Early Radio Station Lists Issued by the U.S. Government

Thomas H. White -- May 30, 2017


Accurate early radio station lists for the period 1906-1946 can be difficult to find. However, often overlooked are some U.S. government publications, which include lists that generally are more accurate than those found in contemporary magazines and newspapers. This reviews basic information about these station lists, including on-line copies of many of them. [NOTE: Many additional on-line broadcasting station lists are available at Wikipedia's List of AM-band radio station lists issued by the United States government, Jeff Miller's History of American Broadcasting and David Gleason's World Radio History. Also, numerous scanned copies of early documents are available at the Federal Communications Commission's Audio Division: Radio History Documents.]

Government Departments

Most research libraries have holdings of government documents. This is especially true of universities, which often are official depositories. In most cases, these documents are kept in a separate Public Documents section. Thus, they may be listed in a separate catalog, and not included in a library's main holdings catalog. The Public Documents section has its own cataloging setup, the Superintendent of Documents Classification System, which organizes and shelves the documents based on agency identifiers. Over the past century the U. S. government has printed a monthly report of all documents issued. In addition, there are a number of standard publications that summarize and cross-reference the monthly listings.

Because interest in, and regulation of, radio has shifted between various governmental departments, a given document sometimes jumps from one shelf area to another, reflecting the latest departmental reorganization. Below is a summary of the departments which have issued radio station lists, along with the Public Documents agency identifier used:
  1. United States radio stations were unlicenced until late 1912. In the meantime, the U.S. Navy monitored international radio development. Beginning in 1906, worldwide station lists were issued by the Navy's Equipment Bureau [N5]. When the Equipment Bureau was abolished July 10, 1910, responsibility for the station lists was transferred to the Navy's Steam Engineering Bureau [N19]. (The Navy ended the publication of international lists after 1912, after the United States ratified the London International Convention, and the Commerce Department began licencing U.S. Stations and issuing annual U.S. station lists.)
  2. The Department of Commerce and Labor (after 1913, the Department of Commerce) kept track of the growth of radio aboard seagoing vessels, and the Department's Bureau of Navigation [C11] began including shipboard-related radio information in a number of its annual publications. Then, in late 1912, licencing of U. S. radio stations was set up under the Commerce Department, and the Bureau of Navigation now became responsible for issuing official annual lists of all licenced U. S. radio stations, which it did for period from 1913 through 1926. (The lists were suspended in 1917 and 1918 because of World War I.) In 1927 the "temporary" Federal Radio Commission was established, but most radio work continued to be done by the Commerce Department. However, a reorganization transferred radio work to the Commerce Department's new Radio Division [C24], which issued the annual station lists from 1927 to 1931.
  3. In June, 1932, Commerce's Radio Division was abolished, and all radio work moved over to the Federal Radio Commission [RC1], which issued the station lists during the short remainder of its existence.
  4. Finally, in 1934 the FRC was supplanted by the Federal Communications Commission [CC1 & CC2], which continues to regulate most radio to this day. (During World War II the government again ceased publication of station lists).

In addition, the Radio Service Bulletin, first issued in 1915, included a number of official broadcast station lists in the period 1922-1928.
United States Government-issued Radio Station Lists

NOTE: xxx refers to the last 3 digits of the year of issue, for example "921" for 1921.
Navy Dept./Equipment Bureau seal Wireless Telegraph Stations of the World. Ship and shore stations world-wide, plus stations operated by the U. S. government. Amateur and inland stations are generally not included. NOTE: At this time the U.S. government had not yet begun licencing stations.
N5.2:M74/xxxOctober 1, 1906
August 1, 1907   [Google Books scan]
October 1, 1908   [Google Books scan]
September 1, 1909   [Google Books scan]
Navy Dept./Steam Engineering Bureau seal N19.7:xxx October 1, 1910   [Google Books scan]
January 1, 1912   [Google Books scan]

