WIP Radio Studio
1922

We have found in our archives, a great document. It is a xerox, not an original. How we got it, we do not know. It seems that there was an audio recording (probably a reel to reel tape) of this made. No recording has been found or located. However, what we do have is quite amazing. It is a script for the audio recording. It features two people, Ed Davies, who was the first manager of WIP Radio in 1922, and Jim Tisdale, who was the station's Chief Engineer in the early days. When this script was written, September 2, 1964, Jim was owner of WVCH Radio in Chester, Pennsylvania. This is simply wonderful.

------------------------------

Ed Davies:

This is Edward Davies bringing you the story of Philadelphia's Pioneer Voice. Collaborating with me on this presentation is former Chief Engineer, our good friend and associate, Jim Tisdale, the Voice of Pennsylvania. Jim, let's begin at the beginning. The year 1921. Construction at that time was started for a radio station in the Piano Department of Gimbel Brothers Department Store. I was assistant personnel manager at the store at the time having returned to that job after many months of army service in England and France during World War I.

Jim Tisdale:

Ed, I think it would be very interesting why Gimbel's decided to build a radio station in their store in Philadelphia.

Ed Davies:

Well, Jim, it's a very interesting story. Ellis Gimbel, Jr., son of one of the owners and founders of the business, came to me and asked me if I knew anything about a thing called radio broadcasting. I told him, "no, I didn't." Well, he said his father had given him the Toy Department to mechanize and they were getting numerous calls for radio receivers. He didn't know just exactly what they were talking about and no one else seemed to know. They were mentioning Mason jars with coils and things of that sort. I became interested from the standpoint of physics. That had been one of my avocations and I asked him if I might look into it. He said, "yes, go ahead, with my blessings," and come up with something.

Jim Tisdale:

Well, Ed, after you've backed up there with Mason jars, vario-couplers and variometers, twister or crystals, when did the Gimbel station finally go on the air and why was the slogan "Philadelphia's Pioneer Voice" finally adopted.

Ed Davies:

Well, Jim, you're asking me a question that has been debated for many years. As you know, the Strawbridge & Clothier Department Store, owners of WFI claimed that they were the first to go on the air in Philadelphia. This friendly rivalry went on for many years. It became accepted that WIP was, in fact, Philadelphia's Pioneer Voice. However, when the Poor Richard Club in Philadelphia in 1963 decided to honor the Delaware Valley Chapter of Broadcast Pioneers, it was also decided to honor the two stations, WIP and WFI, who claimed to be the first on the air in Philadelphia. This made it necessary for me, representing WIP, and the late Harold Simonds of WFIL, representing WFI, to get some concrete evidence to support our claim.

We agreed to contact Mr. Frank Whitmore of RCA, a Public Relations expert who had made an intensive research of Philadelphia's early radio in preparation of a book on the subject. Mr. Whitmore agreed to be the speaker of the day at the luncheon. His talk not only was interesting and informative, but decidedly provocative, as you will see as I read excerpts from his talk which he has kindly given me permission in writing to use. This is from Mr. Whitmore's talk:

Early radio bulletins of the Department of Commerce list Thomas F. J. Howlett, as radio recipient of the first Philadelphia broadcast license. Howlett obtained call letters WGL in February 1922. In March of that year, the Gimbel Brothers, Strawbridge & Clothier and John Wanamaker Department Stores received WIP, WFI and WOO respectively. WPJ went to St. Joseph's College in April. In May, the Philadelphia Radiophone Company, received WCAU, and the Lit Brothers Department Store, WDAR. Then Lenning Brothers got WNAT in October 1922 and Wright & Wright, Inc. WWAD in December 1922.

In April 1925, St. Paul's Episcopal Church received WIBG. The applicants of Philadelphia's first six stations applied for licenses within a few months of each other. To their amazement, some drew three letter calls while the others received four. No special assignment procedure in the Department of Commerce accounted for this situation. The supply and demand alone ruled. Such a deluge of applications reached the department in the beginning of 1922 that the three letter combinations quickly ran out.

By May, only four letter calls remained. Philadelphia licensees rushed construction in the struggle to get on the air first. The contest was close. Less than one hour separated the formal opening of the Gimbel Brothers and Strawbridge and Clothier stations. WIP and WFI both claimed the honor. WIP firmly believing they had won promptly backed up their claim with that station break as familiar to radio listeners in the Philadelphia area, "Philadelphia's Pioneer Radio Voice."

Both stations held inaugural ceremonies Saturday morning, March 18, 1922. WIP opened at 11 am with a dedicatory address by the Honorable J. Hampton Moore, Mayor of Philadelphia. At 10:15, 45 minutes prior to the Gimbel opening, WFI started broadcasting. The Strawbridge & Clothier station opened with a speech by John F. Braun, President of the Art Alliance and the Music League. The balance of WFI's morning program included a number by the Strawbridge and Clothier quartet and individual solos by members of the quartet and others.

In the afternoon, the program adopted a more formal tone. The Honorable William C. Sproul, Governor of Pennsylvania, spoke over WFI at 2:20 pm, 10 minutes address, Mayor Moore gave his address. Nothing in either of the Strawbridge & Clothier published program or newspaper writeups reporting the affair, indicates whether or not either of the public official dedicated WFI.

A comparison of the inauguration of one station with the inauguration of the other would give WFI a three-quarter hour lead over WIP. However, if either the Governor or Mayor formally dedicated the Strawbridge & Clothier station, a comparison of the dedication of one with the dedication of the other, would make the Gimbel station first by over three hours. But in view of the indefiniteness of the technical ceremony, perhaps we should discard them and only consider the start of broadcasting by each station.

This lets us again compare like things with like things. By this approach, WFI broadcast three-quarters of an hour ahead of WIP on March 18. However, before we jump too rapidly to a conclusion, let's read from the Gimbel Brothers program that appeared amidst their department store ad that Saturday morning, March 18. At the top of the block containing the program, it reads: "Yesterday's broadcasting was most successful. Today, this program." By this statement, we discover that WIP actually broadcast a program a day before their official dedication.

This March 17 broadcast doesn't appear to be just an experimental test, such as all stations made prior to beginning regular broadcasts. Their offering that Friday apparently was a full-fledged program presented to the public. So, as we leave the discussion for the time being, we find WIP out in front by a Day.

Jim Tisdale:

Well, Ed, this didn't seem to clarify the situation very much of which station got on the air first, so help us out on it.

Ed Davies:

No, Jim, it didn't, but I am glad that it did not disturb the cordial relation between the two stations and that cordial relation exists even today.

Jim Tisdale:

If I remember rightly, you and Harold Simonds were honored at the Poor Richard Club luncheon as the two members of the chapter of the Philadelphia Radio Pioneers - or should I say Broadcast Pioneers - who had served the longest in radio broadcasting in the city of Philadelphia.

Ed Davies:

Yes, and I was very proud to be mentioned with Harold Simonds for this honor, for he was not only a fine artist in music but held the record as the salesman longest in continuous service with the same station in the country, and I would like to read a tribute by Frank Whitemore:

Today a WFIL staff members holds the unique record in radio broadcasting. Forty one years service with the same station. Started on opening day as a soloist with WFI, Harold Simonds joined the station as an announcer before the month was out and continued on with WFIL after the merger. His unbroken record most likely stands alone among the broadcasting fraternity across the nation. I am sorry to have to report that Harold passed on in the hospital while the luncheon was in progress. We were able to get word to him of the honor that was tendered him that day.

