The History of WMAQ Radio
By Tom Gootee
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
Weller and Walter
Lindsay), I believe it can be considered an authoritative
account of WMAQ's early days.
1: The emergence of amateur radiotelephony following World
War I and the origins of "broadcasting". Early Chicago
experimenters. Frank Conrad and KDKA.
2: The birth of KYW, WBU and WGU (the short-lived predecessor
of WMAQ) in Chicago
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?
4: WMAQ fires up its 500 watt Western Electric 1A transmitter
and broadcasts for the first time from the Fair Store on October
5: 1922-1923: the "radio craze" infects Chicago.
All local broadcasters agree to remain silent Monday nights
so listeners can tune in distant stations.
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.
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.
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.
9: 1925: WMAQ increases its power to 1000 watts with a Western
Electric 6A transmitter.
10: 1925-1926: WMAQ battles to be heard over the low-power
broadcasters until the Federal Radio Commission cracks down.
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).
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.
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.
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