The speaker and the turnstile are almost poised for action if only the lights inside the 1928 radio were ready to glow. Then, the RCA Atwater Kent would be ready to delight audiences with the sounds of yesteryear.
This radio was donated by George W. Minshall Jr. as the device had been owned by his father, George W. Minshall Sr.
Growing up in Chester, the elder was son of Thomas T. Minshall, a funeral director in Chester, and was a World War II veteran. George W. Minshall Sr. also loved music, especially the likes of Lawrence Welk.
In his time, Atwater Kent became the largest manufacturers of radios in the world, with an enormous $2 million factory in North Philadelphia, which encompassed 32 acres.
He began by selling radio components in kits customers would assemble on their own. One of the items used to put these radios together was a bread board, an actual slab on which bread was sliced but that held wires and strips to make the radios work.
Two years later, Kent began manufacturing full sets and in 1924, he opened the factory on Wissahickon Avenue.
Besides the radio, Kent’s name was attached to the “Atwater Kent Hour,” a popular radio series of concerts aired on NBC and CBS between 1925 and 1934. It featured full-blown symphonies and singers from the Metropolitan Opera.
Over time, the Atwater Kent radios declined in popularity, largely in part due to the Great Depression. The rather expensive sets became challenging to buy for much of the public during those times.
In 1936, the radio factory was shut down.
Kent was also known for helping to restore the Betsy Ross House, as well as the building that contains his name, the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent.
The 1928 Atwater Kent radio with RCA speaker and turntable is housed at the Delaware County Historical Society Museum, Library & Research Center. Even though it’s not operational now, wouldn’t it be great to get this working again?
The museum is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Friday; 1 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday; and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The museum’s telephone number is 610-872-0502. Parking is free on the society lot behind the building or across the street in the municipal lot.
Membership in the Delaware County Historical Society ranges from $10 for students, $27 for individuals to $250 at the patron level. It includes free admission to the society’s Chester museum and library at 408 Avenue of the States, the society newsletter and preferred reservations and discounts for lectures and events. To join, please visit www.padelcohistory.org or call 610-359-0832.
This 1928 Atwater Kent radio was donated to the Delaware County Historical Society by George W. Minshall Jr.