This is the Boston section of 
The Broadcast Archive

Maintained by:
Barry Mishkind - The Eclectic Engineer
Last Update 5/18/01

The Boston Radio Timeline--  The early years

 by Donna L. Halper, Emerson College
(inspired by some 1968 research from Gerald W. Kroeger)
   April 2001 version



WBZ (owned  by Westinghouse) signs on in Springfield MA at 360 m/ 900 kHz (Sept. 15); WBZ broadcasts its first program, from the Eastern States Exposition on Sept. 19.


1ZE, New Bedford, signs on (May 21); the man who built it, Irving Vermilya, will build WDAU in mid-1922.  WDAU, which eventually becomes WNBH, claims to be the 11th station in the U.S. (it's not...) Irving Vermilya claims to be the first licensed ham radio operator in the USA.  (He wasn’t, but he was probably the first in District 1, when licensing first began in 1912...)


On the campus of Tufts, station 1XE begins official daily broadcasts (May 20); it is greater Boston’s first station. [Note: there is written evidence that indicates 1XE had been on the air on a fairly regular basis since the summer of 1920, and possibly as early as October of 1919...] 1XE is seldom called by that name:  most newspapers call it “The AMRAD Station,” since it is owned by the American Radio and Research Company, which manufactures radio equipment. 


The first newspaper to cover radio regularly is the Boston Traveler, whose ham radio page begins in February of 1921 and gradually expands to commercial radio coverage. Its editor, Guy Entwistle, is active in ham radio and attended Tufts.  He is an early champion of 1XE/WGI, giving it lots of publicity.



Two more stations are licensed to Boston at 360 m: WAAJ (4/10) and WFAU (6/16).  Neither keeps a regular schedule nor survives past April of 1923.   


Yet another station is licensed to 360m (this is not a typo-- the Department of Commerce never expected radio to be more than a fad, so they only allocated a few frequencies).  


1XE (still owned by AMRAD), officially becomes WGI on Feb. 9th, at 833 kHz.  Although only 100 watts, it becomes the starting point for numerous musicians who go on to become famous, such as Joe Rines, Leo Reisman, and Hum & Strum.  It also features a woman engineer and announcer, Eunice Randall.  


Irving Vermilya's ham station 1ZE continues to operate, but New Bedford gets its first commercial station, WDAU, which Irv is hired to build and run for owners Slocum & Kilburn (June 24)


WNAC (owned by John Shepard 3rd and the Shepard Department Stores), signs on at 250 m/1199 kHz (July 31).  In early November, WNAC broadcasts a performance from the cast of the hit black musical “Shuffle Along,” perhaps the first time such stars as Eubie Blake, Lottie Gee, and Noble Sissle have been heard on the air.

Seeing a growing trend, more newspapers (which had seen radio as competition) begin daily radio columns. Among them are the Boston

Globe (April), the Boston Post (May), the Boston American (March) and the Lynn Daily Evening Item (February).



WNAC and WEAF (New York) link up on January 4 for the first chain broadcast (it lasts for only five minutes, but shows that it CAN be done).


WMAF (owned by millionaire Colonel E.H.R. Green) signs on at 363 m/ 830 kHz, from So. Dartmouth; by June, WMAF is part of a chain, re-broadcasting the programs of WEAF four hours a day.  WMAF's broadcasts cause endless interference for other stations, who frequently complain to District 1 Radio Inspector Charles Kolster.


WTAT, mobile sister to WEEI, signs on at 244 m/1229 kHz.  Its purpose is to appear at radio shows and demonstrate Edison products. (May 15)



First synagogue services are broadcast from WNAC, featuring the popular “Radio Rabbi” Harry Levi of Temple Israel.


WBZ opens up a Boston studio, with the help of the Boston Herald-Traveler, at the Hotel Brunswick.  (Feb 24-5)


Mobile stations are visiting communities that don't yet have a local station:   WCBR, for example, does some programming from Lynn's Strand Theatre in late May, and from the German Theatre in Roslindale in June.  The other mobile station, WTAT, is licensed to Stoneham, but broadcasts from Cambridge, Walpole, Weymouth, Brookline, Quincy and Stoneham during 1923 and 1924.


WDAU gets out of the radio business; Irving Vermilya moves the station to his home in Mattapoissett and operates it as WBBG. (Jan)


WDBH ("We Do Business Honestly"), owned by C.T. Sherer department store, goes on the air in Worcester at 1120 kHz/100 w (May 3)


WDBR,  a religious station, broadcasts from the Tremont Baptist Church, at 1270 kHz/ 256 m.  It only airs religious services, and broadcasts on weekends mainly.  (June 8)


WEEI (owned by Edison Electric Illuminating Company) signs on September 29, at 303 m/989 kHz.  Program Director is popular children’s show host "Big Brother" Bob Emery, whose career had started several years earlier at WGI.



