Earliest Experimental Portland & Oregon Broadcasts

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  • #42
    Craig_Adams
    Participant

    Today I spoke at the “Northwest Vintage Radio Society” and prepared some history on the earliest Oregon broadcasts. I had mentioned to Mark Moore, President of the society I could talk about the very first broadcast by KFU in 1915. Mark asked: “Were there any other early broadcasts before KGW?” That got me thinking. Individual stories had been posted here and the “100 Years of Portland & Oregon Radio History Firsts” post, covered only the beginning of everything just briefly, not going into much detail and no follow ups.

    Here for the first time is a detailed description of all documented experimental broadcasts of note, in order from 1915 to 1922. Some of these early broadcasts have never been written about on the web, before this posting. Some broadcast descriptions are very brief because little was written of note. Others are much more rich in information. I think you’ll find it a fascinating journey if you’ve ever wondered how it all evolved in the very beginning, locally.

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    On the night of March 29, 1915 speech by wireless telephone from Seattle to Portland was heard and found to be possible at night. KFU Lents heard single words such as “hello”, “good-bye” and “telephone” distinctly from the Federal Telegraph Co. station at Kent. In some cases phrases could be made out. Whole sentences however, couldn’t be caught. Music could be heard distinctly. The test was difficult because of large amounts of static electricity.

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    On the night of October 2, 1915 the first Oregon Broadcast of Voice and Music was heard over the wireless when KFU Lents called to experimental station 7XU at Algona, Washington which is a community N.E. of Tacoma. A voice was carried over the air successfully and the notes of a phonograph were heard distinctly.

    KFU had installed a DeForest ultra-audion receiver, which was a great improvement in wireless, overcoming the buzzing noise caused by the condition known as “static” which made it difficult to distinguish messages, both voice and Morse Code. The same receiver was used in wireless telephone and telegraph. Instead of the buzzing sound, the receiver transformed the message into a musical whistling note. By its use, it was said messages could be heard a few feet away from the instrument. KFU pickd up messages being sent from WGG and WSL both in New Jersey.

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    The Highest Wireless Telephone Apparatus in the World was placed on top of Mount Hood, to send out Forest Fire verbal warnings. The experimental station began operation by August 29, 1919 by the Forest Service.

    It all started on July 21, 1919 when Clay Allen, telephone engineer for the Forest Service and Charlie Austin left for the summit of Mount Hood. They planned to erect a wireless telephone apparatus a “SCR-67A” the U.S. Army Signal Corp. had lent Forest Service, for the lookout station.

    The task of packing the heavy equipment up the mountain presented a real difficulty. Besides the regular sending and receiving instruments, the wires and two 40 foot poles, there were two 60-pound batteries that had to be carried from the Ranger Station to the summit.

    Pack horses were used as far as possible, two miles beneath the highest point. At the summit a thin, extra strong bamboo pole, made up of several sections about 2 1/4 inches thick were bound together with extra strong aviation wire for the aerials. It may have been necessary to put up two 40 foot poles close together to bear the weight of the wires.

    The connecting wireless telephone was located at the Summit House, a patrol station about three miles Southeast of Government Camp. Summit House was connected to Government Camp and the Ranger Station via phone. Electrical engineers and professionals as well as Forestry men throughout the Country were watching the experiment with the great interest.

    When the Mount Hood wireless telephone station sent out Forest Fire Warnings, they were plainly heard in San Francisco, where a wireless outfit had been mounted on the roof of the Fairmount Hotel, 6XO. Conversations between San Francisco and Mount Hood were exchanged with ease.

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    On the night of April 3, 1920 a series of telephone wireless tests were conducted from the sending station on the roof of the new Post Office building, under the direction of Clay Allen, telephone engineer of the Forest Service. The tests were made for the purpose of trying out a special arc telephone set invented by William Hanscom of San Francisco; to determine how many of the amateur radio operators in Portland could qualify for Forestry Service work during the coming summer.

    It was planned to establish some two or three dozen wireless stations which would be scattered through the forests, and beginning the next Fall a school would instruct Rangers as wireless operators. In the meantime the Forestry Service hoped to make use of amateurs. John Pierson 7GD owner, Ralph Galyean 7CR owner and Charles Austin 7DK owner, were among those having amateur wireless sets who listened in on messages. 7DK would later become 7ZI.

