Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Wanamaker's WOO-AM

I bought a 78. At the bottom of the sleeve in two dry, crumpling pieces was the original receipt from April 22nd 1933, back when the record was brand new. Wanamakers no longer exists. But when it did is was extravagant. It had the largest indoor pipe organ in the world, a child-size monorail, in-house physician and nurses, it's own dairy bar, a tea room, a post office and even ... a radio station.At that time the radio station was exotic, it was as much an attraction as the monorail or the pipe organ. But, the chain had always been radio focal. In 1912 Marconi build them a wireless set up just to send sales information between the New York and Philadelphia stores. The store broadcast its organ concerts on the Wanamaker-owned radio station WOO-AM beginning in 1922. At about the same time they launched WWZ-AM. WWZ only lasted from march of 1922 to about November of 1923. Because of the era, both stations operated on 833 kilocycles.

WOO-AM broadcast from a sound-proof room on the 2nd floor adjacent to the Egyptian Hall. It's transmitter was on the 11th. It re-transmit Arlington time signals from the naval observatory and carried weather information. In 1925 they broadcast the second inauguration of Calvin Coolidge. While it was his second, it was the first radio broadcast of a presidential inauguration.

In 1926 Wanamakers published a pamphlet titled "A Friendly Guide Book to Philadelphia and the Wanamaker Store." It appears to have been a freebie they gave to tourists who came to the store. It's an interesting booklet. it claims that Marconi installed their WWZ wireless in 1911 not 1912. It also claims that WOO, in Philadelphia is the first to install a Marconi Wireless.. a claim that's not even close to true. Their own New York station was earlier, and that wasn't' the first either.

****UPDATE 02/09/09****
I found a copy of The Business Biography of John Wanamaker. It further details the story of WOO-AM. It states that the Philadelphia Wanamaker store started it's own wireless station in 1911. but in it's time line in a previous chapter it clearly states that the Marconi wireless was installed in October of 1907. Regardless, it's inaugural message sent from was sent personally by Philadelphia mayor John Reyburn to New York Mayor William Gaynor. It read as follows:
"Sincere greetings and congratulations on completion of enterprise which gives Wanamaker wireless one more tie for our service and friendship to unite our cities."
John Wanamaker did not attend the launch. He was in Ems Prussia at that time. A message was then sent by Marconi in new York to him conveying it's completion. He did attend the launch of WOO-AM and made a breif address.

In 1924 At a Radio festival concerts from the New York Wanamaker auditorium were broadcast direct to the Wanamaker London House at 26 Pall Mall via RCA-owned WJZ-AM in New York. General Electric-owned WGY-AM in Schenectady also carried the program. From these two stations the program was further relayed over Great Britain. The bio also contains the last puzzle piece. WOO-AM was closed in 1928.