First Radio Advertiser Found Practice 'Too Much Expense and Effort' So Quit
Present KDKA Trophy To Retail Leader _____
Gavel Made of First Air Antenna is Gift _____
The Joseph Horne Company, radio's first advertiser, paid tribute to the broadcasting industry in presenting to A. Lincoln Filene, president of the Retail Research Association, a gavel made from KDKA's original wooden transmitter pole.
The presentation took place at the association's semi-annual meeting at Miami, Fla. It has long been a custom for one of the 23 member stores to present Mr. Filene with a gavel at each meeting. For this meeting, it became the turn of the Joseph Horne Company.
The store asked KDKA if a piece of the original antenna pole could be obtained for such a purpose. A small section was found, and supplied to Horne's together with a letter of authentication from Dr. Frank Conrad, Westinghouse Assistant Chief Engineer, who used the pole in his early experiments which led to the founding of KDKA. Dr. Conrad has recently completed 50 years of service with Westinghouse.
The store also had printed and distributed at the association's meeting a booklet entitled "How Radio Broadcasting Began." After sketching the early history of broadcasting and giving current statistics of the industry, the booklet tells the story of how Horne's became radio's first retail advertiser, after having been partially responsible for the actual establishment of KDKA. This took place in the early fall of 1920, when Dr. Conrad had been experimenting in his Wilkinsburg garage for about eight years.
The story continues:
"Radio was a subject of timely interest, particularly to the younger generation, and many high school boys had home-made crystal sets with the now pretty well forgotten "cat-whisker" tuning. These youngsters frequently caught Dr. Conrad's signals, and to reward their interest he frequently played phonograph records to demonstrate that music could be carried over the air.
"The Joseph Horne Company had a number of crystal sets in its toy department. Employes working late would occasionally try the sets in the hope of hearing something. One evening, several of them heard music clearly followed by the statement that it was coming from the garage of Frank Conrad of Wilkinsburg. They reported the experience to the Horne advertising man, who saw in it a selling point for the receiving sets in the toy department and proceeded to advertise the fact.
"Mrs. H. P. Davis, wife of the Westinghouse Vice President, saw the advertisement, and called it to her husband's attention. The late Mr. Davis, in telling of the incident said, 'The advertisement gave me a sudden inspiration--why isn't this the use for radio: an instrument of public rather than private communication, broadcasting news and entertainment, and developing a market for receivers for those who want to listen?' . . .
"Dr. Davis lost no time in communicating his idea to the Westinghouse Directors and little more than a month after the advertisement, KDKA, the pioneer broadcasting station of the world, came into being on November 2, 1920, with the returns of the Harding-Cox national election--with Frank Conrad as the directing engineer.
"The public response was instant and enthusiastic, and others quickly followed the successful example of KDKA, until today there are more than 800 licensed commercial broadcasters. KDKA has kept its facilities at the highest point of efficiency throughout the subsequent development in radio, and made the name of Pittsburgh known throughout the world.
"As you might imagine, the Joseph Horne Co. received an early bid to try the new medium at communication, which in the early days depended entirely on contributed features--church services, banquets, volunteer musicians, and the like. In January, 1921--two months after the first broadcast--Horne's had the honor to be the first retail store in the world to employ what has since become a most effective medium of advertising, contributing a 15-minute fashion talk, Tuesday evenings from 7 to 7:15--a period which was to be made famous later by Amos and Andy. A Friday evening home-furnishing talk at the same hour was added shortly afterward. Both of these features were discontinued after more than a year by the Joseph Horne Co. because (we blush to relate it) it was felt, at the time, that providing the script and speaker involved too much expense and effort. A copy of the advertisement that gave Dr. Davis his inspiration for radio broadcasting is permanently preserved at Radio City, New York, along with the first transmitting equipment and other memorabilia of KDKA."