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    On the night of April 13, 1920 wireless telegraph operators all over Portland listened to a conversation conducted by wireless telephones. Occasionally the conversation was interspersed with phonograph music. 7CR was at the home of Ralph Galyean, and 7ZB was John Hertz station, across the Columbia River about 18 miles north of Portland. Communication between stations was perfect. Ray White, 7LW owner, was one of the amateur operators who reported listening to Jazz records over the air.

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    On the evening of May 6th & 7th 1920 Oregon’s first Public Demonstration of Broadcasting was exhibited with phonograph music at the Benson Polytechnic School, 2nd annual Technical Show.

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    On December 8, 1920 7YG owned by Y.M.C.A.’s Oregon Institute of Technology, broadcast a song, sung by Walter Jenkins, followed by instrumental music and an address by Walter Haines at the Benson Hotel, Ad Club luncheon. 7YG would later become KDYQ.

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    On January 1, 1921 the Y.M.C.A. held their annual open house 2 to 9:30 P.M.. Visitors were entertained in the auditorium by 7YG wireless telephone demonstrations.

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    On the evening of March 12, 1921 three hundred members of the Northwestern Radio Club danced in the Glencoe School ballroon to phonograph music amplified 20 times. The music was transmitted to the apparatus from Charlie Austin’s 7ZI on Mt. Tabor, about half mile away. The experiment was not an absolute success, although the music sufficed for dancing, the unique broadcast contributed to the enjoyment of the dancers. Mr. Austin had also reported in March 1921 talking to Los Angeles with satisfactory results. 7ZI would later become 7XF.

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    On April 13, 1921 Willard Hawley Jr. announced he would build a station in Oregon City equipped to receive and transmit both wireless telephone and telegraph massages. The station would have a range of 1,000 miles. Charlie Austin would design and build the station. The plant and towers would be built next to the Hawley Pulp & Paper Mill. The station ultimately would never be built in Oregon City, rather constructed in Portland as 7XG, later to be KYG.

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    In June 1921 Charlie Austin’s 7XF was broadcasting phonograph music to various radio operators on ships, who might be listening to his evening programs. 7XF would later become KGN.

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    In August 1921 Charlie Austin’s 7XF broadcast Oregon’s first radio commercial. Clyde Freeman, Manager of “Remick’s Song & Gift Shop” approached Charlie after hearing his broadcasts. Freeman replaced 7XF’s old phonograph with a new player and began servicing 7XF with the lastest in Jazz & Classical discs. In return Charlie would announce the name of the song, artist, record label number, price, shop name and address before each song. A month later the shop had reported many record sales attributed to 7XF broadcasts.

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    On the night of September 19, 1921 7YG held a public inspection. Operators were able to talk a distance of more than 100 miles at Oregon Institute of Technology, on the fourth floor of the Y.M.C.A. building. The radio station had almost all new equipment. 7YG had its aerial extensions over the Heilig Theater building. The transmitter was recognized as the most powerful in Portland. Visitors saw the radio station, classrooms and laboratories in full operation.

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    On the night of October 13, 1921 the Women’s Business Club presented an illustrated lecture on the instruments of the orchestra. Arrangements were made through the Y.M.C.A. to carry the lecture and music by 7YG to sailors at sea.

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    On November 27, 1921 Oregon’s First Live Concert was heard on the First Multi-Station broadcast. The three night concert event was broadcast from 7XF, 7YG and an additional station on loan to the “Portland Telegram” newspaper from Charlie Austin. This station was installed by “Ray” Beamer (7GA owner) and Wilbur Jerman (later KFWV/KWJJ owner) of the Stubbs Electric Co. (later KQY owner). The Telegram station was operating on 250 meters with a special permit from the Radio Division, Bureau of Navigation, U.S. Dept. of Commerce under the license of 7XF.

    The first concert was given by 7YG at 8 P.M., followed by the Telegram station at 9 P.M. and 7XF at 10 P.M. The progams were heard by hundreds in Portland and neighboring towns and states. One Portland receiving station was able to make a wax cylinder recording of a selection sung by Hanna Pelz, soprano soloist, who was Music Director of Temple Beth-Israel and was married to Mischa Pelz, later KOIN Orchestra Conductor and KGW-KEX Orchestra Conductor.

