phonograph Company, which refused to allow vocalist Lucy Isabelle Marsh to sing over the radio. Miss Marsh was under contract to Victor.
The Evening Bulletin reported the opening night this way:
"Flashing timely messages from Rhode Island’s Governor, the Mayor of Providence, and the mayors of surrounding cities, interspersed with attractive entertainment numbers, to the Eastern United States radio world, the powerful broadcasting station at the Outlet Company swung into action last night, inaugurating a radio service that will ultimately provide two programmes a week."
A diary kept by Mortimer Burbank, an assistant to the Outlet's advertising manager, noted with disappointment the cancellation of Miss Marsh's performance at the last minute, but otherwise noted little about the opening. The Outlet station opened as purely a publicity gimmick for the store, not as a first step towards a distinct broadcasting operation.
WJAR's first studio was located precisely where the station's studios stood in 1972. The fact that the position of the radio studios had not changed for fifty years by 1972.
The studio itself was draped with heavy pearl velour. The ceiling, of draped Satin, hung low into the room in an effort to prevent echoes and reverberation. A small upright player piano was soon replaced by an Ampico grand. A Victrola stood in one corner, between matching flowered sofa and armchair.
The only indication that the room was a studio was the megaphone like contraption hung delicately from a wooden stand, which was the first microphone. Those who performed on WJAR in its earliest days remember having to sing very loudly in order that the microphone would pick up their voices.
There were three rooms used for WJAR broadcasting: The studio, an "operating room" containing controls and the transmitter, and a power room containing equipment to supply the transmitter with electricity. Only the studio was actually inside the Outlet Store, on the fifth floor across from the offices of the Samuels brothers. The other rooms were built directly above the studio on the roof of the building, adjacent to the antenna.
The remains of WJAR's history were still in evidence in 1972. In 1972, on the roof, there was still a steel brace which held the primary pole of the radio antenna. As far as can be determined, the first- antenna stretched from the northwest corner of the roof (above the store executives' offices, which are also in precisely the same place as they were in 1922) to the southwest corner, in a line directly over elevator shafts which were able to support the weight of the first and later antennas.
The fact, that the Outlet Store was proud of its radio station as a mark of prestige is indicated by the fact that a picture of the store, with WJAR's antenna perched conspicuously atop the roof, was used on Outlet company stationery until well into the 1940's and 1950's even though the antenna was removed from the roof in 1935.
WJAR Phamplet, 1923
Courtesy Of the
WJAR Letterhead Showing Cable Antenna On The Roof, 1920's
Unlike radio antennas today, WJAR's first antenna consisted of ten parallel wires between the poles, which were 110 feet apart along the Garnet Street side of the roof. The structure was easily visible from the front or side of the store. Each of the strands was connected by a fan-like set of wires to the transmitter in a small concrete building on the roof below the antenna. This building remained on the Outlet roof in 1972.
WJAR was technically ready to go on the air a week before it did. Giblin and Howard Thornley, who became the first chief engineer once Giblin could remove himself from the stations operation, were conducting tests on August 28, 1922, and possibly even earlier.
Radio had become popular among experimenters by this time, and the public was looking for a station to listen to. Rhode Islanders could hear WEAF, the American Telephone & Telegraph Company station in New York, and were impressed by the quality of the programs, both technically and esthetically. Since the owners of the Shepard Stores and WEAN were "outsiders" based in Boston, it is fair to assume that the radio station of the Samuels brothers had at least as much prestige as WEAN. Soon after the station went on the air, the Outlet Company devoted more of its advertising space to the station than might have been expected, because the advertising department saw in WJAR a valuable tool for sparking interest in the store.
The Outlet Store did not use WJAR to advertise its goods.
The station served only as an attraction which bolstered the Samuels image as progressive, up-to-date managers who would try in every way to keep their clients supplied with quality service. This theme was extremely important to the Outlet Store in the early 1920's. Store advertising stressed the station's status as "powerful" and technologically superior to WEAN.
