Radio Boulevard
Western Historic Radio Museum


WHRM Radio Photo Gallery

Consumer-Entertainment Table-Top Radios

Classic Thirties, Pre-War Plastics and Novelties

(now includes Zenith Radio Corp) 

1930 - 1950s

 

Classic Thirties Radios

Philco

Model 90

Is the Philco 90 the quintessential vintage radio? Certainly it is what most non-collectors visualize as an "antique" radio. Introduced in 1931, the nine-tube superheterodyne chassis was considered a console radio in a table cabinet by many advertisers. The first models had Push-Pull 45s for audio outputs. Later, AVC was added and a single 47 supplied the output. Most cabinets will have the month and date of manufacture stamped on the bottom. Original selling price was $69.50. The sound quality is excellent and the styling timeless.

 

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Atwater-Kent

Model 84

The Atwater-Kent Model 84 featured a "classic" cathedral styled cabinet with booked, figured walnut veneer front and linear walnut veneer sides. The six-tube superheterodyne receiver was built on a nickel-plated chassis. The speaker was an eight-inch electrodynamic giving the AK 84 excellent sound quality. It was a popular model with two AC versions available, (60Hz "Standard - no letter" and 25Hz  "F" type) and two DC versions available, (110vdc "D" type and battery "Q" type), plus variations between early and late models in all versions. The AK 84 originally sold for $69.95 in 1931. The AK-84 is another "timeless" style cabinet design.

 

Echophone Radio, Inc.

Model S-4

Echophone was a popular trade name used by several companies during the twenties. Echophone Radio, Inc. was located in Chicago and eventually was purchased by William Halligan to help form Hallicrafters. The Model S-4 is from 1931 and is a six tube TRF that utilizes an eight inch Jensen speaker and Gothic styling that was popular in the late twenties and early thirties. Thumb-wheel tuning was a popular method for tuning that lasted for a short time in the early thirties. Usually the wear is severe and even if the system works, tuning is not very accurate.

 

Crosley Radio Corp.

Model 148

Crosley got a lot of use out of their "Fiver" circuit. It was available in several different cabinet styles and finishes. The 148 is a five tube superheterodyne in a stylish "cathedral" cabinet that demonstrated Crosley's ability to provide good performance at a reasonable price. It is interesting that the "cathedral" style was originally dubbed as "midget set." Collectors have adapted "cathedral" as it is more descriptive of the radio's appearance.

 

Pilot Radio & Tube Corporation

Super-Wasp Converter - No. 40672

By the time this Shortwave Converter was available, Pilot Radio & Tube Corporation had moved from its longtime location of Brooklyn, New York to Lawrence, Massachusetts. The move was a financial disaster and Pilot went bankrupt but did reform into Pilot Radio and Television shortly thereafter. The Super-Wasp Converter was a kit that was available around 1930 or so. Cabinets could be purchased to house the completed converter. As to its use, one would connect an antenna to the converter and then connect the converter output terminals to the radio set's antenna terminals. The radio would be tuned to the IF output of the converter and then two things happened. First, you could now tune in Shortwave signals on five different ranges and control the volume (sensitivity) at the converter. Second, if your radio was a TRF set (like most were in 1930) you now had an operational, all-wave superheterodyne. SW converters were only popular for a short time around 1930 - 1932, by 1933 most radios included a shortwave band.

 

Atwater-Kent

Model 165

Atwater-Kent offered this five tube receiver in 1933 for the low price of $29.90. Featuring a very delicate fretwork on the grille, a nickel-plated chassis and a large eight-inch speaker, the 165 provided the user excellent sound with a beautiful gothic-styled cabinet.  Police calls could be received by switching the combination Tone-Police control to Police. The switch shorted a few turns on the coils to shift the frequency somewhat higher. No calibration was provided on the Police frequencies. The circuit uses a 57 converter, a 58 IF amp, a 2A6 Det/AVC/1st AF Amp, a 2A5 Audio Output and an 80 rectifier.