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    On the night of December 2, 1921 Ship Owners’ Radio Service, Inc., was in operation in room 11 of James John High School in St. Johns. The wireless, which transmitted a musical concert taking place in the city, was operated by Jesse Weed. Ship Owners’ Radio Service would later install the KGW apparatus. Jesse Weed would become KGW’s first operator.

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    On December 14, 1921 Clif Watson announced a radio telephone station with the power to transmit a range of 500 miles or more will soon be established in Portland. This was 7XI, later to be KGG. For five years Mr. Watson, had been in charge of the Radio Laboratory at Mare Island station, NPH. The station will be experimental and be used in connection with the “Hallock & Watson” store, handling radio apparatus. News items, Market quotations, Agriculture, River reports, Weather reports, and time signals, would be broadcast daily.

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    On January 2, 1922 7YG broadcast music during the annual Y.M.C.A. open house, 2:30 to 9:30 P.M. 7YG would later become KDYQ.

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    On January 25, 1922 Oregon Agricultural College in Corvallis, announced a new 15-watt telephone set was added to the wireless laboratory equipment. This was 7XH, later to be KFDJ. Jacob Jordan, head of the Radio Department, built the apparatus. When the set was permanently installed it was valuable for experiments, giving the college one of the most modern stations on the coast.

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    On February 4, 1922 the Department of Commerce ordered temporary suspension of radio broadcasting by amateurs because of interference caused to regular radio service. 7XF continued broadcasting its phonograph concerts 30 to 60 minutes nightly with an estimated 400 listener sets, accommodating probably as many as 1000 persons. Charlie Austin said: “So far as I know, my station is the only one in Oregon that is broadcasting. I am licensed to do so and the order, so far as I have been able to construe it, does not affect me or anyone in the class of operators holding similar license.”

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    On February 11, 1922 it was reported R.M. Fox, President of the Douglas County Fire Patrol, based in Roseburg, conducted experiments with a portable wireless telephone outfit, using hand power to generate electricity for transmitting messages.

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    On February 27, 1922 7XF began a series of United States Public Health Bulletins at 8:45 P.M. every night of the week and on Tuesday and Friday evenings thereafter. Charlie Austin was the announcer. The first subject was bacteria. 7XF operated on 360 meters.

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    On March 4, 1922 it was reported 7XG owned by Willard Hawley, Jr. was broadcasting with what was regarded by radio authorities as one of the finest equipped amateur radiophone stations in the United States. 7XG broadcast musical selections on both phonograph and piano, several evenings each week. Letters were sent to Mr. Hawley by radio “listeners” who enjoyed the musical programs. The longest distance 7XG carried was 2,500 miles, clearly received by a station operator several miles from Honolulu, Hawaii. 7XG was Oregon’s first station to broadcast on a Regular Schedule.

    The Hawley radio transmitter, which was designed by Northwestern Radio Manufacturing Co. consisted of four 50-watt radiotron power tubes, two oscillators and two modulators, the Colpitts oscillatory unit and the Heising modulation unit. Current was supplied to the tubes by a special step-down transformer connecting to the “A.C.” electric source, and a motor generator with an output of 1,500 volts direct current for the plate circuit.

    The transmitter panels allowed for controlling various functions and circuit changes necessary for working the station. With one move of the switch, the tube filaments were lighted, the motor generator started, and the transmitting set was ready for broadcasting voice or music.

    The aerial was supported by two poles, both 100 feet high and 70 feet apart. For transmitting purposes a counterpoise was used, stretching directly beneath the aerial. For transmitting phonographic music the latest type of electric driven victrola with a magnavox tone arm stood by the transmitter. Vocal and instrumental music was broadcast from a grand piano with a specially constructed spruce tone chamber. 7XG would later become KYG.

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    On March 6, 1922 7XF began broadcasting a series of Engineering and Industrial News reports at 7:30 P.M. every Monday night. Listeners heard about developments in the Northwest, together with a review of business conditions in Portland and Seattle.

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    On March 12, 1922 The Oregonian printed its first Portland radio schedule: 7XF broadcast on 360 meters every Tuesday and Friday at 8:45 P.M. bulletins of the Public Health Service. Every Monday at 7:30 P.M. the station sent out Industrial Northwest news. The musical schedule of 7XF was not yet announced. 7XG broadcast on 360 meters, instrumental and vocal music between 8 and 8:45 P.M. every Tuesday and Wednesday, plus between 9 and 9:30 P.M. every Thursday.

