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KYW Radio moved to Philadelphia from Chicago with much fanfare. A press report of Tuesday, December 4, 1934 said:
With a five-hour broadcast enjoyed by several hundred studio guests and thousands of listeners at firesides throughout the Nation, Philadelphia’s newest radio station, KYW, which went on the air yesterday, was formally dedicated last night.
…The formal welcome to this city was expressed by Mayor Moore in an inaugural program in which a host of artists of the National Broadcasting Company were featured. The Mayor called attention to the fact that Station KYW formerly broadcast from Chicago.
…Among artists and representatives of the National Broadcasting Company heard were Gladys Swarthout, of the Metropolitan Opera Company, Dr. Walter Damrosch, Jessica Dragonette, the Revelers, M.H. Aylesworth, President of the National Broadcasting Company, Rudy Vallee, Ed Wynn and Ben Bernie.
KYW moved from Chicago to Philadelphia seamlessly. They signed off the air in Chicago on Sunday, December 2, 1934 and signed back on in Philadelphia on Monday, December 3, 1934.
Some sources show that this move was on December 11th. This is simply incorrect, as we have dated news reports that prove the earlier December 3rd date.
In 1934, the official name of the company that owned KYW was “The Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company.” Its studios in 1934 were located in the WCAU Building, 1622 Chestnut Street in Center City Philadelphia and WCAU’s General Manager and half-owner, Dr. Leon Levy (a founding member of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia and an inductee into our Hall of Fame) was KYW’s General Manager. Its transmitter was in Whitemarsah.
Philadelphia’s Mayor Joseph Hampton Moore said on December 3, 1934:
The KYW call letters are among the best known in the radio world. With its removal from Chicago to Philadelphia, KYW will provide the radio listening public of the surrounding territory with an additional chain program as well as outstanding local programs.
An interesting thing about Moore, he served two terms as mayor but not consecutively. His first term was from 1920 to 1924 and his second term was 1932 to 1936. He was mayor when KYW moved to Philadelphia and he was mayor when all of Philly’s first radio stations came on the air a decade before.
Others who spoke included Dr. Leon Levy, E.W. Loomis, Middle Atlantic Division Manager of the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company and Walter C. Evans, Manager of the Radio Division of Westinghouse.
While the inaugural broadcast was five hours long in Philly, NBC Radio picked up an hour and a half of it for live broadcast on its Red Network. KYW became the affiliate of the NBC Red Network and the national broadcast was heard from 10:30 to 11 pm and from midnight to 1 am.
Until KYW moved to Philly, the NBC Red Network stations were WLIT and WFI, which each had 500 watts and shared the same frequency of 560 kHz on the AM dial.
On Sunday, December 2, 1934, without any explanation that the NBC Red Network affiliation was moving to KYW, a press report said:
With the opening of program service tomorrow, WLIT and WFI, popular outlets of the National Broadcasting Company will inaugurate a new service bringing to the Philadelphia audience, the blue network WJZ programs instead of the red WEAF programs, formerly heard over these stations. Many new features, heretofore never presented over a local station will now be available.
KYW would stay under the management of WCAU for three and a half years until NBC provided management services in 1938. When KYW moved to Philadelphia, it was at 1020 kHz on the AM dial, the same frequency it was in Chicago. It would be years later when it would re-locate to the 1060 kHz dial position that we know today.
While KYW was still in Chicago, The Evening News Association of Detroit (owner of WWJ) applied for the 1020 frequency. Their application was denied on October 23, 1931.
The Kunsky-Trendle Broadcasting Corporation from Detroit applied for the frequency after The Evening News was turned down. Their application was dated November 19, 1931. The Pittsburgh Radio Supply House (owner of WJAS) requested the frequency on January 29, 1932. WCAU Radio on June 8, 1932 requested the frequency. Two days later Philadelphia station WFAN also sent in their request. In less than a week, WIP Radio requested a change in their frequency to 1020 (and a power increase from 500 to 5,000 watts). All were denied on October 27, 1933, the same date that the government granted KYW’s move to Philly.
Now you might think that Philadelphia didn’t have a station at 1020 kHz with everyone interested in that frequency. However, it did. It was WRAX, who moved its station to 920 kHz and shared time with WPEN (On May 11, 1938, WPEN took over WRAX and incorporated its hours into the WPEN schedule).