Jim Tisdale:

What was the date of this lunch, Ed?

Ed Davies:

That was March 18, 1963.

Jim Tisdale:

Now let's get back to the opening of the station in 1922. How did you go about building or finding a staff. Almost no one knew what jobs were required in those days.

Ed Davies:

Right, Jim, but a permanent staff was necessary. I had to be sure each one selected knew not only the job he was hired for, but who could fill in on other jobs as they came up. First I had to find an assistant manager who knew programming and the appeal entertainment-wise to a diversified unseen audience. Someone who understood show business. I was fortunate in securing an actor with stock experience who was popular with the Philadelphia audience, Henry M. Nealy.

Next I brought in the Philadelphia manager of the Philadelphia Orchestra who also managed the yearly concerts of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Philadelphia, as Program Director. She, herself, a fine pianist and President of the Matinees Musical Club of Philadelphia, took care of all the classical programs. A young man from the Philadelphia Operatic Society was selected as an announcer. Jack George who helped build the station for the Durham Company remained with WIP as chief engineer and took on as an assistant, a sergeant who had been with me during the war. The foregoing, with a competent secretary made up the staff of the future WIP.

Many changes took place as time went on and radio broadcasting became a part of American life. Unfortunately, we lost our assistant manager, Henry M. Nealy, known to radio as the "Old-timer." He died a year after the opening of the station. Our program director, Helen Pulaski Ennis, discovered many fine young artists and started them on their way to fame and fortune. Included in this roster are Nelson Eddy, Conrad Thiebout, Wilbur Evans, Thelma Melrose, May Farley and Clarence Fuhrman, who later became musical director of the station.

The young man, Chris Graham, who left the operatic stage to become an announcer, graduated to the bedtime story man known to thousands of children and adults as "Uncle WIP." In the meantime, two more announcers were engaged. The Uncle WIP feature became so popular that Gimbel Brothers opened an office for him to meet the hundreds of mothers, fathers and children, who came into the Children's Department every day to talk with him. He created the Uncle WIP Radio Club. Each member of which wore an Uncle WIP button. He created an aeroplane club for teenagers which met every Saturday morning on the 7th floor of the Gimbel store. And each year, during the summer, the club met in competition at Willow Grove Park at a huge outdoor picnic and competed for prizes donated by the store. More than 10,000 boys, girls and adults attended these affairs.

Mayor Fredland Kendrick of Philadelphia appointed Chris, Horary Director of child Welfare in 1925 and furnished him with a city auto with special license plates, "UNCLE WIP," for visits to schools, hospitals and churches. His untimely death in 1930 was a great loss, not only to the station and those of us who were his associates and friends, but to the whole coverage of WIP. His successor never quite filled his place and we found it necessary later to discontinue the feature.

Jim, let's talk about the mechanical phase of broadcasting. For instance, what was happening engineering-wise? Frequencies, and so forth?

Our friend, Whitmore, has quite an intelligent, I think, explanation for the mixup that happened in the frequency end of it. As Philadelphians got their receivers working, they discovered that all broadcasts were tuned in at the same place on their tuners and dials. This was not a condition peculiar to Philadelphia. All broadcasting stations in the United States operated on 360 meter wave lengths when Philadelphia stations opened up in 1922. However, with station power hovering around 250 watts or less, listeners suffered little interference from stations outside of their immediate cities. To keep down interference in cities where more than one station operated stations, they shared time with each other during the day.

Later, as still more stations joined the field, they alternated on days of the week as well. Philadelphia stations started time sharing right from the start. For instance, radio programs in the newspapers of April 24, 1922, show clearly how WIP, WFI, WOO and WRP in Camden divided the hours with each other throughout the day. From April on, the variety of radio programs available to radio listeners steadily increased. WOO, the John Wanamaker station, scheduled their first program, April 24, 1922. WCAU joined the ranks, Thursday morning, May 30, 1922. Friday morning, July 21, WDAR, the Lit Brothers station presented their first program and October 21, 1922, Lenning Brothers put WNAT on the air.

The month of October sounded off a new era in radio. The Government gave the radio listeners a sudden big break. Class B stations emerged with a separated wave length. When Herbert Hoover, then the Secretary of commerce, appointed a national committee made up of such men as David Sarnoff, Powell Crosley, Lamden Kay, Earl G. Anthony and Harkness of AT&T, to study the broadcast picture, the station director of WIP, Edward A. Davies, was appointed to represent Philadelphia for a period of over two years. Based upon the recommendations of this committee, Hoover allocated the second wave length.

Now, for the first time, listeners could choose between two radio programs at any one time. The new regulations placed the second wave length at 400 meters and set power requirements at 500 watts minimum and 1000 watts maximum. In Philadelphia, WFI, WIP and WOO moved into the Class B category. The increased power expanded the station's service area considerably and also increased interference. Right away, WIP's signal spanned the Atlantic and on March 15, 1923, Paris listened to Philadelphia's Pioneer radio station.

Now the DX fever sprang up and enveloped the radio listeners. How far would their receivers reach out? Philadelphia radio fans hankering for a test without local interference got their chance on Monday night, March 19, 1923. In a spirit of cooperation, Philadelphia stations inaugurated silent nights. On these nights, local broadcast stations stopped broadcasting early and left the field to the fans. Under the arrangement, WOO ceased broadcasting at 9 o'clock that Monday evening. The next week on Tuesday night, WIP shut down early. The following week on Wednesday night, WFI went off early. The fourth week, WDAR closed early. DX fans hurried to make the most of their opportunity because within two months summer static would descend upon them and kill all the distant reception.

Crystal sets provided cheap entertainment with a big problem. The cat's whisker. The listener moved a thin wire resembling a cat's whisker across a piece of mineral searching for an active spot. Finding a good spot, required patience. But once found, the slightest jar easily dislodged it. Therefore, housewives knew how to skip the radio table when they dusted and heavy walkers suffered scowls and warnings from the listeners.

Sometimes interference came from outside the house. Passing boys seeing a silhouetted listener sitting at the window listening on a crystal set would climb the tree supporting the antenna and touch the wire. Each time they touched it the program disappeared, so the listener thinking the cat's whisker had moved off the sensitive spot, started adjusting the detector. Watching the bedeviled person struggle to regain the program amused the ornery boys no end.

Crystal sets and their temperamental detector soon gave way to tube sets. First came the one tube single circuit. Then the generator receiver arrived shortly followed by two stages of amplification to operate a loud speaker. The loud speaker ended the era of dividing the earphones so two persons could hear, putting them face down on a cut glass bowl to improve and improvise a loudspeaker. In February 1924, RCA brought out a battery-operated superheterodyne receiver called Radiola S. Other battery superheaters followed until about 1928 when the AC superheterodyne receivers appeared on the market.

Now, we'll talk a moment about the new frequency. Philadelphia felt the effect of the new wave length regulations on March 15, 1923. Radio growth moved so rapidly that the Department of Commerce acted upon further recommendations by the 1923 National radio Conference and allocated the band of frequencies from 550 to 1500 kilocycles for radio broadcasting. At the same time, station power increased to 5,000 watts.

On that date, WIP and WOO moved to 509 meters. WDAR and WFI began sharing 395 meters. WAAD, a station that just came on the air in January alternated with WNAT on 360 meters and WCAU began operating alone on 186 meters. Radio interest jumped tremendously.