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    On March 13, 1922 7XF began Oregon’s first regular scheduled Newscast. A collaboration with “The Oregon Journal” newpaper weeknights at 7:45 P.M.. This made Charles Austin, Oregon’s First Newscaster. 7XF would later become KGN.

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    On March 15, 1922 7XF began daily broadcasts exclusively for Meier & Frank, 12:15 to 12:45 P.M. and 4:00 to 4:45 P.M. These broadcasts were picked up on the 5th floor with a magna vox amplifier, for the entertainment of patrons. Shoppers heard the latest news, musical numbers and other features.

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    On March 18, 1922 The Oregonian teased, it would soon make an important announcement.

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    On March 19, 1922 7XI began operation. Owners, Joe Hallock & Clif Watson of the “Hallock & Watson” radio shop. The station would later become KGG. On the same day, The Oregonian announced KGW was coming.

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    On March 23 & 24, 1922 KGW conducted test broadcasts with live vocals and phonograph music after 10 P.M.

    #2363
    semoochie
    Participant

    “On the night of March 29, 1915, KFU Lents heard single words such as “hello”, “good-bye” and “telephone” distinctly from the Federal Telegraph Co. station at Kent. In some cases phrases could be made out. Whole sentences however, couldn’t be caught.” This is very similar to the problem I’m currently having with my mother and she was born at about the same time. 🙂 “James John High School in St. Johns” Is this now Roosevelt High or something else? “7ZB was John Hertz station.” That’s an interesting last name, under the circumstances. I wonder if he’s related to the other one.

    #2364
    Craig_Adams
    Participant

    There were two John Hertz from Vancouver, licensed: John B. Hertz, 7ZB and John D. Hertz, 7JH. Here’s an ad that ran October 18, 1916 in The Oregonian:

    “WANTED — 2 inch spark coil, key. Spark gap, etc. for wireless work. What have you? John Hertz, Vancouver, Wash. Route 3.”

    #2365
    semoochie
    Participant

    I was actually referring to the fellow who spent his lifetime studying cyclic occurrences or as Don Zundel would say, “He stayed up all night!”.

    #2366
    Dan Packard
    Keymaster

    Interesting facts about the genesis of broadcast radio in Portland. Nice write up Craig!

    #2367
    kahtik
    Participant

    Haven’t finished reading it Craig, as I have to go back to bed before work tonight, but enjoy it so far! Will continue more when I get a break.

    Thanks for the history lesson! Cheers.

    #2368
    kennewickman
    Participant

    I knew one of those guys !! Yep never heard of this story before and I dont remember Ray ever mentioning it either..

    Ray White 7LW..later on W7LW Ham operator..mentioned in Paragraph 6..Well now..

    Ray White lived in East Portland..not far from Lents..when I knew him..in a house on SE. 118th near Powell that he had lived in since the early 30s…the guy worked for Portland General Electric. He was a substation operator/engineer and later on an instrument technician for PGE. Told me war stories about how during and after the Columbus Day Storm in October 62′..they recruited him and anyone else they could get out of the old L-Station Shops down on the Willamtte river to go out and help fix all the downed power lines. He was out in the rain for 36 hours straight, I guess..raising up and manipulating downed hot lines with the fiberglass fire sticks..all just before he retired from the ” company ” as he put it…

    He had an old Ham Station downstairs..and a Rohn crank up tower with a 20 meter beam on it. Had an old Collins BC-610 transmitter..he wasnt active when I knew him..just had his station all set up still..he was pretty old when I knew him..in his mid to late 70s..he died about 1979 or so..

    I think he was born around 1900..so he would a still been a teenager in 1920.

    #2369
    Craig_Adams
    Participant

    Thanks Dan & Kahtik!

    An overview of the entire Portland Radio origin seems to suggest, local pioneers were given first hand knowledge from the U.S. Forest Service and even hands on operation of small broadcast stations, on multiple occasions as early as 1920. The Forest Service needed our amateur wireless telegraph station operators to help report forest fires, until they could indoctrinate Forest Rangers in radio broadcasting.

    It’s ironic, Oregon’s natural resource, Trees…played a major roll in providing our early radio experimenters, a peek into the future. From 1920 on, Portland embraced the new technology and ran with it, giving the Rose City a leg up to what would grow into the broadcast industry.

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