The first historic words to be heard over the new station (in Chicago) , spoken by Mary Garden, opera star and General Director of the Chicago Opera Company, were, as she walked across the darkened stage and not knowing that the mikes were open, "My God, it's dark in here!"
The original transmitter for the new station, KYW, was located on the elevator penthouse on the top of the Edison Building and the studio was located six floors below, on the 16th floor. The transmitter consisted of two 250-watt tubes used in a self-excited Hartley circuit, the output of which was Heising modulated by three 250-watt tubes. The plate supply was obtained from a 2000-volt direct current generator. The original antenna was a four wire flat top supported by two 50 foot steel poles mounted on top of the building. The operating frequency was 560 kc.
In June 1924, the KYW frequency was changed to 1020 kc and the results were disastrous. In many places in Chicago, the KYW signal could not be received; fortunately the station was permitted to change back to a lower frequency, 570 kc.
In 1923, Westinghouse had installed a transmitter with call letters KFKX in Hasting, Nebraska to relay KDKA programs and also to originate some programs for the local area. In 1927, KFKX operations in Hastings were discontinued and the license moved to Chicago where KYW and KFKX shared time. (The move of KFKX to Chicago was made in anticipation of the upcoming 1928 frequency reallocation). Finally the Commission is effect said "quit kidding yourselves, which license do you want?" So the KFKX license was deleted.
In the November 11, 1928 frequency reallocation, KYW was again assigned to 1020 kc with the same disastrous effect on the station's coverage in Chicago. To improve coverage in the Chicago area, a 500 watt synchronized booster station KYWA was installed on the roof of the Edgewater Beach Hotel. This improved the coverage in the North Side area but did not help the main problem so plans were made to move KYW to a new site out in the country, near Wheaton, Illinois, and at the same time the studios were moved to the Strauss Building and arrangements made for the Chicago Herald and Examiner to take over the program and sales operations of the station.
Finally, in 1932, KYW applied to the Commission to move to Philadelphia. The application was granted on October 27, 1933 for the facilities at this site.
The new KYW transmitter for the Whitemarsh location was the first all AC operated high powered transmitter, no rotating equipment except water pumps for circulating cooling water for the power tubes (now even the power tubes are air cooled). The antenna, a four tower array consisting of steel poles mounted on wood sub-bases was the first directional antenna designed to suppress sky-wave radiation while providing the required horizontal directional pattern.
As part of the move of KYW from Chicago to Philadelphia, arrangements had been for WCAU personnel to handle the program and sales operations of KYW and for Westinghouse personnel to take care of all technical operations. The KYW studios were located in the WCAU building on Chestnut Street. I worked with Jack Leitch, then Chief Engineer of WCAU on the layout and design of the studios for KYW. Jack was certainly a fine man to work with during the daytime but it was awfully tough trying to keep up with him at night.
In May, 1938, KYW studios were moved into the KYW Building at 1619 Walnut Street and NBC took over the programming and sales operations. This arrangement with NBC continued until July 1940 when Westinghouse resumed the programming and sales operations of all the Westinghouse stations.
About the move out of the WCAU Building, some KYW personnel commented that KYW had gotten a divorce from WCAU on the ground of incompatibility.
On January 16, 1941, the power of KYW was increased from 10 kw to 50 kw and March 29, 1941 there was a frequency reallocation in which KYW's frequency was changed from 1020 kc to 1060 kc.
KYW Radio came on the air at 4:30 pm in Chicago on Armistice Day (November 11th) of 1921. It was the 7th station on the air in the United States and was owned by Westinghouse and the Edison Company.
KYW since its beginning in 1921 has had the same owner, Westinghouse. The company has merged and purchased other businesses (like CBS), but it, today, can still trace its roots to the same company that still owns KYW today.
One thing that is unusual about KYW is that Westinghouse has owned KYW in three different cities. Chicago, Philadelphia and then Cleveland. The KYW call letters moved with the station. When the federal government required NBC and Westinghouse to trade back the stations that were swapped in January of 1956, KYW returned to Philadelphia.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Ad donated by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
Researched and compiled by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
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