Commerce & Labor Dept. seal Annual Report of the Commissioner of Navigation. On June 24, 1910, "An Act to require apparatus and operators for radio communication on certain ocean steamers" was passed by the U. S. Congress, to become effective July 1, 1911. Although it did not require station licences, the act did require that larger ocean-going vessels -- of all nationalities -- which visited U. S. ports have efficient radio equipment operated by certified operators. As part of its enforcement of the new act, the Bureau of Navigation included an appendix in its 1910 through 1912 annual reports containing detailed radio information about the vessels covered by the act.
C11.1:xxxIssued annually, as of June 30th.
June 30,  1910 Appendix M    June 30,  1911 Appendix M    June 30,  1912 Appendix K

Merchant Vessels of the United States. Beginning in 1869, the U. S. Government published an annual list of registered vessels. And starting in 1911 this publication, produced by the Bureau of Navigation, included lists of the U. S. vessels which operated radio transmitters.
C11.5:xxxIssued annually, as of June 30th.
June 30, 1911 vessels with radio apparatus    June 30, 1912 vessels with radio apparatus

Commerce Dept. seal Radio Stations of the United States. The passage of the "Act to Regulate Radio Communication" meant that, effective December 13, 1912, U. S. ship and land radio stations had to have licences to order to operate transmitters. The Department of Commerce began issuing an annual list of licenced U. S. stations, which it divided into the following categories: Commercial [Ship/Public Service/Limited Commercial licences], Government, Amateur [General Amateur/Restricted Amateur licences], and Special Land [Experimental/Technical & Training School/Special Amateur licences].
C11.7/6:xxx July 1, 1913 [plus three quarterly supplements, issued October 1, 1913, January 1, 1914, and April 1, 1914] (7/1/1913 Land stations); July 1, 1914 [plus quarterly supplement issued October 1, 1914. The supplements were no longer needed after the introduction of the Radio Service Bulletin on January 1, 1915 -- see below]; July 1, 1915; July 1, 1916; June 15, 1919. No annual lists were issued in 1917 or 1918 due to World War One.]
Google Books scans: 7/1/1913 [plus 10/1/1913, 1/1/1914, 4/1/1914 supplements] & 7/1/1914    7/1/1914    7/1/1915 & 7/1/1916    7/1/1916    6/15/1919
Amateur lists: List of initial grants by Radio District (1913)    7/1915-9/1916 monthly amateur station licence grants

Beginning in 1920, the annual station lists were split into two publications, with the Amateur stations now listed separately:
Commercial and Government Radio Stations of the United States.This publication listed stations in the Commercial [Ship/Public Service/Limited Commercial licences], Government, and Special Land [Experimental/Technical & Training School/Special Amateur licences] licence categories. It also featured a separate broadcasting station list, beginning with the 1922 issue.Amateur Radio Stations of the United States. Amateur [General Amateur/Restricted Amateur licences] stations were listed in this publication. In addition, starting with the 1922 edition, a duplicate of the Special Land licence group list appearing in Commerical and Government Radio Stations of the United States was included.
C11.7/6:xxx/1 Issued annually, as of June 30th, for 1920 through 1926, by the Bureau of Navigation.
Broadcast service, by call as of June 30, 1922
Broadcast service, by city as of June 30, 1922
Google Books scans: 1920    1921-1924
Hathi Trust scan: 1924-1927
C11.7/6:xxx/2 Issued annually, as of June 30th, for 1920 through 1926, by the Bureau of Navigation.
Google Books scan: 1920-1923
Hathi Trust scan: 1920-1923    1924-1926
C24.5:xxx/1 Issued annually, as of June 30th, for 1927 through 1931, by the Radio Division. (The 1928 edition also includes a broadcast station lists as of November 11, 1928).
Hathi Trust scans: 1928-1929    1930-1931
C24.5:xxx/2Issued annually, as of June 30th, for 1927 through 1931, by the Radio Division.
Hathi Trust scans: 1927-1929    1930-1931    1931
NOTE: The annual June 30th broadcast station lists from Commerical and Government Radio Stations of the United States, for 1922-1928 and 1930-1931, are available at History of American Broadcasting.

Federal Radio Commission seal Radio Broadcast Stations of the United States. Broadcast stations only.
RC1.9/:xxx February 2, 1931 by call, by state, and by frequency;
January 1, 1932 by call, by frequency, and by state within zones;
             April 1, 1932 supplement;
January 1, 1934 by call, by frequency, and by state within zones;
            April 1, 1934 supplement;
 NOTE: The January 1, 1934 Radio Broadcast Stations of the United States, by call, is available at History of American Broadcasting.