Now Philadelphia listeners could select from four programs during any time of the broadcast day. Unfortunately, the new frequency assignments didn't help for long. Radio stations increased so rapidly that program interference soon became unbearable. In 1925, the year WIBG began broadcasting and Lit Brothers changed their call letters from WDAR to WLIT, the Fourth National Radio Conference recommended limitation of both broadcast time and power. However, this time the Secretary of Commerce could not follow through became court decisions held the Wireless Act of 1912 did not give him that authority. As a result, many broadcasters jumped frequencies, increased power and operating time at will regardless of the effect on other stations. For a short while, bedlam reigned on the air.

I would like to include here that I was approached by a well known political figure in Philadelphia, who informed me I had been recommended to the President as one of five members of the new Radio Commission. He assured me I would be appointed if I would accept. Before I gave him an answer, the newspapers published the appointment. For very personal reasons, I turned it down and Rear Admiral Ballard of West Chester, Pennsylvania, was named in my place. After what happened to those appointed, I'm glad I didn't accept.

But let's get back to Frank's talk. The radio spectrum couldn't handle the 732 broadcasting stations then operating, new rules and regulations forced 150 of them to surrender their licenses. On November 11, 1928, Philadelphia stations along with all others in the United States, received new frequency assignments. WFI and WLIT drew 560 kilocycles. WIP 610, WCAU 1170, WNAT 1310, WELK 1370 and WOO 1500. Final control of broadcasting came with the formation on July 11, 1934 of the Federal Communications Commission. Today, this Commission regulates all interstate and foreign communications by wire and radio, including telegraph, telephone and broadcast.

Now Jim, I think it might be wise to talk about programming which, of course, is the lifeblood of any radio station, and continuing with the research that Frank Whitmore has made, I'm going to refer to it again with regard to the Philadelphia broadcasting stations and their programs. He states that Philadelphia broadcast stations opened with time ticks, weather reports and musical recitals. Announcers doubled up at piano and song. Time ticks, though of less value to the city fans, performed a most welcome service to the farm community. Rural dwellers no longer set their clocks by the sound of train whistles blowing in the distance. But free musical entertainment coming nightly into the homes held magnetic appeal for everyone. Families, formerly retiring at dusk, now sat up until late.

Programs soon expanded to include band concerts, church services, lectures, boxing events, baseball scores and theater pickups. By using the new condenser microphone instead of the popular carbon, WOO, the Wanamaker store, captured the full beauty of the Wanamaker grand organ for the radio public. On December 2, 1922, Dr. Russell H. Conwell, founder of Temple University, gave his famous speech, Acres of Diamonds over WOO.

And right from the start of broadcasting, WIP initiated the Philadelphia radio audience to many "firsts," the first church service originated from Holy Trinity Episcopal Church on Thanksgiving day, 1922. That afternoon, the first football broadcast emanated from Franklin Field, the University of Pennsylvania, and featured the 1922 Thanksgiving Day contest between Penn and Cornell. WIP also presented the first opera broadcast, Tannhauser. This occurred in 1924 and was given to the radio audience live from the Metropolitan Opera House, then located at Broad and Poplar Streets, in Philadelphia. Other treats presented by WIP included the broadcast of wireless code lessons in December 1922 by members of the technical staff.

In 1924 and 1925, WIP put a deep sea diver off the Steel Pier at Atlantic City to describe by remote control what he saw below the ocean waves and then each afternoon, they presented the sounds of the surf roaring beneath the Steel Pier. The pickup of a musical program by Evelyn Herbert, musical comedy star, from New York from an airplane over Philadelphia and en route to Norfolk, Virginia, was another first. The Dempsey-Tunney fight direct from the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial was one of WIP's highlights. The sound of the old Liberty Bell from Independence Hall opening the Sesquicentennial in 1926 at 10 pm, Eastern Daylight Savings Time, brought every station in the country to a standstill. They closed down so that the country at large, and all over the world as a matter of fact, that could possibly get WIP, heard the cracked old bell ring out the Sesquicentennial greetings.

On some stations, children's programs became very popular. Thousands of Philadelphians remember hearing Uncle WIP's birthday announcements and bedtime stories over WIP. Others enjoyed the Lit Brothers station where Dream Daddy's stories lulled little ones to sleep. As listeners tuned around for particular programs, radio stations watching the signs filled their broadcast days with a variety to appeal to the greatest number. Radio audiences promptly responded. Bags of mail arriving at the studios attested to their enthusiasm. Radio stations found the mail response an excellent measuring stick for judging the success of a program.

Favorites spawned by the heaps if mail emerged as radio stars and radio personalities. Radio stars who had their beginning on WIP, I now again remind you, included Nelson Eddy on the Newton Coal Hour, with the Philadelphia Orchestra; Wilbur Evans, who starred on the network Showboat; Conrad Thiebolt, heard on many network programs! Thelma Melrose Davies, opera and concert star with John Philip Sousa, and with the Philadelphia Orchestra as the Slumber Maid on Sunday evenings, and many of the motion picture stars who later went to the networks. I might state that EMO (Eli N. Orowitz) was one of the officials from First National Pictures, who had their studios out on Long Island and who weekly brought in to WIP groups of stars, including Ben Lyon, Bebe Daniels, oh, I could go on and on, but time won't permit, but they were really wonderful parties that he put on. Nelson Eddy, of course, everyone knows how far he went in motion pictures. Wilbur Evans became a Broadway star. He starred in South pacific and many other musical comedies and Conrad Thiebolt also became very well known in New York and I believe was on the Showboat, too. Bertha Brainerd, Program Director of WJZ, would phone over to my office and ask if I had any likely talent in Philadelphia and to send them over, and we were delighted to do just that.

Jim Tisdale:

Wasn't this the time of the network - Atwater Kent auditions? Or something?

Ed Davies:

Oh yes, Jim. Wilbur Evans won the $10,000 scholarship prize on the Atwater Kent network auditions.

Jim Tisdale:

And in those days, I was working in the Atwater Kent Manufacturing Company.

Ed Davies:

Oh, good! I didn't know that. That adds zest to the story. Leave it in there.

The next and a most important phase of radio broadcasting, came in 1926 when commercial radio became a reality. Problems arose with the advertising management of the Gimbel store. They protested that WIP broadcasting the merchandise of other stores would put those businesses in competition with the owners and operators of WIP, namely, Gimbel brothers. By the same token, the Gimbel management wanted to use this new medium to advertise their special sales and what-not, but did not want to pay for the time.

I finally had to take the matter to Mr. Ellis Gimbel, who called a meeting of those concerned and a compromise was suggested. This was the compromise. I could sell time on WIP to any advertiser provided his merchandise did not compete with any similar merchandise sold in any of the 108 departments of the Gimbel Brothers store. I was on a spot. My competitors were selling time without restriction and making money. They were in the position of going out and buying the best talent in Philadelphia while I had to depend upon amateurs or friends, who were getting offers with pay from the other stations and I had to suffer.

I went to the office of a very good friend, a fine advertising executive, and we discussed the situation. Finally, he turned to me and said,"Ed, what about coal?" I thought for a minute and I said "yes" and "what about ice?" He said, I have a client who could use radio, the Western Union Telegraph Company. None of these items were sold in the Gimbel stores. Well, that was the beginning. I sold a one-hour weekly musical program to the Newton Coal Company of Philadelphia using 35 members of the Philadelphia Orchestra directed by Clarence Fuhrman with Nelson Eddy, Thelma Davies, Frank Oglesby and Helen Buchanan Hittner, all top-flight Philadelphia singers.

