WFIL Radio (as WFI) first came on the air on March 18, 1922 at 10:16 am, beating WIP (Call letters were picked from a hat) by just 44 minutes. However, that was the official grand opening. It was the first day that both WFI and WIP broadcast with a government license. There was a newspaper ad of that era that referred to a WIP "test" broadcast on March 17th. However, that was aired with a CP (Construction Permit) and not a license. We are sure that WFI also aired test broadcasts before March 18th of 1922 operating under their CP.
KYW pre-dates WFIL, as the 9th station in the United States going on the air on November 9, 1921. Only problem was that KYW (Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company) went on the air in Chicago, Illinois. (The station call letteres later moved to Philadelphia).
WGL (owned by Thomas F. J. Howlett) was the city's first radio station (licensed February 8, 1922 and on the air by March 10, 1922). The station handed their license back into the government by the end of 1924.
WFI was owned by Strawbridge and Clothier and WOO by John Wanamaker's. WIP, by the way, was owned by the Gimbels Brothers Department Store. FYI, WRP in Camden, NJ came on the air just one day after WIP & WFI and was owned by the Federal Institute of Radio Telegraphy.
The next month, WPJ came on the air and was owned by St. Joseph's College. In May of 1922, WCAM came on the air, licensed to Villanova, Pa and operated by the college of the same name. Two days later, WCAU joined the gang (owned by the Philadelphia Radiophone Company).
Stations coming on the air later that year were WDAR (call changed to WLIT in 1925), owned by the Lits Brothers Department Store and WIAD which later became WDAS. WIAD opearted from the the Ocean City, NJ living room of Howard Miller, its owner. The station was initially licensed to Ocean City, not Philadelphia. Also later that year was WWAD and WNAT which became WHAT in 1930. Well, enough of this history.
(Left to right) Martin Pinsker, WFIL Engineer Carmen Gentile and Temple Instructor John Culver
While this picture is not from this particular broadcast, it does date from the same year
WFIL Radio Studios in the Widener Building during 1951
Prepare yourself to listen to "The Theme is 30." It's the 30th anniversay show broadcast over WFIL Radio. The narrator was Joe Novenson. Ex-WFIL staffer Paul Norton reports that Joe passed away in the late seventies. The announcer was Jim Felix, a former member of the Broadcast Pioneers. Jim's widow, Jane is still a member. Jim passed away on Saturday, August 1, 1998. The program was compiled and edited by Broadcast Pioneers member Jack Hyland. Engineering by Frank Brewery and James Gimbel. It was written and directed by Martin Pinsker. The date is March 18, 1952.
The voice of Hal Simonds (who was an original 1922 WFI announcer) was portrayed by Hal himself, who in 1952 was a time salesman at WFIL Radio. Can anyone identify any of the other voices or personnel?
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Audio originally donated by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
1951 Photo originally donated by Broadcast Pioneers member John Roberts
1947 Photo originally donated by Broadcast Pioneers member Jane Felix
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