Radio receivers, though popular, were expensive. A Giblin "RadioEar" set sold for over $20 at the Outlet. More elaborate sets went for more than $200. Rhode Islanders, like radio fans elsewhere, took to building their own sets from cardboard and crystals. Since WEAN , WJAR and WEAF- were all on the same frequency (about 360 meters), these homemade sets were often filled with garbled transmissions from several stations at once.
It wasn't until 1929 that the federal government moved to straighten out the airwave mess and in 1922 stations everywhere shared air time to avoid interference. Programs over WJAR were sporadic at first, though they settled into a twice-a-week pattern quickly: Wednesday and Friday nights. Thursday nights in Providence were "silent" nights, when neither of the local stations would broadcast, in order that radio fans could tune for "dx" or distant stations. When either WEAN or WJAR had an especially important or unusual program, the other station would remain silent until after its rival finished its program, so that listeners could enjoy it without interference. Such cooperation soon was abandoned when stations developed better programming more often and refused to stay off the air for a competitor.
By the end of October, 1922, WJAR had already established daily programs. From 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., the station had begun broadcasting what later became its first regularly scheduled show, "Household Hints arid Music", hosted by Miss Clare Wood. Blanchard, the station manager and announcer, secured Miss Wood ("a local young lady") formally in January, 1923, to continue her program as "Housewives Radio Exchange".
The program featured recipes and other household information passed on from listener letters. This first regular show continued on WJAR until the late 1930's. In a memo to Outlet Store executives, Blanchard claimed that the show "built a tremendous following for the Outlet."
Later in the day, after abandoning the airwaves for an hour and a half, WJAR broadcast "musical programmes" until 3:00 p.m. From 5:00 to 5:45 p.m., WJAR broadcast music and "code practice for beginners". On Friday nights at 8:15 p.m., there were "special radio concerts" featuring local talent. It was these Friday night concerts which drew most of the attention of the press and the public.
On November 7, 1922, WJAR broadcast election returns, alternating hourly with WEAN. Both stations used telegram service to receive the returns from New York.
Alternating programming and air time was not uncommon at this time. The competition for listeners had not kicked in.
September 20, 1922
Blanchard notes that it was easy to fill program time in 1922-23. "People were anxious to be on the radio," and the station did not pay its talent in the first year of broadcasting. Because of Blanchard's friendship with Edward Fay, owner of Fay's Theater on Weybossett Street, WJAR was well supplied with piano and vocal talent from the theater. Such use of Fay's talent roster was undoubtedly a mutual blessing.
Ray Blanchard's first loyalty was to the Outlet Store, not to WJAR. He had been hired early in 1922 to establish a radio department. His job consisted of running the radio department as well as the radio station, which was used to promote the sale of Victrola records and radio sets.
In a balance sheet he submitted to the Samuels brothers, Blanchard notes that radio set sales were about $40,000 in 1922, and about $224,000 in 1923. Obviously WJAR was doing its job, promoting the general public interest in radio. Important to note is the fact that until 1929, all expenses incurred by the radio station were allocated to the radio department of the store, or to its advertising budget, a clear indicator of the lack of interest in WJAR as an independent entity. The station was in fact only part of the radio department of the Outlet Store
Blanchard had about 15 employees under his supervision.
At most, three were engaged in the station's operation. The radio manager himself received $4,500 for his services in 1923.
In Blanchard's view, after the "saturation point" was reached on the sale of crystal sets, "Providence should have at least three silent nights per week. This will encourage sale of high-priced sets." He continued, "Too much good local broadcasting means only crystal sets or small sets will be sold.. Even now, the effect of too much broadcasting is noticeable.
He recommended to the Samuels brothers that WJAR cut back its broadcast hours in winter, 1924, to boost radio set sales!
In Providence, Rhode Island, there was no such thing yet as "commercial broadcasting." Revenues from the broadcasting operation were practically nonexistent, and WJAR proved its worth only by promoting phonograph record and radio set sales.