Then I sold a half-hour weekly program to the American ice company of Philadelphia featuring Charlie Kerr and his cafe orchestra. For the Western Union, we used the singing telegram. Then I sold Henry Michel, the seed company of Philadelphia, using Wilbur Evans and an orchestra of 18 pieces in a country garden program, a one-hour per week shot. Success was ours. Abbott's Milk Company came in with Conrad Thiebolt and a fine orchestra.

In the meantime, requests came in for sports. The chain drug stores, dentists, 100, 200 spots a month, then the national advertisers through the Philadelphia and New York agencies, asked for spots. News reports, time signals and what have you. We were at last making the station pay and not an advertiser that competed with any of the 108 departments in the store. In 1928, the bars were dropped. We could sell anything we had space for in a very loaded program seven days a week. We opened at 6 am and closed at 12 midnight.

Later in the 1930's, we inaugurated the Dawn patrol with pilot Freddy Wood from 12 midnight to 6 am for the Pep Boys and it was loaded, month after month, year after year, and then the crash came.

I resigned from WIP in November 1932 for reasons of health and my wife and I left for a long European trip. On my return to Philadelphia, I became a partner in the John Falkner Arndt Advertising Agency. I handled all their radio accounts until 1937 when WIP was reorganized as the Pennsylvania Broadcasting Company, operators of WIP.

I returned as a Vice-President and director of sales. We became the Philadelphia outlet for the Mutual network about this time.

In late 1941, I was called to active duty as a reserve officer with the rank of a Major in the infantry. I went on active duty with the First Army, and was assigned to the staff of Lt. general Hunt Hugh Drum, First Army Commander. I was assigned to the Radio and Intelligence Section and helped to create the First Mobile Counter Propaganda units, used so successfully in the invasions of Africa and Italy. I was promoted to a Lieutenant Colonel and served with the Pennsylvania Guard until the end of the war. I resigned from WIP in 1946 to organize my own company in making film commercials for the new media called television. We started operations in 1948 and carried on a very successful business until I retired after turning over the business to my associates in 1953.

Jim Tisdale:

Well, ed. This certainly has been quite a story and a very interesting one, too. But I know that there certainly must have been many amusing incidents in the early days of broadcasting. In fact, I was part of them, and I don't think the record of WIP would be complete without your mentioning a few of these - should we say, funny stories?

Ed Davies:

Well, Jim, I guess you're right. There were many incidents that brought laughs and some criticisms from the listeners in those early days. For instance, I remember a Sunday evening broadcast from Holy Trinity Church where Chris Graham always announced the program. He was held up in traffic this particular night and the engineer who was handling the remote, had to put the service and the organ recital on the air.

He called me and asked me what to do. I told him to go to the organist, Mr. Ralph Kinder, who had his program always written out and just read it as Mr. Kinder had given it to him. Anyhow, the engineer was an engineer, He knew nothing about music. He had no idea as to composers or what not, and as Kinder himself was a great Chopin fan, this is what came over the air. "Good evening, Ladies and gentlemen. This is WIP broadcasting the organ recital over WIP from the Holy Trinty Church. Mr. Ralph Kinder, the organist, is going to play a rec-I-tel and he's going to pay - he's going to play four CHOP IN FUDGES.

Jim Tisdale:

Ha. Charlie did a good job on that.

Ed Davies:

Yes, he did, and then there was the broadcast of President Harding's funeral and Jim Tunney, who you know very well, and who was running the remote control when a bearded more-or-less decrepit individual came up to him, all excited, and said "take that off the air - take that off the air - President Harding is not dead. I know it for a fact that President Harding is not dead." And Jim Tunney looked him straight in the eye and said, "Mr., if you're right, they played a hell of a trick on him. They've just planted him."

Jim Tisdale:

What year was this, Ed?

Ed Davies:

Back in 1924. I often tell the story about the politician in Philadelphia who was running for the United States Senate. A very illiterate individual and who finally did not make it but tried desperately every opportunity he had to talk to a Philadelphia audience wherever it might be, and hearing that the Philadelphia Jewish Appeal meeting was on a particular Sunday night, he had his publicity man come in to see me and asked if he might address these distinguished Jewish people at the Benjamin Franklin Hotel, who were going to wind up their drive that night, and talk to them for a few minutes, about the Senatorial aspirations that he had. I asked Mr. Ellis Gimbel if he would mind and he said, "no, he thought that WIP should be open to things of that sort."

So we arranged with the toastmaster that he would be given just a few minutes to say what he had to say. His manager sat at the press table with us in the auditorium filled to capacity with the leading Jewish celebrities of Philadelphia and this is what happened. This individual gets up and taking his speech that his manager had written for him and folding it up, benignly looked out at the audience for a few seconds and said "Ladies and gentlemen. It's a great privilege for me to come here tonight to speak to the scribes and Pharisees." There was deadly silence all over the place. His manager collapsed at our table and said "Where in God's name, did he get that?" That was one of the funny ones. We had many others - the sound of the waves, the opera, well, to go back and really think about it is really worth almost everything that I put in.

Jim Tisdale:

Ed, almost everything you did in those days was a first in its field.

Ed Davies:

Yes, most of our early stunts were firsts, and it's nice to look back and enjoy the remembrances, In closing, I would like to say that for the more than 40 years, I have been identified with radio and television in Philadelphia, they've been the happiest years of my life. I feel that I was present at the birth of radio broadcasting and more or less of a midwife at the birth of television.

I've had the privilege of knowing and working with such outstanding personalities in radio and television as Mr. David Sarnoff, Mr. Merrill Aylsworth, Fred Weber of Mutual, Powell Crosley, Lambkin Kay, Andrew White, Earl Anthony, Milton Cross and many others who attained fame in the communications field. I was privileged to be associated on the Hoover Committee in 1923 and 1924 with many of these men and to have the opportunity of helping to form the future of what has become one of the world's greatest businesses, educational and entertainment mediums of all history.

As President of the Philadelphia Radio-Television Association in 1950-1951, I was appointed a member of the Mayor's Philadelphia Committee for Educational Broadcasting. Radio and television has been my life's work and I have enjoyed every moment of it.

As a former officer and a perennial member of the Board of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Broadcast Pioneers, I feel I have fulfilled my pledge to that grand old man of the newscast, H.V. Kaltenborn, with whom I joined in founding the Radio Pioneers on April 4, 1942, that I would help keep alive the traditions and obligations to the listening public set forth by H.V. at the dinner in his honor on that date in New York. Those of us who are new members of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Broadcast Pioneers, are still dedicated to these obligations of clean entertainment. Some of our members were on the committee that brought about the present code as adopted by the National Association of Broadcasters, Thanks, jim Tisdale, for your assistance in presenting the story of Philadelphia's Pioneer Voice, WIP. This is Edward A. Davies and Jim Tisdale signing off.

Jim Tisdale:

Thanks, Ed Davies, that certainly was a wonderful story. And now for the record, I'd like to say that this was recorded on September 2, 1964, right here in the studios of WVCH in Chester, Pennsylvania. It was all being done for our Broadcast Pioneers and our friend, Bill Hedges, who happened to be my sailing companion, by the way, aboard the SS Chusan returning from the Rotary International Convention in Tokyo, just a couple of years ago. So to Bill and the rest of the gang, this is Jim Tisdale, saying so long for a while.

