Sunday, March 22, 2009

Charles Herrold, Pt. 4

Originally published in the February, 2009, Old Radio Times.(

Charles Herrold: A Father of Broadcasting
Barry Mishkind

Recognition elusive

So, with all this background, why is it that many books and historians ignore "Doc" Herrold and his achievements? Perhaps it was just a matter of timing. In April 1917, all non-governmental broadcasting was ordered off the air for the duration of the war. During that time, all radio patents were "pooled" in order to provide the best radios for the military. Electronic advances tied to De Forest's Audion tubes and others made the mechanical Arc Fone obsolete.

After the war, Herrold had to rebuild his station to conform with the new standard of broadcasting. In 1921, the Department of Commerce assigned KQW as the station identification. (The last change in calls was in 1949 and the station is known today as KCBS, San Francisco.)Unfortunately, Herrold had a hard time keeping his station going into the 1920s, and his dream began to unravel as he was forced to sell KQW in 1925. Sadly, the "handshake" arrangement he had with the 1st Baptist Church broke down and he was soon fired as the station engineer.

Over the years, Herrold tried various ways to stay near broadcasting. He was one of the first time brokers, buying time from stations, and then re-selling it to others. An effort to establish himself as The Father of Broadcasting failed to attract much attention from the broadcast community. The last years of his life were largely marked by a string of menial jobs, such as a security guard. A saddened Charles Herrold died at 73 on July 1, 1948.Was Charles "Doc" Herrold The Father of Broadcasting? Possibly. What is certain is that he was A Father of Broadcasting.

More information is available at

[A plea: if you or your station has a written history, or any information on the roots of broadcasting, please share them with me. I would appreciate anything that would illuminate the pioneer stations and the men who built them. Books, newspaper clippings, old licenses, ratecards, EKKO stamps, radio guides, even photocopies are of benefit. Send them to Barry Mishkind, 2033 S. Augusta Place, Tucson, AZ 85710.

- Barry Mishkind, aka RW's "Eclectic Engineer," can be reached at 520-296-3797, via the Internet. You can find his home page at


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