Friday, January 02, 2015

America's First Radio Tour

The year 1922 was the year of America's First Radio Tour. In June the Detroit Board of Commerce, the Detroit Automobile Club and the Lincoln Highway Association sponsored a traveling radio event. Two cars were supplied by the Rickenbacker Motor Company. The Tour left Detroit on June 1, 1922 and arrived in Los Angeles July 13th, 43 days later. More here. But this was no broadcasting bonanza, it was a listening tour. On July 10th in San Francisco Mrs Blood was quoted:
"Every night we would tune in, no matter where we were along the Lincoln Highway. One night, when we were nearing Omaha, we listened to Eddie Cantor and Fanny Brice, who are with the Follies in New York. We had a vaudeville star for an entertainer nearly every evening."
The two men in charge were Wallace Blood and O. William Heinz, both Detroit business men and radio aficionados. They were accompanied by their wives. They were showcasing new radio equipped cars following scheduled concerts along their route. William Blood was (probably) the ad man, a partner at Campbell, Blood & Trump. It was a promotional tour.. plain and simple. But in 1922 reception was not a given. In parts of Nebraska and Ely, NV they couldn't receive anything either due to conditions.

The lead car was outfitted with an exceptionally sensitive seven-tube radio receiver built by Tesla Labs. It came with two powerful antennas and a Magnavox "Magnaloud" speaker. The first antenna was a 200 foot loop on the roof, and the second (a back up antenna) was just a 200-foot aerial mounted on the running board. The second was also a supply car to carry stocked with replacement parts to keep the radio working. More here.

Contemporary articles claim they drove 2,800 miles. But even in 1922 that drive wouldn't take 43 days. That's only 65 miles per day. On the other side of Carson City is Lake Tahoe. I suspect they made a lengthy stop there. Route 80 didn't exist yet so it's probable that they took the Lincoln Highway as per their sponsors. But clearly they took breaks, stopped often and didn't exactly hurry. While in Nevada alone they stopped in Ely, Eureka, Austin, and Carson City.