------------------------------

After posting the above transcription, we received a slightly different version of this same transcript from Noah Arceneaux, a doctoral candidate, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. Basically, they are very similar with just a few variations. We are posting the second transcript below. Which one is correct? Who knows? Maybe parts of each. Some day we hope to find the original tape recording which recorded by us on September 2, 1964. So far, no such luck.

------------------------------

Ed Davies:

This is Edward A. Davies bringing you the story of radio station WIP, Philadelphia's Pioneer Voice. Collaborating with me on this presentation is a former Chief Engineer of WIP, my good friend and associate, Jim Tisdale, now the owner of radio station WVCH, the Voice of Chester, Pennsylvania. Jim, let's begin at the beginning. The year 1921. Construction at that time was started for a radio station in the Piano Department of the Gimbel Brothers Store in Philadelphia by the Durham Company for Gimbels. I was assistant personnel manager at the store at the time having returned to that job after many months of army service in England and France during World War I.

Jim Tisdale:

Ed, I think it would be very interesting why Gimbel's decided to build a radio station in their store in Philadelphia.

Ed Davies:

Well, Jim, it's a very interesting story. Ellis Gimbel, Jr., son of one of the owners and founders of the business, came to me and asked me if I knew anything about a thing called radio broadcasting. I told him, "no, I didn't." Well, he said his father had given him the Toy Department to merchandise and they were getting numerous calls for radio receivers. He didn't know just exactly what they were talking about and no one else seemed to know. They were mentioning Mason jars with coils and things of that sort. I became interested from the standpoint of music. That had been one of my avocations and I asked him if I might look into it. He said, "yes, go ahead, with my blessings," and come up with something.

Jim Tisdale:

Well, Ed, after you've backed up there with Mason jars, vario-couplers and variometers, twister or crystals, when did the Gimbel station finally go on the air and why was the slogan "Philadelphia's Pioneer Voice" finally adopted.

Ed Davies:

Well, Jim, you're asking me a question that has been debated for many years. As you know, the Strawbridge & Clothier Department Store, owners of WFI claimed that they were the first to go on the air in Philadelphia. This friendly rivalry went on for many years. It became accepted that WIP was, in fact, Philadelphia's Pioneer Voice. However, when the Poor Richard Club in March 1963 decided to honor the Delaware Valley Chapter of Broadcast Pioneers, it was also decided to honor the two stations, WIP and WFI, who claimed to be the first on the air in Philadelphia. This made it necessary for me, representing WIP, and the late Hal Simonds of WFIL, representing WFI, to get some concrete evidence to support our claim.

We agreed to contact Mr. Frank Whitmore of RCA, a Public Relations expert who had made an intensive research of Philadelphia's early radio in preparation of a book on the subject. Mr. Whitmore agreed to be the speaker of the day at the luncheon. His talk not only was interesting and informative, but decidedly provocative, as you will see as I read excerpts from his talk which he has kindly given me permission in writing to use. This is from Mr. Whitmore's talk:

“Early radio bulletins of the Department of Commerce list Thomas F. J. Howlett, as radio recipient of the first Philadelphia broadcast license. Howlett obtained call letters WGL in February 1922. In March of that year, the Gimbel Brothers, Strawbridge & Clothier and John Wanamaker Department Stores received WIP, WFI and WOO respectively. WPJ went to St. Joseph's College in April. In May, the Philadelphia Radiophone Company, received WCAU, and the Lit Brothers Department Store, WDAR. Then Lenning Brothers got WNAT in October 1922 and Wright & Wright, Inc. WWAD in December 1922.

In April 1925, St. Paul's Episcopal Church received WIBG. The applicants of Philadelphia's first six stations applied for licenses within a few months of each other. To their amazement, some drew three letter calls while the others received four. No special assignment procedure in the Department of Commerce accounted for this situation. The supply and demand alone ruled. Such a deluge of applications reached the department in the beginning of 1922 that the three letter combinations quickly ran out.

By May, only four letter calls remained. Philadelphia licensees rushed construction in the struggle to get on the air first. The contest was close. Less than one hour separated the formal opening of the Gimbel Brothers and Strawbridge and Clothier stations. WIP and WFI both claimed the honor. WIP firmly believing they had won promptly backed up their claim with that station break so familiar to radio listeners in the Philadelphia area, "Philadelphia's Pioneer Radio Voice."

Both stations held inaugural ceremonies Saturday morning, March 18, 1922. WIP opened at 11 am with a dedicatory address by the Honorable J. Hampton Moore, Mayor of Philadelphia. At 10:15, 45 minutes prior to the Gimbel opening, WFI started broadcasting. The Strawbridge & Clothier station opened with a speech by John F. Braun, President of the Art Alliance and the Music League. The balance of WFI's morning program included a number by the Strawbridge and Clothier quartet and individual solos by members of the quartet and others.

In the afternoon, the program adopted a more formal tone. The Honorable William C. Sproul, Governor of Pennsylvania, spoke over WFI at 2:20 pm, 10 minutes later, Mayor Moore gave his address. Nothing in either of the Strawbridge & Clothier published program or newspaper writeups reporting the affair, indicates whether or not either of the public official dedicated WFI.

A comparison of the inauguration of one station with the inauguration of the other would give WFI a three-quarter hour lead over WIP. However, if either the Governor or Mayor formally dedicated the Strawbridge & Clothier station, a comparison of the dedication of one with the dedication of the other, would make the Gimbel station first by over three hours. But in view of the indefiniteness of the technical ceremony, perhaps we should discard them and only consider the start of broadcasting by each station.

This lets us again compare like things with like things. By this approach, WFI broadcast three-quarters of an hour ahead of WIP on March 18. However, before we jump too rapidly to a conclusion, let's read from the Gimbel Brothers program that appeared amidst their department store ad that Saturday morning, March 18. At the top of the block containing the program, it reads: "Yesterday's broadcasting was most successful. Today, this program." By this statement, we discover that WIP actually broadcast a program the day before their official dedication.

This March 17 broadcast doesn't appear to be just an experimental test, such as all stations made prior to beginning regular broadcasts. Their offering that Friday apparently was a full-fledged program presented to the public. So, as we leave the discussion for the time being, we find WIP out in front by a Day.

Jim Tisdale:

Well, Ed, this didn't seem to clarify the situation very much of which station got on the air first, so help us out on it.

Ed Davies:

No, Jim, it didn't, but I am glad that it did not disturb the cordial relation between the two stations and that cordial relation exists even today.

Jim Tisdale:

If I remember rightly, you and Harold Simons were honored at the Poor Richard Club luncheon as the two members of the chapter of the Philadelphia Radio Pioneers - or should I say Broadcast Pioneers - who had served the longest in radio broadcasting in the city of Philadelphia.

Ed Davies:

Yes, and I was very proud to be mentioned with Harold Simons for this honor, for he was not only a fine artist in music but held the record as the salesman longest in continuous service with the same station in the country, and I would like to read a tribute by Frank Whitemore:

“Today a WFIL staff members holds the unique record in radio broadcasting. Forty one years service with the same station. Started on opening day as a soloist with WFI, Harold Simonds joined the station as an announcer before the month was out and continued on with WFIL after the merger. His unbroken record most likely stands alone among the broadcasting fraternity across the nation. I am sorry to have to report that Harold passed on in the hospital while the luncheon was in progress. We were able to get word to him of the honor that was tendered him that day.

Jim Tisdale:

What was the date of this lunch, Ed?

Ed Davies:

That was March 18, 1963.

