The Eastern Massachusetts Radio Timeline: The First Fifteen Years
researched by Donna Halper and edited by Garrett Wollman
Amateur station 1XE is licensed to
one Harold J. Power, a Tufts College alumnus. The station would
be located on the Tufts Campus in Medford Hillside, along with
the receiver manufacturing company Power founded, AMRAD.
- 1XE is operating sporadically. Among the regular air staff
is Eunice Randall, the first female announcer in Massachusetts
and a noted early amateur radio operator (“ER”,
later 1CDP) as well. (Some sources say that 1XE was
broadcasting as early as 1919, but the most reliable evidence
points to the summer of 1920.)
The first newspaper to cover radio regularly is the
Boston Traveler, whose ham radio page begins in
February and gradually expands to commercial radio coverage.
Its editor is Guy Entwistle, who had worked at 1XE and was also
a licensed ham radio operator.
All broadcast stations at this time are licensed to operate at a
wavelength of 360 meters (833 kHz in modern terms): the
Department of Commerce never expected radio to be more than a
fad, so they only allocated a few frequencies. When
broadcasting farm prices and Weather Bureau forecasts, stations
could use a different wavelength. Amateur stations could
operate on other wavelengths. (It would be a few years before
broadcasting standardized on frequencies in multiples of ten
“kilocycles”—in other countries, stations
would continue to be identified by wavelength for decades.)
- May 20
- 1XE begins keeping a regular schedule, with daily
- May 21
- 1ZE, Marion, signs on. The station was built by Irving Vermilya, a
well-respected ham operator (the first to be licensed in his
district, back in 1912, and later a mentor to Eunice
Randall). Vermilya worked at the RCA wireless telegraph
station in Marion.
- Sept. 15
- WBZ signs on with test
transmissions from Springfield.
Westinghouse persuaded the Department of
Commerce to issues licenses specifically for commercial
broadcasting, and WBZ received the first of these.
During this period, WBZ operated primarily from the
Westinghouse plant on Page Boulevard and from the Hotel
Kimball, both in Springfield.
- Sept. 19
- WBZ broadcasts its first actual program, from the Eastern States
Nationally, 1922 was the first major boom year for radio
broadcasting: the year began with a few dozen stations
nationwide, and ended with more than six hundred. Many early
stations, like 1XE, were licensed as amateur stations, and had
to become commercial stations when amateur stations were
forbidden to broadcast music and news programs.
Most newspapers had originally ignored radio, which they
considered as competition. But beginning in early 1922, more
newspapers realized that the radio craze was not going away, and
daily radio columns begin to appear in the Lynn Daily
Evening Item (February), the Boston
American (March), the Boston Globe
(April), the Lowell Sun (April), and the Boston
Post (May), just to name a few.
Two additional stations were licensed to Boston: WAAJ (Apr. 10)
and WFAU (June 16). Neither keeps a regular schedule, and neither
survives past April of 1923.
- Feb. 8
- AMRAD establishes a commercial station, WGI, and regular
programming moves over from 1XE. The company still maintains
1XE as an amateur station.
- Mar. 21
- WCN, Worcester, is licensed to Clark University; it lasts
about a year.
- May 22
- WDAS, Worcester, licensed to Samuel A. Waite; it will shut down
- May 22
- WDAT, Worcester, licensed to Delta Electric Company, but is
gone by early October.
- June 24
- WDAU, New Bedford, is that city's first commercial station;
it was built by Irving Vermilya (who continues to operate
amateur station 1ZE) for the Slocum and Kilburn Company. It
would later become WNBH, but is not (as claimed) the eleventh
oldest station in the U.S.
- July 31
- WNAC, Boston, signs on at 250 m (1199 kHz), although the
call sign is not officially assigned until mid-September;
local newspapers call it the “Shepard Station”
until then, after the station's owner, the Shepard department
- WMAF, South Dartmouth, is licensed to millionaire
“Colonel” Edward Howland Robinson Green, but it does
not appear to have offered regular broadcasts until the
As a result of the second national Radio Conference, the
Commerce Department begins to license broadcasting stations by
frequency, in multiples of 10 kHz. Most existing stations,
however, remain licensed for 360 meters (833 kHz), and a wide
band around this is left unallocated until new channels are
found for those stations. The change is not entirely successful
for some time, and many publications continue to use
wavelengths. We will stop reporting wavelengths from this point
- Jan. 4
- WNAC and New York's WEAF link up for the first chain
broadcast (it lasts for only five minutes, but shows that it
can be done).
- Feb. 12
- WQAS, Lowell, is licensed to the Prince-Walter department
store; broadcasts don't begin until mid-March.