WBZ gets a wire connection to WJZ  (November)


WKBE (owned by K&B Broadcasting) is licensed to Webster at 1310 kHz, 100 W (Feb. 24)


WGI is still on the air, amid rumors of financial problems, but it is now at 261 m. and planning to open up a studio in Boston-- proposed new call letters-- WARC (late Feb.)


WDBR is also operating at 261 m. --crowding on the dial is becoming more of a problem, with some stations having to voluntarily go silent so others can have a turn...these so-called 'silent nights' become increasingly unpopular as more stations go on the air.  (March)


WDBH in Worcester becomes WCTS (March)


AMRAD goes into bankruptcy, forcing WARC (formerly WGI) to go off the air (May).  Rumours persist that the station will be back soon, but it never returns.


WNAB, sister station of WNAC goes on the air at 1200 kHz/ 250 m (May 13)


WCTS is bought by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, changes calls to WTAG (Oct 8)


WBBG, Mattapoissett moves to the New Bedford Hotel and takes the call letters WNBH (Nov. 2)



WSSH (Stranger’s Sabbath Home) appears, picking up where WDBR left off, as the religious voice of the Tremont Baptist Church; it too inherits 261 m. and shares time with several other stations (Jan. 18)


WBZA (242 m) is synchronized with WBZ (333m) at 333.1m/ 990 kHz (May 20).  The Boston signal has numerous technical problems, causing several newspaper columnists to make jokes about it.


WTAG moves to 550 kHz (July 3)


WSGC (Seapuit Golf Club) goes on the air, licensed to Osterville, giving Cape Cod local programming (July 27). The station was supposed to use the call letters WJBX... in mid-August, the Radio Inspector catches the station using the wrong calls and forces it to use the right ones till it finally cease operation in mid-September, having lasted only through the summer months. 


WAGS (the Willow Avenue Garage Station), a low-power station (only 5 watts) in Somerville goes on the air at 1200 kHz; its owners-- J. Smith (Jack) Dodge of WNAC and his friend Carl Wheeler-- will eventually move it to Lexington, where it will become WLEX (October)


WRES (owned by Harry Sawyer of the Wollaston Radio Electric Shop) becomes Quincy's first station, at 295m/ 1380 kHz (November 9)


WEPS in Gloucester goes on the air; soon moves to 296.9m/ 1010 kHz at 100 W (Nov. 26)


WBET (owned by the Boston Evening Transcript) is licensed (Dec. 18)



WBSO (owned by Babson Statistical Organization-- economist Roger Babson) in Wellesley goes on the air at 242m, but it soon moves to 384.4m/ 780 kHz, doing mainly religious programming (Jan. 28)  


WBET does its first official program, at 1130 kHz, 500 W.  The technical problems are so bad that an apology appears on page 1 of the next day's Transcript.   (Feb. 27) 


WBET signs on officially at 760 kHz, 500 W, from the old WGI studios (April 20)


WBET moves to 1240 kHz (June 1)

WBET moves back to 1130 kHz (June 15)

WBET settles in at 1040 kHz/ 288.3m, shares time with WSSH (Aug. 15)


WMES (Mass. Education Society) signs on at 211.1 m/ 1420 kHz (June 1)


WSSH is now at 249.9 m/ 1200 kHz  (June)


WLOE, which was first called WRSC, (owned by William S. Poté, his brother Alfred, and several other local businessmen) signs on in Chelsea at 211.1m/ 1420 kHz; WLOE shares time with WMES (Dec. 16)


WEEI spends some time at 447.5m/ 670 kHz, as the need for more frequencies grows.


WBZ is listed at 15,000 watts:  most stations of that time only have about 100 w.


WNAB (Shepard Stores) changes its call letters to WASN-- Air Shopping News; a rarity for its time, all its announcers and its PD are women (Jan. 31)


WBIS-- "Boston's Information Service"--  (yet another station owned by the Shepard Department Stores) is on the air at 302.8m/ 990 KC; its hours are very limited, and it also broadcasts shopping news, and plays phonograph records; it replaces WASN  (June)


***The Radio Act of 1927 (Feb-March) creates the Federal Radio Commission, and begins the task of regulating the huge number of stations:  Boston stations will soon be affected.***


WLEX, the former WAGS, goes on the air from part-owner Carl Wheeler's home.  (The other owner, Jack Dodge, had been one of WGI's original airstaff, and is still an engineer at WNAC.)  WLEX is at 1390 kHz, 50 watts, and shares time with WMAF.  (Sept./ Oct.)