Jim Tisdale:

Now let's get back to the opening of the station in 1922. How did you go about building or finding a staff. Almost no one knew what jobs were required in those days.

Ed Davies:

Right, Jim, but a permanent staff was necessary. I had to be sure each one selected knew not only the job he was hired for, but who could fill in on other jobs as they came up. First I had to find an assistant manager who knew programming and the appeal entertainment-wise to a diversified unseen audience. Someone who understood show business. I was fortunate in securing an actor with stock experience who was popular with the Philadelphia audience, Henry M. Nealy.

Next I brought in the Philadelphia manager of the Philadelphia Orchestra who also managed the yearly concerts of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Philadelphia, as Program Director. She, herself, a fine pianist and President of the Matinees Musical Club of Philadelphia, took care of all the classical programs. A young man from the Philadelphia Operatic Society was selected as an announcer. Jack George who helped build the station for the Durham Company remained with WIP as chief engineer and took on as an assistant, a sergeant who had been with me during the war. The foregoing, with a competent secretary made up the staff of the future WIP.

Many changes took place as time went on and radio broadcasting became a part of American life. Unfortunately, we lost our assistant manager, Henry M. Nealy, known to radio as the "Old-timer." He died a year after the opening of the station. Our program director, Helen Pulaski Ennis, discovered many fine young artists and started them on their way to fame and fortune. Included in this roster are Nelson Eddy, Conrad Thiebout, Wilbur Evans, Thelma Melrose, May Farley and Clarence Fuhrman, who later became musical director of the station.

The young man, Chris Graham, who left the operatic stage to become an announcer, graduated to the bedtime story man known to thousands of children and adults as "Uncle WIP." In the meantime, two more announcers were engaged. The Uncle WIP feature became so popular that Gimbel Brothers opened an office for him to meet the hundreds of mothers, fathers and children, who came into the Children's Department every day to talk with him. He created the Uncle WIP Radio Club. Each member of which wore an Uncle WIP button. He created an aeroplane club for teen-agers [which] met every Saturday morning on the 7th floor of the Gimbel store. And each year, during the summer, the club met in competition at Willow Grove Park at a huge outdoor picnic and competed for prizes donated by the store. More than 10,000 boys, girls and adults attended these affairs.

Mayor Fredland Kendrick of Philadelphia appointed Chris, Honorary Director of child Welfare in 1925 and furnished him with a city auto with special license plates, "UNCLE WIP," for visits to schools, hospitals and churches. His untimely death in 1930 was a great loss, not only to the station and those of us who were his associates and friends, but to the whole coverage of WIP. His successor never quite filled his place and we found it necessary to discontinue the feature.

Jim, let's talk about the mechanical phase of broadcasting. For instance, what was happening engineering-wise? Frequencies, and so forth?

Our friend, Whitmore, has quite an intelligent, I think, explanation for the mixup that happened in the frequency end of it. As Philadelphians got their receivers working, they discovered that all broadcasts were tuned in at the same place on their tuners and dials. This was not a condition peculiar to Philadelphia. All broadcasting stations in the United States operated on 360 meter wave lengths when Philadelphia stations opened up in 1922. However, with station power hovering around 250 watts or less, listeners suffered little interference from stations outside of their immediate cities. To keep down interference in cities where more than one station operated stations, they shared time with each other during the day.

Later, as still more stations joined the field, they alternated on days of the week as well. Philadelphia stations started time sharing right from the start. For instance, radio programs in the newspapers of April 24, 1922, show clearly how WIP, WFI, WOO and WRP in Camden divided the hours with each other throughout the day. From April on, the variety of radio programs available to radio listeners steadily increased. WOO, the John Wanamaker station, scheduled their first program, April 24, 1922. WCAU joined the ranks, Thursday morning, May 30, 1922. Friday morning, July 21, WDAR, the Lit Brothers station presented their first program and October 21, 1922, Lenning Brothers put WNAT on the air.

The month of October sounded off a new era in radio. The Government gave the radio listeners a sudden big break. Class B stations emerged with a separate wave length. When Herbert Hoover, then the Secretary of commerce, appointed a national committee made up of such men as David Sarnoff, Powell Crosley, Lamden Kay, Earl Anthony and Harkness of AT&T, to study the broadcast picture, the station director of WIP, Edward A. Davies, was appointed to represent Philadelphia for a period of over two years. Based upon the recommendations of this committee, Hoover allocated the second wave length.

Now, for the first time, listeners could choose between two radio programs at any one time. The new regulations placed the second wave length at 400 meters and set power requirements at 500 watts minimum and 1000 watts maximum. In Philadelphia, WFI, WIP and WOO moved into the Class B category. The increased power expanded the station's service area considerably and also increased interference. Right away, WIP's signal spanned the Atlantic and on March 15, 1923, Paris listened to Philadelphia's radio station.

Now the DX fever sprang up and enveloped the radio listeners. How far would their receivers reach out? Philadelphia radio fans hankering for a test without local interference got their chance on Monday night, March 19, 1923. In a spirit of cooperation, Philadelphia stations inaugurated silent nights. On these nights, local broadcast stations stopped broadcasting early and left the field to the fans. Under the arrangement, WOO ceased broadcasting at 9 o'clock that Monday evening. The next week on Tuesday night, WIP shut down early. The following week on Wednesday night, WFI went off early. The fourth week, WDAR closed early. DX fans hurried to make the most of their opportunity because within two months summer static would descend upon them and kill all the distant reception.

Crystal sets provided cheap entertainment with a big problem. The cat's whisker. The listener moved a thin wire resembling a cat's whisker across a piece of mineral searching for an active spot. Finding a good spot required patience. But once found, the slightest jar easily dislodged it. Therefore, housewives knew how to skip the radio table when they dusted and heavy walkers suffered scowls and warnings from the listeners.

Sometimes interference came from outside the house. Passing boys seeing a silhouetted listener sitting at the window listening on a crystal set would climb the tree supporting the antenna and touch the wire. Each time they touched it the program disappeared, so the listener thinking the cat's whisker had moved off the sensitive spot, started adjusting the detector. Watching the bedeviled person struggle to regain the program amused the ornery boys no end.

Crystal sets and their temperamental detector soon gave way to tube sets. First came the one tube single circuit. Then the regenerative receiver arrived shortly followed by two stages of amplification to operate a loud speaker. The loud speaker ended the era of dividing the earphones so two persons could hear, putting them face down on a cut glass bowl to improve, uh, improvise a loudspeaker. In February 1924, RCA brought out a battery-operated superheterodyne receiver called Radiola S. Other battery superhet’s followed until about 1928 when the AC superheterodyne receivers appeared on the market.

Now, we'll talk a moment about the new frequency. Philadelphia felt the effect of the new wave length regulations on March 15, 1923. Radio growth moved so rapidly that the Department of Commerce acted upon further recommendations by the 1923 National radio Conference and allocated the band of frequencies from 550 to 1500 kilocycles for radio broadcasting. At the same time, station power increased to 5,000 watts.

On that date, WIP and WOO moved to 509 meters. WDAR and WFI began sharing 395 meters. WAAD, a station that just came on the air in January alternated with WNAT on 360 meters and WCAU began operating alone on 286 meters. Radio interest jumped tremendously.