- WBZ is now broadcasting at 890 kHz; WQAS is at 1130 kHz.
WFAU and WAAJ officially deleted.
- May 15
- WTAT, a mobile (or “portable”) station owned by
Edison Electric Illuminating Co., signs on at 1230 kHz. Its
purpose is to appear at radio shows and demonstrate Edison
products. (For some reason, it is not reported in the
Radio Service Bulletin until October.)
- WABK (1190 Worcester) is licensed to the First Baptist
Church, with 10 watts.
- WSAQ (1070 Dartmouth) and WSAR (1180 Fall River) licensed.
WSAQ is another station operated by Col. E.H. Green's Round
Hills Radio Corp., and is licensed for 100 watts; WSAR is
limited to 10 watts. Col. Green also gets a “special
land station”, 1XAN, which is authorized to operate
between 500 and 1000 kHz.
- June 23
- WTAB (1210 Fall River), a ten-watt station, is licensed to the
Fall River Daily Herald; its first broadcast is three
- June 25
- WCN, at Clark University in Worcester, is deleted after 14
- June 29
- WMAF begins rebroadcasting programs from New York's WOR,
which continue through the summer.
- WMAF begins rebroadcasting the programs of WEAF from New
York four hours a day. WMAF's broadcasts cause endless
interference for other stations and local residents complain
to the newspapers about the loudspeakers Col. Green installs
on his property.
- A previously unknown station, WRAD in Marion, is shown as
changing frequency to 1210 kHz.
- July 3
- WSAR (1180 Fall River) signs on; it is owned
by the Doughty & Welch Electric Company. (There is no
evidence for the station's claim to have been on the air in
- WQAS, Lowell, gets a power increase to 100 watts, while
Col. Green's WSAQ, Dartmouth, is deleted after just two
- WNAC, Boston, is licensed for 1080 kHz.
- WBZ, Springfield, now licensed for 1000 watts.
- Irving Vermilya's 1ZE is now reported in Mattapoisett, along
with 1XAL, both moving from Marion. 1XAL's address is
reported as “24 Vermilya Street”, which does not
appear to exist under that name today.
Mobile stations are visiting communities that don't yet have a
local station: WCBR, a 50-watt portable owned by Charles
Messter and Harold Dewing of Providence, 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 it broadcasts from Cambridge, Walpole,
Weymouth, Brookline, Quincy and Stoneham (and wherever Edison
needs additional publicity) during 1923 and 1924.
- Jan. 9
- WDAU gets out of the radio business; so Irving Vermilya moves
the station to his home in Mattapoissett and operates it as
WBBG, with studios in his living room. By now it is
broadcasting on 1250 kHz with 100 watts.
- Feb. 24
- WBZ opens a Boston studio, at the Hotel Brunswick, at the
corner of Boylston and Clarendon Streets in Boston's Back
Bay. The Boston studio is affiliated with the
- WGI, Medford Hillside, and WSAR, Fall River, authorized for
- WCBT (1260 Worcester) is licensed to Clark University,
replacing the short-lived WCN. It is authorized for 250
watts. WCBR (1220 Providence) is also licensed, as a 5-watt
- WBBG, Mattapoisett, gets a power increase to 250 watts.
- WBBG, Mattapoisett, gets a power increase to 500 watts.
- May 3
- WDBH, Worcester, owned by the C.T. Sherer department store,
goes on the air at 1120 kHz, with 100 watts. The
station's slogan is “We Do Business
- Col. Green's portable special land station, 1XAN, is
- June 8
- WDBR, Boston, begins broadcasting from the Tremont Temple
Baptist Church, at 1270 kHz. (The Radio Service
Bulletin of that month reports it instead on 1170
kHz, with 100 watts.) It broadcasts religious services,
mainly on weekends.
- Sept. 29
- WEEI, Boston, signs on at 990 kHz, with 500 watts; it is
licensed to Edison Electric Illuminating Co. of Boston (their
second station), and its program director is former WGI legend
“Big Brother” Bob
- WEEI adds the first permanent radio network in New England
with a connection to WEAF.
- WFBN (1330 Bridgewater) and WEBY (1330 Roslindale)
licensed. Both are owned by radio shops (Radio Sales and
Service Co. and Hobart Radio Co., respectively). A third
station, WFBU, is also licensed this month, to Commonwealth
Radio Association, but no frequency is given, and it is
deleted the following month.
- WBZ and many other stations take advantage of a general
increase in power for broadcasting stations, increasing to
1500 watts. Stations with these licenses are permitted to use
up to 5000 watts on an experimental basis.
