Meet Oscar B. Hanson

NBC'S Technical Guru...

...And Designer of the Merchandise Mart Studios

Right: O. B. Hanson---mastermind of the NBC Merchandise Mart studios along with interior designer Gerard Chatfield---ranks among the greatest of the first generation of broadcast engineers. No other individual had a greater influence on the 'look and feel' of NBC's broadcast facilities during the network's first decade and a half.
Left: O. B. Hanson standing to the right of the NBC-Chicago master control console in 1931. Seated are engineers Howard Lutgens and J. R. Miller.

Curator's note: O. B. Hanson's first major design project for NBC were the eight studios at 711 Fifth Avenue in New York into which WJZ and WEAF, the key stations of the Blue and Red NBC networks, moved in October of 1927, less than a year after NBC's formation.

Hanson's 'floating studio' concept, first implemented at 711 Fifth Avenue, was incorporated in all his subsequent designs.

Hanson's masterpiece was the Radio City studio complex in New York, opened in the fall of 1933. He also designed the network's Hollywood facilities.

The biographical material below comes from The House that Radio Built, a pamphlet published by NBC in 1935 that describes the technical details of the Radio City studios:

Mr. O. B. Hanson, Chief Engineer of the National Broadcasting Company has, since radio's inception, been a very large contributor to its technical development. Many of the outstanding engineering achievements for which radio has been noted have been due largely to his knowledge and efforts

Mr. Hanson's radio career began in 1912 when he attended the Marconi School in New York, now continuing as the RCA Institute. Completing his course in "wireless: he obtained his operator;s license and went to sea. From 1917 to 1920 he worked in the testing department of the Marconi Company, becoming Chief Testing Engineer. In 1920 he took another turn at sea.When radio broadcasting came into being Mr. Hanson became associated with WAAM, a pioneer station in Newark, New Jersey. In 1922 he accepted a position as assistant to the plant engineer at WEAF, then owned and operated by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. With the formation of the National Broadcasting Company in 1926, Mr. Hanson went with the new company and since that date has directed technical operations and engineering activities for NBC.

He supervised the designing and construction of the NBC studios at 711 Fifth Avenue (vacated when NBC moved to Radio City), and the NBC Chicago studios in the Merchandise Mart. Both of these installations were, at the time of their building, the last word in technical efficiency as well as pleasing design.

The curator thanks Don Archiable for providing him a copy of The House that Radio Built. Don, a fervent disciple of O. B. Hanson, designed the facilties of WMAQ-TV opened in 1989 in Chicago's NBC Tower.

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Radio Hall of Fame |The NBC News Night Report: 23 February, 1967
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