Now Philadelphia listeners could select from four programs during any time of the broadcast day. Unfortunately, the new frequency assignments didn't help for long. Radio stations increased so rapidly that program interference soon became unbearable. In 1925, the year WIBG began broadcasting and Lit Brothers changed their call letters from WDAR to WLIT, the Fourth National Radio Conference recommended limitation of both broadcast time and power. However, this time the Secretary of Commerce could not follow through became court decisions held the Wireless Act of 1912 did not give him that authority. As a result, many broadcasters jumped frequencies, increased power and operating time at will regardless of the effect on other stations. For a short while, bedlam reigned on the air.

I would like to include here that I was approached by a leading political figure in Philadelphia, who informed me I had been recommended to the President as one of five members of the new Radio Commission. He assured me I would be appointed if I would accept. Before I gave him an answer, the newspapers published the appointment. For very personal reasons, I turned it down and Rear Admiral Ballard of West Chester, Pennsylvania, was named in my place. After what happened to those appointed, now I think I'm glad I didn't accept.

But let's get back to Frank's talk. The radio spectrum couldn't handle the 732 broadcasting stations then operating, new rules and regulations forced 150 of them to surrender their licenses. On November 11, 1928, Philadelphia stations along with all others in the United States, received new frequency assignments. WFI and WLIT drew 560 kilocycles. WIP 610, WCAU 1170, WNAT 1310, WELK 1370 and WOO 1500. Final control of broadcasting came with the formation on July 11, 1934 of the Federal Communications Commission. Today, this Commission regulates all interstate and foreign communications by wire and radio, including telegraph, telephone and broadcast.

Now Jim, I think it might be wise to talk about programming which, of course, is the lifeblood of any radio station, and continuing with the research that Frank Whitmore has made, I'm going to refer to it again with regard to the Philadelphia broadcasting stations and their programs. He states that Philadelphia broadcast stations opened with time ticks, weather reports and musical recitals. Announcers doubled up at piano and song. Time ticks, though of less value to the city fans, performed a most welcome service to the farm community. Rural dwellers no longer set their clocks by the sound of train whistles blowing in the distance. But free musical entertainment coming nightly into the homes held magnetic appeal for everyone. Families, formerly retiring at dusk, now sat up until late.

Programs soon expanded to include band concerts, church services, lectures, boxing events, baseball scores and theater pickups. By using the new condenser microphone instead of the popular carbon, WOO, the Wanamaker store, captured the full beauty of the Wanamaker grand organ for the radio public. On December 2, 1922, Dr. Russell H. Conwell, founder of Temple University, gave his famous speech, Acres of Diamonds over WOO.

And right from the start of broadcasting, WIP initiated the Philadelphia radio audience to many "firsts," the first church service originated from Holy Trinity Episcopal Church on Thanksgiving Day, 1922. That afternoon, the first football broadcast emanated from Franklin Field, the University of Pennsylvania, and featured the 1922 Thanksgiving Day contest between Penn and Cornell. WIP also presented the first opera broadcast, Tannhauser. This occurred in 1924 and was given to the radio audience live from the Metropolitan Opera House, then located at Broad and Poplar Streets, in Philadelphia. Other treats presented by WIP included the broadcast of wireless code lessons in December 1922 by members of the technical staff.

In 1924 and 1925, WIP put a deep sea diver off the Steel Pier at Atlantic City to describe by remote control what he saw below the ocean waves and then each afternoon, they presented the sounds of the surf roaring beneath the Steel Pier. The pickup of a musical program by Evelyn Herbert, musical comedy star, from New York from an airplane over Philadelphia and en route to Norfolk, Virginia, was another first. The Dempsey-Tunney fight direct from the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial was one of WIP's highlights. The sound of the old Liberty Bell from Independence Hall opening the Sesquicentennial in 1926 at 10 pm, Eastern Daylight Savings Time, brought every station in the country to a standstill. They closed down so that the country at large, and all over the world as a matter of fact, that could possibly get WIP, heard the cracked old bell ring out the Sesquicentennial greetings.

On some stations, children's programs became very popular. Thousands of Philadelphians remember hearing Uncle WIP's birthday announcements and bedtime stories over WIP. Others enjoyed the Lit Brothers station where Dream Daddy's stories lulled little ones to sleep. As listeners tuned around for particular programs, radio stations watching the signs filled their broadcast days with a variety to appeal to the greatest number. Radio audiences promptly responded. Bags of mail arriving at the studios attested to their enthusiasm. Radio stations found the mail response an excellent measuring stick for judging the success of a program.

Favorites spawned by the heaps if mail emerged as radio stars and radio personalities. Radio stars who had their beginning on WIP, I now again remind you, included Nelson Eddy on the Newton Coal Hour, with the Philadelphia Orchestra; Wilbur Evans, who later starred on the network Showboat; Conrad Thiebolt, heard on many network programs! Thelma Melrose Davies, opera and concert star with John Philip Sousa, and with the Philadelphia Orchestra as the Slumber Maid on Sunday evenings, and many of the motion picture stars who later went to the networks. I might state that EMO (Eli M. Orowitz) was one of the officials from First National Pictures, who had their studios out on Long Island and who weekly brought in to WIP groups of stars, including Ben Lyon, Bebe Daniels, oh, I could go on and on, but time won't permit, but they were really wonderful parties that he put on. Nelson Eddy, of course, everyone knows how far he went in motion pictures. Wilbur Evans became a Broadway star. He starred in South Pacific and many other musical comedies and Conrad Thiebolt also became very well known in New York and I believe was on the Showboat, too. Bertha Brainerd, Program Director of WJZ, would phone over to my office and ask if I had any likely talent in Philadelphia and to send them over, and we were delighted to do just that.

Jim Tisdale:

Wasn't this the time of the network - Atwater Kent auditions? Or something?

Ed Davies:

Oh yes, Jim. Wilbur Evans won the $10,000 scholarship prize on the Atwater Kent network auditions.

Jim Tisdale:

And in those days, I was working in the Atwater Kent Manufacturing Company.

Ed Davies:

Oh, good! I didn't know that. That adds zest to the pudding. Leave it in there.

The next and a most important phase of radio broadcasting, came in 1926 when commercial radio became a reality. Problems arose with the advertising management of the Gimbel store. They protested that WIP broadcasting the merchandise of other businesses would put those businesses in competition with the owners and operators of WIP, namely, Gimbel brothers. By the same token, the Gimbel management wanted to use this new medium to advertise their special sales and what-not, but did not want to pay for the time.

I finally had to take the matter to Mr. Ellis Gimbel, who called a meeting of those concerned and a compromise was suggested. This was the compromise. I could sell time on WIP to any advertiser provided his merchandise did not compete with any similar merchandise sold in any of the 108 departments of the Gimbel Brothers store. I was on a spot. My competitors were selling time without restriction and making money. They were in the position of going out and buying the best talent in Philadelphia while I had to depend upon amateurs or friends, who were getting offers with pay from the other stations and I had to suffer.

I went to the office of a very good friend, a fine advertising executive, and we discussed the situation. Finally, he turned to me and said, "Ed, what about coal?" I thought for a minute and I said "yes" and "what about ice?" He said, I have a client who could use radio, the Western Union Telegraph Company. None of these programs were sold in department stores. Well, that was the beginning. I sold a one-hour weekly musical program to the Newton Coal Company of Philadelphia using 35 members of the Philadelphia Orchestra directed by Clarence Fuhrman with Nelson Eddy, Thelma Davies, Frank Oglesby and Helen Buchanan Hittner, all top-flight Philadelphia singers.

