Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Mysterious Mrs. Redgrave


The very first broadcast in the Philippines, probably in all of Asia was a test broadcast in 1922. According to the book Broadcasting in Asia and the Pacific by John A. Lent, an American woman named Mrs. Redgrave used a five-watt transmitter for a test broadcast from Nichols Field in Manila (Then just Camp Nichols, now Villamor Airbase). Her first name is unknown. A 1973 fire destroyed many records from the period. But the event is corroborated by a 1925 letter from Governor General David Wood to Bureau of Insular Affairs General Chief Frank McIntyre. The book Appropriation of Colonial Broadcasting by Elizabeth Enriquez further reiterates the claim and the lack of information on Redgrave going as far as to check the U.S. National Archive and Records Administration (NARA). Mrs. Redgrave remains frustratingly anonymous.

The surname Redgrave isn't particularly common. It originates from the parish and village of Redgrave, north west of Eye in the county of Suffolk as early as 1050. Author and artist Gilbert Richard Redgrave is even known to have some of his books on the shelves of the American Circulating Library of Manila back in 1907. The sisters Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave crossed the pond and rose to fame in the late 1960s, but were born long after the test.  Roy Redgrave his wife Margaret, and their son Sir Michael Redgrave all were famous on stage, and screen back to the silent film era. [SOURCE] Michael is known to have visited Manila, but not until decades later. He would have been 14 at the time of the broadcast. Margaret Redgrave was performing at a Comedy Theater in London in 1922 and also occupied. Possibly our Mrs. Redgrave was Hope Pillsbury [SOURCE] Redgrave,  the wife of Captain DeWitt C. Redgrave Jr. who christened ships at Evansville shipyard in the 1940s. In 1922 his ship the U.S.S. Montgomery was in the Pacific...

Excluding that unlikely arcane event, radio in the Philippines started in 1924 with establishment of KZKZ-AM in Manila on 729 kHz. The station as run by Henry Herman Sr., owner of an Electrical Supply Company. Mr. Herman was an American and a former soldier in the U.S. Army Signal Corps who fought in the Philippine–American War. He stayed in the Philippines after he was honorably discharged. Like many others he was trying to sell more radios by broadcasting programming for them to receive. His radio career began with a temporary permit in 1922 from the Bureau of Posts for a couple different transmitters one of which was mobile.

Two years into the experiment, Herman replaced the experimental stations with a 100-watt station with the call letters KZKZ. However, Herman soon after gave up on the commercial potential of radio. On October 4, 1924, with KZKZ but a few months old, he sold it to the Radio Corporation of the Philippines (RCP). RCP expanded into Cebu putting up KZRC (Radio Cebu) in 1929, which is now DYRC. It quickly became a free for all, which persisted until a U.S. colonial government instituted frequency assignments in 1931. For what it's worth Henry Herman was forced in WWII to sell electrical supplies to the Japanese military. Charged as a collaborator, he lost his military pension. More here.