Commercial broadcasting, though, was being tested in New York. On August 28, 1922, in the late afternoon, WEAF broadcast the first commercial program on radio, a ten minute promotional message from the Queensboro Corporation which was selling apartments in Jackson Heights. The Queensboro Corporation paid $50 for the time on WEAF, and used the opportunity to talk about the "daily comfort of the home removed from the congested part of the city."
On WEAF, more commercial messages followed soon, and radio began to show its profitability as a business in itself. On WJAR, however, commercial messages were still to come in the future, and Ray Blanchard relied or other arguments to persuade the Samuels brothers to expand the radio operation.
In July, 1923, Blanchard agitated for a new transmitter for WJAR, in this memo to Leon Samuels:
"The purpose of any broadcasting station installed in a department store is purely to create good will and greater publicity. It is one of the strongest means of indirect advertising...To create good will for the store a broadcasting station should primarily serve the public within the trading distance of that store...Although 'a book should not be judged by its cover,’ it is an absolute truth that a store may be judged by its broadcasting.
Blanchard then went on to deplore the state of the first 200 watt transmitter, saying that its quality did not adequately represent the Outlet Store, and he urged purchase of a new Western Electric 500 watt transmitter. It was bought, and in September, 1923, WJAR became the most powerful station in Providence.
Western Electric Equipment in 1923
Dynamo Room 1923
Incidentally, for the sake of comparison to present day broadcast expenses Blanchard estimated the maintenance of WJAR for 1924, "including cost, special operator's salary, numerous additions and changes, etc." at $8,000. Such a station, he said would have "a dependable range of 100 miles - or sufficient to cover our trading radius."
Blanchard's philosophy of radio, as a retail promotion tool, remained the dominant theme in the management of WJAR for more than 20 years. There are many at the station today who insist WJAR is still operated as only an adjunct to the retail operation.
There is one incident for which there is no independent corroboration, but which Blanchard insisted was true about WJAR.
In late 1922, he claimed to have responded to the problem of listeners misunderstanding the station's identification on the air.
The listeners, in post cards, said that because of static, they could hear the word 'Providence' and 'Rhode Island' and sometimes they'd get the name, but many times they'd miss the call letters. And it occurred to me that if we had some kind of identification which would tie-up WJAR with some sort of sound, it would be a good idea.
Blanchard said as a result of this brainstorm, he asked the Outlet's furniture department for a dinner gong to use as a station identification. The gong, he said, consisted of three notes, identical to the chimes used by the National Broadcasting Company's radio network for many years, even to the present.
According to records available at BBC, the chimes were first used there in September of 1929. It is, of course, possible that WJAR initiated the use of the now-familiar NBC chimes. But the span of seven years, in which WJAR was affiliated with WEAF (NBC's first station) for six, stretches the plausibility of that conclusion very thin. In addition, no one other than Blanchard remembers using the chimes at WJAR prior to about 1930.
In WJAR's first year of broadcasting, the station served as a demonstration tool for the store's radio set department.
A set was demonstrated in the store to a potential customer, and it was then demonstrated again in the customer's home when it was installed.
The Outlet's phonograph department was on the third floor. There was a special switch in the studio upstairs to control a light in the phonograph department. When Blanchard, demonstrating a radio set, needed a program source because there was no talent in the studio at the time, he would flip the switch and a salesman in the phonograph department would start a record on a machine next to a remote microphone. Blanchard could then demonstrate a set by tuning it to WJAR.
The station had some trouble staying on the air at first.
For two weeks in a row in January, 1923, Mortimer Burbank's diary noted that there was no "radio concert" because the "machine" was "not in running order."
In 1923, Blanchard's radio department boasted Rhode Island's first "radio car". In a picture taken that summer, Blanchard stands proudly beside a Model T Ford on which is installed a square cage antenna. The car radio reportedly could pick up WJAR up to ten miles away, using a crystal radio and earphones, attached to the 100 foot antenna wire.
