The History of WMAQ Radio


By Tom Gootee

Curator's note: This document, originally titled "Early American Broadcasting", exists in a photocopy I located in the files of the NBC-Chicago promotions department. It was given to me shortly before NBC-Chicago moved from the Merchandise Mart to the NBC Tower in 1989. I've been able to determine nothing about its author, Tom Gootee, or how he came to write it. But given the sources he acknowledged (Judith Waller, Donald Weller and Walter Lindsay), I believe it can be considered an authoritative account of WMAQ's early days.

  • Chapter 1: The emergence of amateur radiotelephony following World War I and the origins of "broadcasting". Early Chicago experimenters. Frank Conrad and KDKA.
  • Chapter 2: The birth of KYW, WBU and WGU (the short-lived predecessor of WMAQ) in Chicago
  • Chapter 3: The first (and only) broadcast of WGU (a joint venture of the Chicago Daily News and the Fair Store on April 13th, 1922. Donald Weller was at the controls. Judith Waller announced and produced. Did anybody listen?
  • Chapter 4: WMAQ fires up its 500 watt Western Electric 1A transmitter and broadcasts for the first time from the Fair Store on October 2nd, 1922.
  • Chapter 5: 1922-1923: the "radio craze" infects Chicago. All local broadcasters agree to remain silent Monday nights so listeners can tune in distant stations.
  • Chapter 6: Spring, 1923: The Daily News buys out the Fair Store's interest in WMAQ and moves to new facilities on the top floor and roof of the La Salle Hotel.
  • Chapter 7: 1923-1924: WMAQ listeners hear the voices of Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge thanks to network feeds provided by AT&T. WMAQ hires Walter Lindsay as its second engineer.
  • Chapter 8: 1924-1925: WMAQ broacasts the World Series and taps Harry Beardsley and Hal Totten as sportscasters. Judith Waller convinces P.K. Wrigley to grant rights to broadcast all the home games of the Chicago Cubs.
  • Chapter 9: 1925: WMAQ increases its power to 1000 watts with a Western Electric 6A transmitter.
  • Chapter 10: 1925-1926: WMAQ battles to be heard over the low-power broadcasters until the Federal Radio Commission cracks down.
  • Chapter 11: 1927: WMAQ affiliates with NBC, but then joins CBS. A record-breaking New Year's Eve broadcast (involving many records, as it turned out).
  • Chapter 12: 1928-1929: "Amos 'n' Andy" become an instant WMAQ hit. The station installs a Western Electric 104-B 5000 watt transmitter at a new transmitter site in Elmhurst, Illinois and moves into luxurious studio facilities in the newly-consructed Daily News Building at 400 West Madison.
  • Chapter 13: 1931-1935: NBC buys WMAQ from the Daily News. Production facilities are moved to the NBC studio complex in the Merchandise Mart. A 50,000 watt Westinghouse 50B transmitter is installed at a new transmitter site in Bloomingdale, Illinois.

Introduction and main index to this site
WMAQ radio history | "Amos 'n' Andy" | "Fibber McGee and Mollie" | "The Breakfast Club"
Dick Kay | Television at the Merchandise Mart | 1970 television facilities tour | Channel 5 turns 20
The "Chicago School" of television | "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" | Dave Garroway | Mary Hartline
"Lights Out" | Sound effects | 1930 studio tour | WLS | "Empire Builders" | Barry Bernson
Floyd Kalber | The Queen of Love and Beauty | "Today's Children" | Staff announcers | Carol Marin
Ron Magers | Studs Terkel l "Chicago Tonight" | Channel 5 News scrapbooks |Roger Miller recalls
Zoo Parade | Clifton and Frayne Utley | Val Press | Len O'Connor | Johnny Erp | Bill Ray | Daddy-O
Experimental Television: 1930-1933 | Bob Deservi | Kermit Slobb | Ding Dong School | Quiz Kids
Bob Lemon | The Korshak Chronicles | KYW: The Chicago Years | WENR | O.B. Hanson | Renzo
Jack Eigen | Ed Grennan | The World's Best Cup of Coffee | Glenn Webster | Mr. Piano | Hawkins Falls
Chicago Television for Kids |
Radio Hall of Fame |The NBC News Night Report: 23 February, 1967
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