 

Atwater-Kent

Model 206

 

Atwater-Kent's mid-priced table model radio for 1934 was the Model 206. The chassis used six tubes, which included an RF amplifier, converter, IF amplifier, duplex-diode triode for Detector, AVC and 1st AF amplifier functions, a pentode audio output stage and the rectifier. The speaker, like many A-K table models was rather large at eight inches diameter and provided a nice quality to the sound produced. Three tuning ranges provided are for AM-BC, Police and Short Wave. Also, a three position tone control was included. The cabinet was a combination of gadrooned pilasters, Japan trimmed base and walnut veneers. The control that is just below-right of the dial is a dual function with coaxial shafts and dual knobs used for the two-speed tuning. The other similar-shaped knob that is below-left of the dial appears to be for a dual function control but is actually only a single function control. Priced at $49 in 1934.

 

Zenith Radio Corp.

Model 805

By 1935, Zenith was considering the "cathedral" style of cabinet a bit archaic. The 805 was the last cathedral Zenith offered even though a few other manufacturers continued with the style for a year or two more. This little five tube set is a good performer and the two tone finish with black Japan trim is quite attractive. Covers BC and one Shortwave band.

This Model 805 is in excellent all original condition. It didn't come out of Reno though. This little radio was found by NU6AM in an antique shop in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. 

 

Sears-Silvertone

Model 4569

The Sears-Roebuck Co. had Colonial Radio Co. build this beautiful Silvertone Model 4569 "Cube" radio for the 1937 model year. Great styling featuring a huge gold dial with tuning-eye and multi-curved cabinet. Supposedly, the gold dial use on many of the 1937 model year Silvertone radios was to celebrate Sear's 50th anniversary in business. This radio is an all-original example, even all of the original "Silvertone" tubes are present.

 

Zenith Radio Corp.

Model  5-S-127

 

 

Small tube-count, table model radios were good sellers and the five tube circuit was just about the minimum number of tubes for a superheterodyne circuit to function with. The rectifier tube reduces the number of tubes in the actual receiver circuit to four. The converter tube allows both local oscillator and mixer functions within one tube envelope. The IF amplifier tube accounts for one tube while the functions of detector, AVC and first AF amplifier are performed by a duplex diode-triode tube. Finally, the audio output tube accounts for the fourth tube. This use of multi-function tubes, the converter tube and the duplex diode-triode, allowed Zenith (and most other manufacturers) the ability to offer decent performance with a minimum number of actual tubes present on the chassis. The reduced number of tubes allowed for a lower selling price which appealed to many cash-challenged radio buyers in the late-thirties. Price was $39.95.

Zenith provided the "Big Black Dial" even in these small tube-count radios giving the owner the impression of a substantial apparatus. And, for the average user, the performance was more than adquate. These five tube circuits do sound great on the AM BC band and the six-inch electrodynamic speaker responds well in the larger cabinet of these particular style radios. On shortwave however, the limited front-end selectivity allows rampant images to start showing up by 10mc. But, in 1937, only the shortwave enthusiasts would have noticed that and they would have been looking for a larger tube-count radio for their shortwave listening.

 

What Happened at Zenith Radio Corporation in 1938?

The 1938 model Zenith radios show some interesting cost-cutting measures that were incorporated into design and construction. The 1938 (and later) power transformers are reduced in size. Whether or not the earlier power transformers were rated for continuous-duty while the later transformers weren't was never specified by Zenith but it's certainly more common to find bad power transformers in the later Zeniths.

1938 is also the year that Zenith stopped supporting the use of metal tubes in their radios. This resulted in all 1938 and later models not having pin one of the octal sockets connected to chassis. To have the metal tube shell act as a shield, pin one of the tube base is connected to the shell and then the corresponding radio tube socket has pin one connected to chassis, thus provided the grounded shield. When Zenith eliminated the "pin one to chassis" connection on their radio chassis this then required the user to purchase the glass tubes and use the separate tube shields that Zenith provided. If metal tubes were all that was available, and if the grid lead was long enough, the metal tube could be installed and then the tube shield installed to provide the shielding. Of course, the object of eliminating the "pin one to chassis" connection was to force radio owners to use Zenith glass tubes as replacements.  

Always looking to save a penny or two, Zenith reduced the number of tie-points used in the under-chassis construction in 1938. Notice that component leads are twisted together at junctions and then soldered, leaving the soldered junction pointing up in the air. Although electronically these were fine connections their appearance is rather crude-looking. Don't change these connections during a restoration since they are part of the chassis "lead dress" which can affect performance. Zenith expected that only technicians would be looking under the chassis anyway.

