Wednesday, March 25, 2009

History of WMAQ Chapter 3, Pt. 1

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

The History of WMAQ RadioChapter 3
Tom Gootee

A De Forest marine transmitter, of questionable age, was acquired and adapted for voice transmission. As a functioning piece of equipment it left much to be desired---but it was the only kind of radio equipment available and, as such, it served its purpose. One tube, type unknown but of De Forest make, comprised the entire tube complement. It was rated at 250 watts input, which probably accounted for the optimistic accounts of 250 watts for the entire transmitter. Actually only about 100 watts was fed to the antenna, a quantity which could only be estimated. The single tube was modulated by means of a transformer inserted into the grid circuit; the primary being coupled to a small telephone transmitter mounted on the end of an insulated handle. The insulation was necessary because part of the transmitter was “hot” with radio frequency energy, which fed back into the grid circuit.

The antenna was a typical ship installation, mounted on the roof of the Fair Building. It was a four-wire flat top suspended between the top of the water tank at the east end of the building and a brick chimney at the west end of the building.

The transmitter was installed on the fourth floor of the Fair Building and the studio was located directly under it, on the floor below. The station was assigned the call WGU, and licensed to operate on the common frequency of 360 meters (833 kilocycles). This measurement could only be approximated, as the only frequency meters that were then available consisted of a coil of wire, a condenser and a thermo-millameter calibrated against the Federal Radio Inspector’s wave-meter.

A trial program---actually the first broadcast---was put on the air the afternoon of April 12th, from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m., and all the equipment was checked and tested for the grand opening of WGU the following evening.

The first formal broadcast was put on the air the night of April 13thm 1922. It consisted of a musical program lasting about thirty minutes, from 7:00 to 7:30 p.m., and featured Sophie Braslau, Leon Sametini and a few other Chicago artists and musicians. The program was directed and announced by Miss Judith Waller, a name destined to be synonymous with the Daily News station for many years to come.

This article was originally published at and reprinted in the Old Radio Times by permission.


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