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Mary Makes a Radio: 1925

1925. "Starting assembly of set (Mary Ramsey)." A worker at the Atwater Kent radio factory in Philadelphia. National Photo glass negative. View full size.

1925. "Starting assembly of set (Mary Ramsey)." A worker at the Atwater Kent radio factory in Philadelphia. National Photo glass negative. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

That's my Grandmother!

How amazing to find this pic of my grandmother! Yes, she is charming, beautiful, sweet and was the most amazing woman I have ever known! I believe she is about 19 in this photo and engaged as the ring on her finger would suggest.

20 Big Box Across the Ages

I have two of those AKR Model 20 (Big Box) Radios. Those where battery sets and there was two main models the 20 (4640) Big box and the 20 Compact(7570 or 7960)that was just a smaller version.
(See: )
Its really neat to think that the radio in the picture may be one I have on my shelf. These are great photos of the AKR factory. I am impressed on just how clean it is. Also I really love the jig for holding the chassis upside down so you can wire it up. Gonna build one for myself.

Modern to this day.

That sure must have been a nice modern place to work. No wonder the company showed it off in so many excellent photos. Note the modern conveyor belt configuration. Mary's counterpart works in this exact manufacturing configuration in (some of) the modern factories of China. An incredible example can be seen in Edward Burtynsky's recent outstanding documentary, "Manufactured Landscapes".

Cat's Pajamas

The cat's pajamas (and the cat's meow, the cat's whiskers) was a very popular expression in the 1920s, associated with the daring and unconventional jazz-age flappers, usually meaning, hip or fashionable. The lexicographers William and Mary Morris suggest that these "cat" expressions may have originated even earlier, first used in girls' schools. Other sources attribute coinage to Tad Dorgan, sportswriter and cartoonist. The original use was definitely American, but the cat's pyjamas, the cat's meow also caught on in England.

Well, now I know

who made the radio 80 plus years ago I am working on restoring tonight!

What a sweetie!

Absolutely charming!

Variable Capacitor

The device on the left is a variable capacitor wired in either series or parallel with the coil (tube-shaped with wire wrapping) attached to it. The two in combination comprise a "tuned circuit," which can be varied in frequency.

Yes, that's the tuner

Yes, that stack of interleaved metal plates is the tuner.

Back in the '70s there was a gentleman who lived in my mother's neighborhood, who was in his nineties at the time, and he had an Atwater-Kent tabletop radio. It was a huge thing, and he would lift the lid to show off the glowing tubes. And, it still worked!

Quality...Made to last

Both the radio and the women. Wonder if anyone is taking photos of the people working on assembly lines today so they can be posted on Shorpy in 2090.


Can someone please explain to a foreigner what the cat's pajamas means.

[Click the link. - Dave]

Radio making

Printed circuits came into general use in the mid-1950s. For years Zenith was the lone hold-out advertising their TVs as "hand crafted" until labor costs forced them to quietly abandon this mantra and switch to printed circuits like everyone else. Today all electronic equipment is made of integrated circuit chips (ICs) using fully automated equipment. The radio assembly girl is long gone.

Nice smile!

No wonder the photographer chose to take her picture.

She's wiring the components, holding the radio chassis upside down, right? I know old vacuum-tube radios predated for the most part the use of printed circuits, and thus the components were arranged on a metallic chassis and then wired manually from underneath.

I seem to recognize the electro-mechanical component used to select the frequencies at the left of the chassis; that would be the large knob you used to tune in your favorite station.

Pretty Girl

I've always hoped my Atwater Kent 20c radio was assembled by a pretty girl.

She's taken, boys.

Although Mary is the cat's pajamas, the ring makes me think she is married or engaged.


The seating is certainly not designed for comfort. But the tools of the trade--soldering iron, side cutters, parts bin--haven't changed much.

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