As the thirties ended, Zenith started using the problem-prone 6X5G cathode rectifier tube (used in most 1940 Zenith models.) Early versions of this tube developed cathode-to-heater shorts which usually burned-out the high-voltage winding in the power transformer. So, be sure to thoroughly check out the power transformer in a prospective late-thirties Zenith purchase if it's condition is unknown by the seller. You may find a serious problem lurking under the chassis.

 

Zenith Radio Corp.

Model 6-S-222

The "Cube" style, (introduced in 1937 with the 5-S-126), was so popular that Zenith kept it in the 1938 line-up at the same 1937 price of $39.95. The tube count was increased to six, although Zenith did this by replacing the duplex diode-triode (6Q7) with separate first audio amp (6F5) and a dual diode (6H6) so performance is about the same as the 1937 version. The larger cube radios featured AM BC plus two shortwave bands and a 6"speaker mounted in the top of the cabinet which resulted in a pleasing sound quality due to hearing the sound wave indirectly. In referring to the various "Cube" models one should use the proper model number since using just "Zenith Cube" is confusing because there are so many Zenith models that used various types of cube-style cabinets.

In 1964, for my fourteenth birthday, I was given a Zenith 6-S-222 for listening to shortwave. This was my very first radio and it started my life-long interest in vintage radios. Unfortunately, the 6-S-222 shown in the photo is not my original radio. In 1973, during a move, I made a hasty decision and my original 6-S-222 went to the dump. The 6-S-222 shown is the third one I've owned - I think I'll keep this one.

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Zenith Radio Corp.

"232 Series"

Models 7-S-232, 7-J-232, 9-S-232 & 12-S-232

For 1938, Zenith offered a deluxe table model radio featuring the new Robot Dial and Cathode-ray Tuning Indicator in a superbly styled, machine age cabinet. Four versions were available - two different seven-tube chassis, a nine-tube chassis and a twelve-tube chassis. The nine and twelve-tube models had motor-drive tuning.   All models utilized an eight-inch electrodynamic speaker, (except the "J" model farm-set  which used an 8" PM speaker.) These were expensive sets with the 7S232 selling for $74.95, the 7J232 going for $79.95, the 9S232 price was $89.95 and the 12S232 topping the price list at $99.95. Shown in the photo is the seven-tube AC model, the 7-S-232 which was found in Reno.

The 1970s TV series, "The Waltons," featured a 232 model in several episodes, hence the common collector nickname - Zenith Walton. It's confusing to use this moniker because it seems dealers have applied "Walton" to any of the 232 models. It's commonly believed that the Zenith used on the TV series was a 12-S-232, which should then be the correct "Walton" version. It's better and more accurate to refer to the particular radio by its proper Zenith model number - no confusion that way.

It's worth noting that the grille cloth on this 7-S-232 is a reproduction. When found, this radio had brown velvet for the grille cloth - cool. Otherwise the radio is all original.

 

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Zenith Radio Corp.

Model 6-S-330

Zenith continued to offer its six-tube chassis table model for 1939 at the same 1938 price of $39.95. Electronic tuning push-buttons made their debut in the 1939 Zenith line (though mechanical push-buttons had been popular on Zenith radios in the late twenties.) The radio tunes AM-BC and two Shortwave Bands with a six-inch speaker delivering pleasing audio. The cabinet is finished in Nydoc, a decal-like application that resulted in a faux finish that resembled burl veneer after the finish coat of toned lacquer was applied. Nydoc (and the lacquer finish coat) is notorious for chipping and flaking leaving the white wood base exposed.

This near perfect, original example spent the last sixty-odd years in the dark upstairs rooms of the vacant Werrin Bldg. in Virginia City, Nevada. Electricity was crudely wired to the upstairs rooms in the Werrin Bldg. and the last tenants moved out in 1947. All of the windows were covered with external metal shutters leaving the interior very dark regardless of the time of day. When I first saw the five radios that were in the upstairs rooms in 1994 I had to inspect them with a flashlight. Even though a tentative deal was made on the five radios, I never was able to complete the transaction with the owners. Instead the owners allowed their "renters" to sell the radios to the tourists over the years. The last radio to be sold was this Zenith and fortunately, I knew the collector that purchased it. After acquiring the Zenith, he came down to the museum with his "new find." Upon hearing where he had purchased the Zenith, I recognized it and knew it was the "last" radio that was going to be available from the Werrin Bldg. Luckily, I was able to offer in trade a mint condition Hickok 6000A tube tester for the radio. Maybe the Hickok was worth a bit more than the Zenith but it was the Werrin Bldg. provenance that I was interested in. 

