This account of the Missouri government's radio activities starts with some experimental work, where receivers were set up to hear market reports being broadcast in Morse code by the U.S. Department of Agriculture stations. Next came the establishment of a broadcasting station, WOS, licenced on February 23, 1922 to the Missouri State Marketing Bureau in Jefferson City, which was soon upgraded to a state-of-the-art 500 watt Western Electric transmitter. Some other broadcasting stations mentioned in this account are the Kansas City Star's WDAF, Westinghouse's KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Detroit News' WWJ, and the Western Radio Company's WOQ in Kansas City. WOS would survive for over a decade, until it was deleted in 1936.
The Country Gentleman, May 27, 1922, pages 12, 16:
MISSOURI GOES IN FOR WIRELESS
Farmers Get the Latest News From the Capitol Dome -- By A. B. Macdonald
FROM a window in the dome of Missouri's capitol in Jefferson City, Jewell Mayes, secretary of the state board of agriculture looked out and down upon the long antenna of a radiophone swaying in the wind.
"The automobile takes the farmer to the city, but there is the thing that is taking the city to the farmer," he said. "There is the thing that is ending the isolation and lonesomeness of the farm; that is putting into every farm home that wants them hourly market and weather reports, the big news of the day from over all the world, a concert or a lecture each night of the week and a sermon or two on Sunday. There is the thing that is going to open the thousands of closed rural churches in this country, put sacred music and song and the voice of a preacher in their preacherless pulpits, and fill their pews with listeners. That is the thing that is going to do more than any other one influence to keep boys and girls on the farm."
The first experiment in wireless, made by the marketing bureau of the Missouri Board of Agriculture, was in the strawberry season last spring, when it bought a radio receiving set and put it up in one in the heart of the strawberry country in Southwest Missouri.
The old way of getting market news to the strawberry growers was slow, and each year there were big losses due to not getting that perishable fruit quickly enough to points where demand was greatest and prices best. The new wireless way was so much quicker it saved to the growers of Southwest Missouri many times its cost; and at the close of the season there the state marketing bureau asked for a wireless outfit to be put into the state capitol, powerful enough to pick up messages from any part of the country and to send to any part of the state.
Thousands of Listeners
IT WAS installed last winter and early in March Governor Arthur M. Hyde sent to President Harding this message: "Through our Missouri bureau broadcasting station I salute you by wireless."
Within a month after market reports began going out by wireless from the capitol dome hundreds of letters had come in from farmers saying that they were getting the reports of other farmers and came from thousands of other farmers and villagers throughout the state, asking where they could buy wireless outfits, how much they cost, what kind were best, how to make and put up receiving sets, and many other questions.
Each hour of the day the operator sat there beneath the capitol dome, talking into the apparatus, and his voice was sent broadcast through the ether, but he had no way of knowing how many farmers had receiving sets and were hearing him. So one evening Mr. Mayes said into the mouthpiece:
"We want to know how many persons are receiving our messages, so I am asking each one of you to drop me a postal card or a letter right away, giving your name and address and stating how well you hear us."
In answer to that request 1000 cards came from St. Louis alone; more than 300 came in from Kansas City, where it is estimated there are radio receiving sets in 8000 homes; 300 cards came from farmers in Missouri and several hundred more came from farmers in other states as far away as Southern Texas, Mississippi, Illinois, Minnesota and Colorado, all of whom wrote that they were receiving the messages from the dome of Missouri's capitol.
THEN Mr. Mayes and Arthur T. Nelson, commissioner of the Missouri State Marketing Bureau, asked for a more powerful radio outfit. State officials asked:
"Of what practical benefit is this sending of wireless messages? We know it's good from an entertainment standpoint, but if we take the money that the farmer pays in taxes and spend it this way, we must know that he's going to get his money's worth out of it."