Mobile station licenses are deleted by the FRC's General Order 30 (Jul. 1)


General Order 32 requires numerous small stations to surrender their licenses:  one of the first casualties is Quincy's WRES, but there will be others (Aug. 1).  WMES and WLOE are on the list too, but a hearing in Washington gives them a reprieve.


WNAC is now combined with WBIS, at 461 m /650 kHz (April)


WEPS moves to 1200 kHz, share-time with WKBE (Nov. 2)

WKBE moves to 1200 kHz, share-time with WEPS  (June)


WLEX's owners (Jack Dodge and Carl Wheeler) put Massachusetts' first TV station on the air-- W1XAY is low-powered mechanical TV, but it is a first (July)


WEEI is now at 508 m /590 kHz (Feb.)


WBET moves to 1360 kHz, share-time with WMAF and WSSH (Nov. 11)


WLEX moves to 1420 kHz, 100 watts, shares time with WSSH (Nov. 11)



WMES, despite a newspaper and letter-writing campaign, is deleted by the FRC  in June. (The FRC had turned down its request for its own frequency and a power increase.)  However, WMES somehow still broadcasts sporadically till January 5, 1930. 


WBET, facing numerous expenses and on-going  technical problems, is sold and moved to Lexington, where it becomes WLEX (Feb. 15)


The station that was originally called WLEX becomes WLEY, as Carl Wheeler's company (The Lexington Air Stations) now operates 2 radio stations and the experimental TV station W1XAY. (April 1)


WKBE moves from Webster to Auburn (June)

WKBE becomes WORC and operates from Worcester (July)


WHDH appears in Gloucester (owned by Ralph Matheson) at 361.2 m/ 830 kHz (June)


WNAC moves its transmitter to Squantum (Quincy), increases power to 1000 w, plans to build new and larger studios.  (Feb)


WEEI moves its transmitter to Weymouth, and its power is increased to 1000 w (July)



WMES finally goes off the air; WLOE purchases its studios and equipment (Jan 5), and then tries to put it back on the air at WBBS, but the FRC won't permit it.  WLOE is still in danger of being deleted, but keeps getting a reprieve from the FRC. 


WLEX gets a CP to move to 1410 kHz, still share-time (Mar. 20). Meanwhile, Wheeler and Dodge’s mechanical TV station W1XAY runs out of money and goes off the air.


WSSH gets power increase to 500 w (Jan. 17); still broadcasts mainly church services. 


WEPS Gloucester is sold by Ralph Matheson to the owners of WORC.  WEPS is consolidated with WORC under callsign WORC-WEPS (May 5)


WHDH, which has gradually been doing more programs from Boston, moves the station there, to new studios at the New England Conservatory (Nov. 6)    


John Shepard 3rd expands his WEAN/WNAC link into the Yankee Network, adding WNBH as his first affiliate station.  There will soon be affiliates all over New England (May 25)



WBZ & WBZA swap (WBZA is now the Springfield station, WBZ the Boston one), then WBZ builds a new 50 kW transmitter in Millis (March 13)        


WLEX joins Shepard's Yankee Network on Jan. 20; by April 20, the station is owned by John Shepard.  It becomes WAAB, and is moved to the same Boston studios as WNAC-- new studios at the Hotel Buckminster in Kenmore Square (early to mid- April)   


WBZ moves to new studios at the Hotel Bradford in Boston (June 5)


WEEI moves to new studios at 180-2 Tremont St. They were formerly at 39 Boylston St. (June 13)


WSSH ceases to operate (May 24); church services move to WAAB



WBZ, WBZA leased to NBC with other Westinghouse stations (March)



WLEY is sold by Carl Wheeler and the Lexington Air Stations to newsreel photographer Albert S. Moffat (Mar. 10)


WHDH moves its studios to the Hotel Touraine (Apr. 1)


WORC-WEPS becomes just WORC (May 15)

WORC moves to 1280 kHz, 500 w DA, under special authority (June 9)


WLOE renewal is denied, after a long battle with the FRC; license is deleted (Dec. 9)



The Yankee News Network begins offering local news to its affiliates. It uses the slogan “News While It Is News,” a slap at the newspapers, which had tried to prevent radio from doing its own news (April)


The newly created FCC (the former FRC) grants Albert Moffat's request to move WLEY to Lowell (Aug. 14)


WLEY goes on the air in Lowell (Oct. 10)

WLEY offically is re-named WLLH (Oct. 16)