Indicative of much of WJAR's programming in 1923 was February 9ths address by Harry R. Lewis, president of the International Baby Chick Association, on the subject, "Baby Chicks." This program was apparently so successful that it was repeated on March 23! Aside from radio talks by local officials and educators, WJAR broadcast music provided by the Biltmore Orchestra (the hotel had just opened in 1922). The station also conducted "Community Nights" which featured promotional talks by merchants and musical presentations by people from Providence's neighboring towns.
Woodrow Wilson's 1923 Armistice Day Radio Address
On November 10th, 1923 President Woodrow Wilson made an Armistice day speech that was broadcast on WEAF, New York, WCAP, Washington and WJAR, Providence.4
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November 2, 1923
The anniversary of Armistice Day should stir us to great exaltation of spirit because of the proud recollection that it was our day, a day above those early days of that never-to-be forgotten November which lifted the world to the high levels of vision and achievement upon which the great war for democracy and right was fought and won; although the stimulating memories of that happy time of triumph are forever marred and embittered for us by the shameful fact that when the victory was won, be it remembered chiefly by the indomitable spirit and ungrudging sacrifices of our incomparable soldiers we turned our backs on upon our associates and refused to bear any responsible part in the administration of peace, or the firm and permanent establishment of the results of the warwon at so terrible a cost of life and treasure and withdrew into a sullen and selfish isolation which is deeply ignoble because manifestly cowardly and dishonorable
This must always be a source of deep mortification to us and we shall inevitably be forced by the moral obligations of freedom and honor to retrieve that fatal error and assume once more the role of courage, self-respect and helpfulness which every true American must wish to regard as our natural part in the affairs of the world. That we should have thus done a great wrong to civilization at one of the most critical turning points in the history of the world is the more to be deplored because every anxious year that has followed has made the exceeding need for such services as we might have rendered more and more evident and more and more pressing, as demoralizing circumstances which we might have controlled have gone from bad to worse.
And now, as if to furnish as sort of sinister climax, France and Italy between them have made waste paper of the Treaty of Versailles and the whole field of international relationship is in perilous confusion.
The affairs of the world can be set straight only by the firmest and most determined exhibition of the will to lead and make the right prevail.
Happily, the present situation in the world of affairs affords us the opportunity to retrieve the past and to render mankind the inestimable service of proving that there is at least one great and powerful nation which can turn away from programs of self interest and devote itself to practicing and establishing the highest ideals of disinterested service and the consistent maintenance of exalted standards of conscience and of right.
The only way in which we can worthily give proof of our appreciation of the high significance of Armistice Day is by resolving to put self-interest away and once more formulate and act on the highest ideals and purposes of international policy.
Thus, and only thus, can we return to the true traditions of America.5
1923 World Series
New York Giants vs New York Yankees
On October 10th, 1923, the first World Series game to be played on a radio network was played on WJAR as part of a network that was made up of WEAF, WGY, WJAR amoung others. It was the first time the entire country was able to listen to a World Series game. 1
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WJAR Letterhead Showing Cable Antenna On The Roof, 1920's
Boys Life, 1924
April 26th, 1925
Outlet Stock Certificate
WJAR With Tower Antenna On The Roof, 1930's
WJAR With Wire Antenna On The Roof, 1926
Click Photo To Hear Chimes
There are many claims to where the famous NBC chimes came from. Many radios stations were not on all day long so in order to tell the public that broadcasting was going to begin or end, chimes were played. WJAR also lays claim to developing the chimes now used by NBC. In 1922, a system for daily broadcasting was already established. Ray Blanchard acquired some chimes from the store's furniture department which were rung when WJAR's broadcasting began. The idea was passed on to WEAF when WJAR joined up to form a network with the New York station in 1923. When RCA inaugurated NBC in 1926, the networks new president David Snaroff, adopted the idea of the chimes and it became a symbol for all future NBC network broadcasting. 2