Then I sold a half-hour weekly program to the American ice company of Philadelphia featuring Charlie Kerr and his cafe orchestra. For the Western Union, we used the singing telegram. Then I sold Henry Michel, the seed company of Philadelphia, using Wilbur Evans and an orchestra of 18 pieces in country gardens, a one-hour per week shot. Success was ours. Abbott's Milk Company came in with Conrad Thiebolt and a fine orchestra.

In the meantime, requests came in for spots. The chain drug stores, dentists, 100, 200 spots a month, then the national advertisers through the Philadelphia and New York agencies, asked for spots. News reports, time signals and what have you. We were at last making the station pay and not an advertiser that competed with any of the 108 departments in the store. In 1928, the bars were dropped. We could sell anything we had space for in a very loaded program seven days a week. We opened at 6 am and closed at 12 midnight.

Later in the 1930's, we inaugurated the Dawn patrol with pilot Freddy Wood from 12 midnight to 6 am for the Pep Boys and it was loaded, month after month, year after year, and then the crash came.

I resigned from WIP in November 1932 for reasons of health and my wife and I left for a long European trip. On my return to Philadelphia, I became a partner in the John Faulkner Arndt Advertising Agency. I handled all their radio accounts until 1937 when WIP was reorganized as the Pennsylvania Broadcasting Company, operators of WIP.

I returned as a Vice-President and director of sales. We became the Philadelphia outlet for the Mutual network about this time.

In late 1941, I was called to active duty as a reserve officer with the rank of a Major in the infantry. I went on active duty with the First Army, and was assigned to the staff of Lt. general Hunt Hugh Drum, First Army Commander. I was assigned to the Radio and Intelligence Section and helped to create the First Mobile Counter Propaganda units, used so successfully in the invasions of Africa and Italy. I was promoted to a Lieutenant Colonel and served with the Pennsylvania Guard until the end of the war. Returning to WIP, I resigned in 1946 to organize my own company in making film commercials for the new media called television. We started operations in 1948 and carried on a very successful business until I retired after turning over the business to my associates in 1953.

Jim Tisdale:

Well, Ed. This certainly has been quite a story and a very interesting one, too. But I know that there certainly must have been many amusing incidents in the early days of broadcasting. In fact, I was part of them, and I don't think the record of WIP would be complete without your mentioning a few of these - should we say, funny stories?

Ed Davies:

Well, Jim, I guess you're right. There were many incidents that brought laughs and some criticisms from the listeners in those early days. For instance, I remember a Sunday evening broadcast from Holy Trinity Church where Chris Graham always announced the program. He was held up in traffic this particular night and the engineer who was handling the remote, had to put the service and the organ recital on the air.

He called me and asked me what to do. I told him to go to the organist, Mr. Ralph Kinder, who had his program always written out and just read it as Mr. Kinder had given it to him. Anyhow, the engineer was an engineer, He knew nothing about music. He had no idea as to composers or what not, and as Kinder himself was a great Chopin fan, this is what came over the air. "Good evening, Ladies and gentlemen. This is WIP broadcasting the organ recital over WIP from the Holy Trinity Church. Mr. Ralph Kinder, the organist, is going to play a rec-I-tel and he's going to pay - he's going to play four CHOP IN FUDGES.

Jim Tisdale:

Ha. Charlie did a good job on that.

Ed Davies:

Yes, he did, and then there was the broadcast of President Harding's funeral and Jim Tunney, who you know very well, and who was running the remote control when a bearded more-or-less decrepit individual came up to him, all excited, and said "take that off the air - take that off the air - President Harding is not dead. I know it for a fact that President Harding is not dead." And Jim Tunney looked him straight in the eye and said, "Mr., if you're right, they played a hell of a trick on him. They've just planted him."

Jim Tisdale:

What year was this, Ed?

Ed Davies:

Back in 1923, 24. I often tell the story about the politician in Philadelphia who was running for the United States Senate. A very illiterate individual and who finally did not make it but tried desperately every opportunity he had to talk to the Philadelphia audience wherever it might be, and hearing that the Philadelphia Jewish Appeal meeting was on a particular Sunday night, he had his publicity man come in to see me and asked if he might address these distinguished Jewish people at the Benjamin Franklin Hotel, who were going to wind up their drive that night, and talk to them for a few minutes, about the Senatorial aspirations that he had. I asked Mr. Ellis Gimbel if he would mind and he said, "no, he thought that WIP should be open to things of that sort."

So we arranged with the toastmaster that he would be given just a few minutes to say what he had to say. His manager sat at the press table with us in the auditorium filled to capacity with the leading Jewish celebrities of Philadelphia and this is what happened. This individual gets up and taking his speech that his manager had written for him and folding it up, benignly looked out at the audience for a few seconds and said "Ladies and gentlemen. It's a great privilege for me to come here tonight to speak to the scribes and Pharisees." There was deadly silence all over the place. His manager collapsed at our table and said "Where in God's name, did he get that?" That was one of the funny ones. We had many others - the sound of the waves, the opera, well, to go back and really think about it is really worth almost everything that I put in.

Jim Tisdale:

Ed, almost everything you did in those days was a first in its field.

Ed Davies:

Yes, most of our early stunts were firsts, and it's nice to look back and enjoy the remembrances, In closing, I would like to say that for the more than 40 years, I have been identified with radio and television in Philadelphia, they've been the happiest years of my life. I feel that I was present at the birth of radio broadcasting and more or less of a midwife at the birth of television.

I've had the privilege of knowing and working with such outstanding personalities in radio and television as Mr. David Sarnoff, Mr. Merrill Aylsworth, Fred Weber of Mutual fame, Powell Crosley, Lambkin Kay, Andrew White, Earl Anthony, Milton Cross and many others who attained fame in the communications field. I was privileged to be associated on the Hoover Committee in 1923 and 1924 with many of these men and to have the opportunity of helping to form the future of what has become one of the world's greatest businesses, educational and entertainment mediums of all history.

As President of the Philadelphia Radio-Television Association in 1950-1951, I was appointed a member of the Mayor's Philadelphia Committee for Educational Broadcasting. Radio and television has been my life's work and I have enjoyed every moment of it.

As a former officer and a perennial member of the Board of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Broadcast Pioneers, I feel I have fulfilled my pledge to that grand old man of the newscast, H.V. Kaltenborn, with whom I joined in founding Radio Pioneers in 1941, that I would help keep alive the traditions and obligations to the listeners, and now the reviews of television in our area. Those of us who are now members of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Broadcast Pioneers, are still dedicated to these obligations of clean entertainment. Some of our members were on the committee that brought about the present code as adopted by the National Association of Broadcasters, Thanks, Jim Tisdale, for your assistance in presenting the story of Philadelphia's Pioneer Voice, WIP. This is Edward A. Davies and Jim Tisdale signing off.

Jim Tisdale:

Thanks, Ed Davies, that certainly was a wonderful story. And now for the record, I'd like to say that this was recorded on September 2, 1964, right here in the studios of WVCH in Chester, Pennsylvania. It was all being done for our Broadcast Pioneers and our friend, Bill Hedges, who happened to be my sailing companion, by the way, aboard the SS Chusan returning from the Rotary International Convention in Tokyo, just a couple of years ago. So to Bill and the rest of the gang, this is Jim Tisdale, saying so long for a while.

Have a recording of this? Please contact us. Can you shed any more information on this? Please contact us. Can you supply more information about Ed Davies or Jim Tisdale? Please contact us. Please.

From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
© 2009, Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
All Rights Reserved

The e-mail address of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia is pioneers@broadcastpioneers.com