Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Transatlantic WOR

I've written before about transatlantic broadcasts. The one most radio historians will jump at is the first one. Marconi sending a signal from Cornwall to Newfoundland in 1901. The signal wasn't confirmed to reach the United States and no reverse broadcast was attempted. But that was just a scant few dots and dashes. What about an actual radio program?

In 1the fall of 1922 on October 22nd at (360 meters) or 833 AM, WOR-AM attempted it. Paul Whiteman and his band played in the WOR studio on the sixth floor of the Bamberger building in Newark, NJ. The signal was successfully received by the BBC in London. The station had only been on air since that February. Engineer Jack Popple was elated of course as was then owner L. Bamberger & Co. a popular department store. At the time 360 meters was the only broadcast frequency permitted in New York due to the war effort. In fact they were forced to share time with WJY and WDT. Whiteman must have taken something away from the experience because in the 1930s be bought 1300 WTNJ-AM in Ewing, NJ. He's was also tied to WJZ-AM where he often performed on air.

But less than a year later, in April of 1923 the board of directors at L. Bamberger was tiring of the ventures costs. They were ready to turn the license over to the government. Engineer Jack Popple wasn't ready to quit though. He'd just got out of the military and had spent the last year as a wireless Operator for the Navy. He was a staunch wireless advocate. Popple spent the entire meeting arguing to hold off. He convinced them to stick it out for another year.
In that one year they moved to the frequency of 740 dropping the WDT time share and increasing their airtime. By 1926 WJY shut down leaving sole use of the frequency to WOR. I cant' say the question of shutting down never came up again. They struggled through the twenties, and the purcahse of Bamberger by Maceys might have complicated things. But by the time that Bill Paley set his sights on it in 1927 it was already a heritage station. Popple continued to work for WOR into the mid 1950s.