WMEX (owned by the former owners of WLOE) opens, at 1500 kHz (Oct. 18)


WMFH licensed, will later become WCOP (Nov. 13)



WMFH signs on under the new call sign WCOP from studios at the Copley Plaza Hotel (Aug. 26)


WBSO, formerly owned by the Babson Statistical Organization, at 1240 kHz, is purchased by George Crockwell, James Phelan, and William Eynan; it becomes WORL and moves to 920 kHz (Dec. 10)



WEEI is leased, then purchased by CBS (April)


WORL moves from Needham to Boston, studios at the Myles Standish Hotel (Apr. 21)


Shepard's Yankee Network loses CBS, briefly becomes NBC Red affiliate (Sep. 27)


WTIC in Hartford attempts to move to Boston; fails after opposition from local broadcasters


Shepard's Colonial Network is started; it carries Mutual network programs.  WAAB becomes Mutual's Boston affiliate.



WMEX tries to move to 1470, but the move is overturned on appeal.


WNAC and WAAB ownership consolidated under The Yankee Network, Inc. (Jan. 26) Shepard sells the Boston Shepard Department Store in late December, but still operates stores in Rhode Island, along with Providence station WEAN.


WEEI moves to a new and improved transmitter site in Medford (Apr. 6)


WLAW, owned by the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, signs on at 680 kHz. (Dec. 19)


Note-- as of 1937, the following were the managers of Boston radio stations:


WAAB (Yankee Network, owned by John Shepard 3rd)-- Program Manager-- Roy Harlow; publicity director-- Gerry Harrison; chief engineer-- Irving B. Robinson

WNAC (also owned by Shepard)-- same executives as WAAB

WBZ/WBZA--  Program Manager, John Holman; Publicity Director-- George Harder; Production Manager-- Gordon Swan; Chief Engineer for WBZ-- Dwight Myer/ for WBZA -- H.E. Randol 


WCOP-- General Manager, Gerry Slattery;  chief engineer-- Whitman Hall


WEEI-- Station Manager, Harold E. Fellows; Publicity Director-- Lewis Whitcomb; Chief Engineer-- P.K. Baldwin


WHDH-- Station Manager, Ralph Matheson; Publicity Director-- John J. Matheson; Chief engineer-- Watson Kownaski


WMEX (formerly operated as WLOE)-- Station Manager, William S. Pote; Musical Director-- John Kiley; Chief Engineer-- Al Pote


WORL-- Station Manager, W. Cort Treat; Musical Director-- Robert Perry; Chief engineer-- George Luckey


WLAW (Lawrence) goes on the air on December 19th, 1937 from the Lawrence Eagle- Tribune offices-- it hasn't yet opened a Boston studio.  Station manager is Irving Rogers, whose father Alexander-- Lawrence Eagle-Tribune newspaper-- owns it.  Chief engineer is George Luckey.


WLLH  (Lowell, formerly WLEX in Lexington) is owned by Al Moffat, who also bought WMAS in Springfield in 1932.  Robert Donahue is the Station Manager of WLLH; William McDonald is the Chief Engineer.


WNBH (New Bedford) has former owner Irving Vermilya as GM, and Sol Chain as Station manager; the chief engineer is Clyde Pierce.


BOSTON RADIO locations in January of 1938


WAAB-- 1410 kHz   Mutual/Colonial Networks  (21 Brookline Ave)


WBZ & WBZA-- 990 kHz   NBC Blue  (Hotel Bradford, Boston; Hotel Kimball, Sp'field)


WCOP-- 1120 kHz, days only  (Copley Plaza Hotel)


WEEI-- 590 kHz  Columbia Broadcasting System  (182 Tremont Street)


WHDH-- 830 kHz  (Hotel Touraine, 62 Boylston Street)


WMEX-- 1500 kHz  (70 Brookline Ave- had been at the Hotel Manger in 1934)


WNAC-- 1230 kHz  some NBC Red, some Yankee Network, some Mutual  (21 Brookline Ave. and Hotel Buckminster)

WORL-- 920 kHz  (first in 1936 at Myles Standish Hotel-- Bay State Rd. at Beacon Street, then in the late 30s, at 910 Beacon Street)


WLAW-- 680 kHz  [Hildreth & Rogers; studios at 278 Essex  Street; Daily Eagle/Evening Tribune; xmitter in W. Andover]


WLLH-- 1370 kHz  [owned  by Albert S. Moffat, studios in Lowell-- in the Rex  Bldg.]


WTAG-- 580 kHz, 1000 w. [the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 18 Franklin St., Worc.] 


Donna L. Halper, Journalism Dept. Emerson College Boston MA     <>