Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Early Broadcasting in the Bay Area, Pt. 4

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

Early Broadcasting in the San Francisco Bay Area: Stations that Didn’t Survive, 1920-25
John F. Schneider
Seattle, Washington Copyright 1997

One of the most prominent early stations in the San Francisco area was 6XC, operated by the renowned radio inventory Lee DeForest. DeForest had been operating a pioneer experimental broadcast station in New York, known as 2XG. However, the radio inspector there shut the station down due to a technical infraction. So DeForest had the transmitter shipped to San Francisco, and it returned to the air in April of 1920 as 6XC.

DeForest installed his thousand watt transmitter at the California Theater, Fourth and Market Streets, and strung an antenna to a mast on top of the nearby Humboldt Bank Building. The equipment was located in a small concrete room in the "fly galleries". The station broadcast music by the theater organ, and by Hermann Heller's Symphony Orchestra live from the stage., DeForest installed receivers in several area hospitals to pick up the concerts.

The most prominent recollection of those who remember tuning in to 6XC is that it broadcast on an extremely low frequency. Early broadcasts were on 1450 meters, but this was soon changed to 1260 meters (238 kHz).

DeForest employed a full-time station operator to broadcast the concerts, Charles Logwood, who had been an assistant to the early San Francisco radio experimenter Francis McCarty in 1905. Logwood operated the transmitter and audio equipment during the frequent concerts. Weekdays there would be three half-hour concerts per day, plus the Heller Orchestra concerts every Sunday morning. To pick up the music of the orchestra, a microphone was attached to the end of a large loudspeaker horn, and the entire assembly was hung from the ceiling in the back of the theater.


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