Wednesday, November 15, 2006

AMRAD: the only station in Boston

The Boston newspapers wrote very little about radio until 1922. So much of the history of AMRAD and 1XE, relies on oral histories and letters of former staff. In as much please under stand that at least some of their official history is fish-tale. Behind it all is Harold J. Power, a life-time radio geek. He ran an ameteur station out of his home at the age of 10 all driven by an obsession with the work of Marconi.

The American Radio and Research Corporation, or AMRAD, was founded in 1915 Harold J. Power. AMRAD was the epicenter of radio innovation in both broadcast and manufacture in Boston prior to 1922. Harold was a Tufts alumnus and negotiated with the Univeristy to get some land to use for their radio experiments. It was there ton the Tufts campus they built a 300+ foot tall tower and founded 1XE. Their call latters were later changed to WGI and on the manufacturing side AMRAD also manufactured parts for both domestic and military radio.

What mystifies me is that WBZ is generally thought of as the first boston radio station, one that followed immediately after KDKA. Westinghouse owned both KDKA and WBZ and I guess they had the publicity budget. WBZ began operating in Springfield in September of 1921 and didn't officially do any broadcasting from Boston till late February of 1924. That makes them not the first, or at least not the first in Boston.

In 1917, AMRAD received a license for station 1XE, and experimental broadcasts began on a fairly regular basis that same year. That beats WBZ by 7 years. Granted these were not always radio programes. Some broadcasts were morse code practice, but 1XE was on air almost daily.

AMRAD kept running partially through funding from the receivers they made for the military. This continued in 1918, when all amateur stations were shut down by the government. It was thsi core buisness that kept the staff together until 1918 when they were allowed to go back on air. 1XE's volunteer staff came back to the microphone. Local radio fans, Tufts students,
musicians and theatre, even political figures saw the benefit of being on the new station.

In early February of 1922, 1XE officially became WGI. Although at times it was confused with the bigger and more powerful station WGY in Schenectady, the station kept the WGI call letters but emphasised their AMRAD connection wherever possible. But financial problems mounted in late 1923 and the station was off the air due to equipment failure many times. Staff began to leave for other newer more powerful local stations.

In February of 1925, WGI changed its call letters to WARC and began to dayshare with religious station (calls unknown?) April of 1925, with no announcement, WARC simply vanished, there was no announcement and they did not notify the commerce department. Tufts took their building back. The weak WGI transmitter was taken apart and sold. And whereever it's parts were used reception was terrible. Its poor manufacture curse stations such as WBET and they too went bankrupt.

The WARC calls reside in Meadville, PA on the Allegheny College station these days but the WGI calls remain extinct.