"Look at the strawberry growers; they got their money back ten times over," said Mr. Mayes. "With a radio receiving set in his home a farmer can get the market reports he is most interested in, hot off the bat, four or five times a day. Suppose he has a load of hogs ready to ship. He can watch the hog market in Kansas City, St. Louis, St. Joseph, Omaha and Chicago, just as if he could be in all five places at once. He will get the state of the market, whether it is congested or not; he will get the estimated receipt of hogs that will be coming into each of those markets in the next few days, and prices and estimated fluctuations, and from all of that he can decide when it is best for him to ship, and to which market. He won't have to wait until the mail carrier comes along with yesterday's paper, or maybe the paper of two or three days before, to learn how the markets are. He won't have to call up some friend in town to ask, and then be in doubt. That up-to-the-minute knowledge ought to make him enough on one shipment to pay him for his wireless outfit, and for all the cost here.
"There are 263,000 farms in Missouri, and if each could get the market reports by wireless the aggregate saving would be big, to say nothing of the entertainment and instruction the farmer would get. Why, just think of it, the other night a bunch of us sat there in the radio room and heard Bryan give a lecture in a Presbyterian church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and we heard every word as distinctly as if we had been in the church. We heard the announcements, the music and singing, the applause. When we get our new outfit we can relay that kind of stuff to every farmer in Missouri who will install a receiving set.
"We want a radio outfit so good that when the legislature is in session we can simply put instruments in the senate and house chambers and every farmer in Missouri can hear the debates and speeches. He can hear the proclamations and messages of the governor, lectures on health and sanitation and on all phases of farming, sermons by the greatest preachers in America, music by the greatest artists, and all at no cost to him outside of his own outfit."
The state sent to New York for an expert. He said that for $10,000 a plant could be put in that would do all the things suggested, so the appropriation was made. When I visited Jefferson City late in March different parts of the new apparatus were beginning to arrive.
At that time, the Missouri Bureau of Markets was receiving and broadcasting by wireless the following schedule:
9:30 A.M. Opening hog market news from the stockyards in East St. Louis, Kansas City, St. Joseph, Omaha and Chicago. Estimated holdover and future receipts of livestock at those markets. Opening Kansas City grain market. Shipping point information on fruits and vegetables. Miscellaneous market news. Special early morning news bulletins.
Delighted With the Service
I LOOKED through a stack of letters and postal cards that had come to the capitol from different places in Missouri and selected from them the following:
11:30 A.M. Livestock markets. Kansas City grain market. Butter and egg markets.
2 P.M. Closing Kansas City cash grain market. Fruit and vegetable markets. Special news bulletins furnished by newspapers in St. Louis, Kansas City and Detroit. Miscellaneous.
5 P.M. Marketgram, including hay, feed, cotton, grain and so on. Weather forecasts. Road conditions. More news bulletins.
8 P.M. Musical program. Speeches. General current news from late afternoon city papers.
Frank Brashears, a farmer six miles west of New London, wrote: "I get your market reports and my neighbors come in the evening and hear the concerts."
This from B. E. Parker, superintendent of Consolidated School Number Nine, Amoret, Missouri: "Our school has an aërial ninety-two feet high and a $250 receiving set, and we hear your music and the concerts broadcasted by the Kansas City Star."
E. W. Patrick, Brookfield Missouri: "You are coming in fine up here on the market reports. Farmers and shippers are getting great benefit from it."
The Carroll Exchange Bank, of Carrollton, wrote that it was receiving the market reports on its outfit in the bank and was telephoning them out to farmers, who were pleased with the service.
J. G. Lightner, mayor of Odessa, wrote: "My wireless receiving set is in my store on Main Street. Farmers and poultry houses call on me regularly for your market reports and are delighted with the service."
Joseph J. Rapien, pastor of St. Mary's Church, Glasgow, said: "We enjoy your wireless concerts."
Everybody's Tuning In
THE Missouri Union Telephone Company at Clinton wrote that it was receiving the market reports by wireless and was telephoning them out to the villages of Windsor, Calhoun, Deepwater, Montrose and Urich, from where they were again telephoned to 2000 farmers in Henry, Johnson, Pettis, Benton and St. Clair counties.
Thomas C. Curtnight, of Paris, wrote that he was receiving the market reports by wireless for the farm bureau of Monroe County.
