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Desk Radio: 1926

Desk Radio: 1926

Washington, D.C., 1926. "Industrial Exposition. Frank R. Porter -- booth at auditorium." With neighboring displays on telephone etiquette and the Morris Plan Bank. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Aladdin Lamp & Enchanted Cup

Washington Post, October 23, 1927.

Radio Store Opened by Porter Company

The opening of the only exclusive radio store, at 2341 Eighteenth street, in the Eighteenth and Columbia road area, was announced last week by Frank R. Porter, of the Frank R. Porter Co., Inc., manufacturers of artistic loud speakers. The display, which was formerly exhibited in the lobby of the Investment Building, includes the Choral Cabinet, the Magic Picture, the Enchanted Cup and the Aladdin Lamp, each representing the article its name indicates to serve the combined purpose of affording attractive appearances and excellent loud speaker qualities. The models will be on display in the Washington Auditorium during the better homes and building exhibit, October 23-29.

Mr. Porter, who, previously increased demand for his loud speakers, personally manufactured them, is now engaged in large production, stimulated by the receipt of more than 500 orders as a result of his exhibit at the Radio World's Fair, just concluded in Madison Square Garden, New York. Commenting on the success of the New York show, with its final day's attendance of more than 60,000, Mr. Porter said:

“The best in radio art and in modern design of receiving sets and loud speakers proved popular on all three of the exhibit floors. Appearance is one of the factors most in demand; in loud speakers in which the reproducing unit is of standard manufacture, considerable variety by way of outward design is permitted.” The Porter Co., were sole exhibitors from the District of Columbia


The majority of radios in this era used batteries. You'd have one set sitting somewhere under the radio, and another set of batteries at the radio store, being charged. Then after about a month the vendor would come and swap out the batteries.

Looks like a prototype EIA-310-D

The 19 inch rack mount, still in use today.

Disguised Speakers

It appears Frank R. Porter specialized in disguised loudspeakers. Page 362, Volume 11 (1927) of the periodical Radio Broadcast contained the attached illustration accompanied by the text:  

"The group of books, in the first place, is nothing less than a loud speaker in concealment. A forty-inch serpentine tone chamber winds behind the embossed leather book bindings. This 'Choral Cabinet' lists at $50.00, or $75.00 if the equestrienne bronzes are included. The lamp too, in addition to serving its obvious purpose, hides an air-column loud speaker. Depending upon the finish, it lists at $35, $50.00, or $60.00. The carved picture frame to the left also conceals a loud speaker, the tone chamber of which is a thirty-inch serpentine winding. The hand carved black walnut model lists at $35.00, but other models are less expensive even as low as $20.00. Manufactured by Frank R. Porter, Washington, District of Columbia."

So I would guess that every item in the display that could possibly be a disguised loudspeaker is one. But of course, sometimes a loving-cup trophy is just a trophy.

All That and Portable, Too!

Note the handy-dandy wheels on the table, so you can take it from room to room. Now that's innovation!

If we could only figure out a way to cram a radio into one of those horseless carriages, we'll have it made!


Never mind the batteries for the radio, how to power the lamp on top?


The desk radio appears to be a battery set. If you look at the hi res version you can see that the corresponding compartment on the far side of the desk has a couple of big cardboard box looking things with geometric patterns printed on them, with wires coming out of the tops. Those are the batteries.

Radios at that time were almost all battery powered. AC sets came out right after that, but there was a considerable extra expense for transformers to do that. The early tubes might have required 1.5V, 2.5V, 5V or 6V for their filaments (depending on which ones were used), as well as a high voltage DC (90 or higher) for the tube plates, which had to be rectified from AC using even more parts. So the AC power supplies were fairly complicated and heavy.

A few years later, filament voltages were consolidated to 6V and 12V mostly, and other improvements were made for simplicity also. This pic is right at the cusp of the introduction of AC powered radios.

Early Radios

Most of these early radios were battery models. They used an "A" battery for the tube filaments and a "B" battery for the tube plates. There was also a "C" battery that did other things but I don't recall what the C was for, however, these batteries; A B and C were large and heavy.


I believe that the batteries are shown, mounted in the left hand side.

But what is that item, sitting on the stand to the left?
Looks like a table lamp (with out a shade) with a vacuum tube in the socket?


Does it run on batteries, or did they forget to plug it in? If it uses AC power, I would keep the table radio closer to the wall, not out in the middle.

It does give a different meanig to "table radio" though!

[If those batteries were snakes, they'd have bit you. -Dave]

Lamps as speakers

This article mentions a 1925 ad by Frank R. Porter.

"An advertisement in Radio News (March 1925) for the Frank R. Porter Co. offered horn speakers in a variety of forms "combining beauty, tone and utility" (110), including speakers disguised as books (complete with solid brass bookends), floral vases, and lamps."

This could explain the number of lamps in a display by a radio manufacturer.

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