Federal Communications Commission seal Radio Broadcast Stations. Lists arranged by callsign, frequency, and state.
CC1.21:xxxBy callsign: 1/1/1936; 1/1/1937; 1/1/1938 [Haiti Trust scan (scan is missing last 2 pages)]; 1/1/1939;1/1/1940 [Haithi Trust scan (scan is missing pages 96-97)]; 9/10/1940; 1/1/1941; 3/29/1941 [Haithi Trust scan]  (the missing last 2 pages)
CC1.22:xxx By frequency: 1/1/1936; 1/1/1937; 1/1/1938; 1/1/1939; 1/1/1940; 9/10/1940; 3/29/1941; 1/1/1946
CC1.23:xxx By state: 1/1/1936; 1/1/1937; 1/1/1938; 1/1/1939 [americanradiohistory.com (pdf)]; 9/10/1940; 3/29/1941
Monthly updates to above three (Some of above may be filed as CC2.10, CC2.11, CC2.12 and CC2.13)
Official list of notified assignments of standard broadcast stations of the United States of America.
CC1.2:B 78/27/975By frequency: 12/31/1975 [Haiti Trust scan]

Radio Service Bulletin [COMMERCE/FRC/FCC] Issued monthly from January 1, 1915 (issue #1) to February 28, 1933 (issue #191), then twice-a-month. Listed new/changed/deleted information for Commercial [Ship/Public Service/Limited Commercial], Government, and Special Land [Experimental/Technical & Training School/Special Amateur] stations, plus other service information. (The Radio Service Bulletin did not report information for standard Amateur [General/Restricted licences] stations.)

NOTE: # refers to the issue number.

C11.7/3:#Issues 1 to 119 (1/1/1915 to 2/28/1927). [None issued 4/1917 to 7/1919]
C24.3:#Issues 120 to 183 (3/31/1927 to 6/30/1932)
-------Issues 184 to 222 (7/30/1932 to 7/1/1934)
CC1.25Issues 223 to 677 (7/15/1934 to 2/15/1952) [some may be filed under CC1.3/2 and CC2.3, also 4/1/1933+ may be in folio]

The following United States broadcast service station lists appeared in the Radio Service Bulletin:
RSB DateIssuePagesU.S. Broadcasting Station ListFCC Scanned Copy
3/1/19225913-14By owner as of 3/10/19222 pages
4/1/19226024-26By owner as of 3/31/1922 plus by
owner for 4/1/1922 through 4/15/1922
3 pages
5/1/19226119-22By call as of 4/30/1922 plus by
call for 5/1/1922 through 5/12/1922
4 pages
6/1/19226219-24By call as of 5/31/1922 plus by
call for 6/1/1922 through 6/15/1922
6 pages
4/2/19237214-22By call as of 3/1/19239 pages
2/1/19248212-20By call as of 1/31/19249 pages
3/1/19248312-21By call as of 2/29/192410 pages
2/2/19259411-21By call as of 1/31/192511 pages
3/2/1925959-13By frequency as of 2/28/19255 pages
6/1/19259813-16By state/city as of 5/31/19254 pages
1/30/19261068-10By state/city as of 1/30/19263 pages
" "" "11-20By call as of 1/30/192610 pages
12/31/19261179-21By call as of 12/31/192613 pages
4/30/19271216-14By call as of 5/3/19279 pages
5/31/19271225-10By state/city as of 6/15/19276 pages
" "" "10-15By frequency as of 6/15/19276 pages
1/31/192813015-29By call as of 1/31/1928 2.3 mb PDF file
2/29/192813112-18By state/city as of 2/29/19281.8 mb PDF file
2/28/192914314-24By state/city as of 2/28/19292.2 mb PDF file

Some of the above lists also appear in the annual Federal Radio Commission Annual reports. In addition, pages 101-120 of the Third Annual Report [RC1.1:929] includes a 20-page list by call as of 11/9/1929.

The above online scanned copies of station lists come from the Federal Communication's Commission's Radio Service Bulletins site and Annual Reports to Congress from the Fedral Radio Commission.