 

Pre-War Plastic Radios (1933-1940)

Colonial

Model 300

The Colonial Model 300 from 1933 has a cabinet made of Durez, which is similar to bakelite but with coarser filler material. Durez was used extensively for molded ash trays. Highly polished nickel plated trim makes the Model 300 a stunning radio.

 

Emerson

Model 149

Emerson's 1936 Model 149 was available in cabinets made of brown bakelite, white or black plaskon or a combination black and white plaskon. The radio circuit uses five tubes and covers AM and Police Band (1.7-4.0 Mc.)

 

Detrola

Model 197 - "Pee-Wee"

The Detrola Pee-Wee Model 197 was the hit of the New York Radio Show in 1939. This example is in "Beetle" Plaskon with red knobs and feet. Pee-Wees also were available in many other colors and color combinations, however the small cabinet often cracked or became distorted due to the heat of the tubes.

 

Detrola

  207 Converter - "Pee-Wee"

An accessory that was available in some areas was the VHF (Very High Frequency) Converter in the Pee-Wee case, Model 207. By the late thirties, many cites had switched their police radio communications to higher frequencies, especially the radio transmitters installed in police cars. This little converter allowed the user to hear both sides of the police call, (if you had a separate radio for receiving the Police Station transmitter.)

 

Wards-Airline

  Model 62-228   - "Miracle"

 

The 1938 Airline "Miracle" Model 62-228 is a bakelite case radio with mechanical push button tuning and cathode-ray tuning indicator. Intricate castings were popular to demonstrate the advantages modern plastics had over other materials. Built by Belmont for Wards.

 

Motorola

Model 50-XC-3

The Motorola "Circle Grille" Model 50-XC-3 from 1940. The case is made of Catalin, which is a cast resin with great depth and beauty. This radio was originally a creamy white color with tan swirls, but due to the unstable nature of catalin when exposed to light, it has now darkened to a nice butterscotch color.

 

Remler

Model 46 - "Scottie"

The Remler Co. was located in San Francisco, California and, prior to 1922, was partially owned by Elmer Cunningham. Supposedly, Remler was derived from "Elmer" spelled backwards with an "r" added ("r" for "radio".) The "Scottie" radios were popular models with the canine decoration probably inspired by FDR's dog, "Fala." This Model 46 is from 1937.

 

Majestic

Model 651

Majestic offered up the Model 651 in 1939. It featured a great curved cabinet made of Bakelite but the circuit is typical of the AC/DC types using a ballast tube and five receiving tubes.

 

Novelties (1930-1955)

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Abbotwares

Model Z-477

Abbotwares produced several variations of their Model Z-477. Shown are two styles, the "Standing Horse" is the most often seen version, while the "Rearing Horse & Cowboy" is seldom encountered. There is also the rare  "Prancing Horse & Cowgirl" variation, besides a "Lady Godiva," a "Moose" and a "Hula Dancer." Why Abbotwares used the same model number for all the variations is unknown but it must have made the paperwork easy. The "Rearing Horse & Cowboy" radio shown was a top prize give-away and was won at a California State Fair in the early fifties.

 

 

"Lester" Piano-Radio

Model 494

 

This version of the bakelite "Grand Piano" radio was built by the L.K.Franklin Co.,Inc. of Los Angeles, California. There are several variations and cabinets in both wood or bakelite. The radio is a standard "AA-5" and dates from the early fifties.

 

 

 

Sparkling Champagne Music

"Quality Superb"

 

The unusual name of this novelty radio is descriptive of its intent - a large champagne bottle that houses a radio. The bottle, although it looks very convincing, is actually painted bakelite and the "cork" at the top is turned to tune in stations. Again, a standard "AA-5" is housed vertically while the speaker is facing downward in the base. This novelty dates from the early fifties and, for several years, was on display in Virginia City's notorious thirst-parlor, The Union Brewery. The "streamer-ribbon" was a left-over from this radio's "party" days at the "Brewery."

 

 

Harrah's Club

Slot Machine Radio

 

It wouldn't be Nevada without a "Slot Machine Radio." This one is an early tube variety that Harrah's Club sometimes gave as an additional prize to large jackpot winners in the mid-fifties. They were also available in Harrah's Gift Shops located inside the casino. Not the highest quality in either performance or materials!

 

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