The Excelsior Springs Standard reported that crowds gathered in its office nightly to hear the music from the capitol, the concerts from Kansas City and features sent out from other places, as far away as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The Chamber of Commerce of Poplar Bluff wrote that it had appropriated money to put in the best receiving set to get market and baseball reports and concerts. Gallatin wrote that it had installed a wireless receiving set as a community enterprise and the people gathered each night to hear.
The Holt Community Club had raised a fund and bought a receiving apparatus for its community hall.
A club of forty persons in Jamestown bought a high-powered receiving set to pick up wireless messages and concerts from over all the country.
The Central Community Club of Norborne was preparing to install a wireless in the high school.
The American Legion of Harrisonville had raised $300, bought a receiving outfit, with horn, and given wireless concerts in a church at ten cents admission, thus paying for the equipment. It gave the apparatus to the Boy Scouts, who were raising money by wireless concerts.
Many farmers wrote that they enjoyed the music, and the speeches of Bryan and of Governor Allen of Kansas, delivered in Pittsburgh, and broadcasted from there.
E. O. Stone, a farmer nine miles from Warrensburg, wrote that his neighbors gathered in his home one evening and heard part of a civic lecture in Detroit. Then they tuned in and heard part of a symphony concert in Pittsburgh, and part of a musical program from Kansas City.
One Sunday afternoon in March I journeyed to the home of J. B. Jewell, in Wyandotte County, Kansas, and heard the vesper service broadcasted from Kansas City, which consisted of singing by the church choir and a sermon by the Rev. Andreas Bard. Mr. Jewell has a receiving set that cost $200. He said he had a houseful of neighbors in nearly every night to enjoy the wireless concerts.
That Sunday night, in the rooms of the Western Radio Company in Kansas City, I heard the Rev. J. B. Robertson preach his regular Sunday-night sermon into a megaphone. There was something almost uncanny in watching him standing alone, talking earnestly to an invisible audience. One could imagine his words flashing thousands of miles perhaps to listeners in lonely farmhouses out upon the prairies, in cabins perched upon the sides of mountains, in the plantation homes of the South; to audiences in little churches everywhere--through wind and rain and darkness, out to remote places, even to ships at sea.
When he had finished he said:
"Mr. McCreary, head of the company that broadcasts my sermons, tells me that he has received letters from more than one hundred little churches in the open country, too poor to keep a regular preacher, which want to buy wireless sets and listen in on our services. I believe that thousands of closed rural churches will be opened again by the radiophone."
To the hundreds of inquiries about what kind of wireless outfits to buy, and the cost, Jewell Mayes sends out the following:
We do not recommend any particular make of apparatus. The price of equipment necessary to hear messages from any part of the country runs from $150 to $250. Apparatus that will receive from ten to twenty-five miles away will cost from $50 to $100. By making parts of the outfit yourself the cost will be less. We would suggest that you get the book Elementary Principles of Radio Telegraphy and Telephony from the Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C. and familiarize yourself with the operation of the apparatus. There are one or more amateur wireless operators in almost every community, and they can give you some very valuable assistance. They are generally very willing to help anyone interested in radio.
Leo Fitzpatrick, a wireless operator on a submarine for thirteen months of the war and now in charge of a Kansas City broadcasting station, said to me: "Tell the farmers to beware of the cheap wireless outfits. They may be good so far as they go, but the man who sets one up will find that he has only started. He will have to keep adding to it. He would better spend $200 at the beginning and get an outfit that will enable him to pick up and hear market news and concerts from a thousand miles away. Many farmers pay $25 or $50 for an outfit, and when they don't get results they denounce the wireless as bunk."
Manufacturers of radio apparatus have been swamped with orders. There are nine magazines and many books devoted to wireless, and government officials announced in March their belief that before the end of this year there would be wireless receiving sets in one million homes in this country.
Daily market reports are broadcasted by the United States Department of Agriculture from wireless stations in Washington, Cincinnati, Omaha, Rock Springs, Wyoming, and Elko and Reno, Nevada. These reports are received and broadcasted again from the state universities of Nebraska, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Texas and Ohio. A. telephone company in Eastern Illinois receives them and telephones them to its 5000 subscribers, mostly farmers.
Each day one reads of another broadcasting station being established somewhere.