- WDAU in New Bedford is officially deleted.
- WQAS, Lowell, moves to 1190 kHz.
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.
In a common theme of the early 20's, stations move around:
WEEI is fairly close to where it started (it is now at 990 kHz),
but WNAC is now at 1080 kHz. (By 1926, stations moving around
without authorization, “wave jumping”, will be a
At some point in early 1925, WFBN in Bridgewater goes on the
air. Like many small stations, it does not last long, but
distinguishes itself in late February for warning local citizens
(and notifying the fire department) when a fire breaks out in
the downtown area.
- WGBH (1430 Fall River), a 10-watt portable station owned by
the Fall River Herald newspaper, signs on.
- WDAS, Worcester, deleted.
- Many stations change frequency: WBZ moves to 900 kHz, WEEI
moves to 630 kHz, WGI moves to 1150 kHz, and WNAC moves to 1070
kHz and increases power to 500 watts.
- Clark University's WCBT (1260 Worcester) becomes WCUW.
- WGI is still on the air, amid rumors of financial problems,
but it is planning to open up a studio in Boston. The
new call letters are WARC.
- Feb. 24
- WKBE (owned by K. & B. Electric Co.; Alfred Kleindienst
is the primary owner) is licensed to Webster at 1310 kHz,
with 100 watts.
- WDBR is also operating at 1150 kHz.
- WDBH, Worcester, becomes WCTS, a requested call sign for the
C.T. Sherer department store.
- WIBH (1420 New Bedford) is licensed to Elite Radio Stores,
at 58 Hillman St., with 5 watts.
- WBBG (1250 Mattapoisett) reduces power to 250 watts, while
WBZ increases power to 2000 watts and WEBY (1330 Roslindale)
- WBBG reduces power again, to 100 watts. WCTS (1120
Worcester) increases power to 500 watts.
- Financial problems at AMRAD force WARC (formerly WGI) to go
off the air.
- May 13
- WNAB, sister station of WNAC, goes on the air at 1200
kHz with 100 watts.
- The June issue of the Radio Service Bulletin
mentions a station in Taunton, WAIT. No other details are
given. From later reports, it is a 10-watt station owned by
A.H. Waite and Co.
- WMAF, Dartmouth, increases power to 1000 watts and changes
frequency to 680 kHz. WQAS (1190 Lowell) and portable WGBH
(1430 Fall River) are deleted.
- WFBN, Bridgewater, is deleted. Carl F. Woods is appointed
receiver of bankrupt AMRAD.
- Aug. 20
- WBZ begins direct transmissions from Boston (previously
heard only via a telephone line to the Springfield
transmitter). The transmitter is located
atop the Hotel Brunswick, and is assigned the callsign WBZA.
The Radio Service Bulletin shows WBZA on 1240 kHz
with 250 watts, but the Springfield Republican
newspaper reports that the new broadcasts are on 1410
- WNBH (1210 New Bedford) is licensed to Irving Vermilya and
Armand J. Lopez; it will operate with 200 watts. The new
station replaces Vermilya's WBBG (1250 Mattapoisett).
Vermilya's special land station 1XAL is also deleted.
- Oct. 8
- WCTS is sold to the Worcester Telegram
newspaper and becomes WTAG, with 500 watts on 1120 kHz.
- WBZ gets a wire connection to WJZ to broadcast each other's
- Nov. 2
- WNBH (1210 New Bedford) signs on, from newly constructed
studios in the New Bedford Hotel.
On July 3, the United States Attorney General determines that
the Department of Commerce lacks the legal authority to regulate
the frequency on which privately-owned stations broadcast,
triggering a crisis that will be resolved in 1927 by the passage
of the Radio Act. Some stations voluntarily continue to
operate on their previously-assigned frequency, but others take
the opportunity to change frequencies at will.
- WEEI moves from 630 to 800 kHz, while Edison's portable
station, WTAT, changes call sign to WATT (still on 1230 kHz).
Little WIBH (1420 New Bedford) increases power to 30 watts.
WNBH's power is reduced to 100 watts.
- May 20
- WBZA (formerly 1240 kHz) and WBZ are synchronized at 900 kHz.
- Jan. 18
- WDBR changes call sign to WSSH. It is still the religious
voice of the Tremont Temple Baptist Church, operating on 1150
kHz and sharing time with several other stations. The
call sign stands for the church's slogan, “Strangers'
- July 3
- WTAG moves to 550 kHz.
- July 27
- WSGC goes on the air, Cape Cod's first local station; the
call sign stands for “Seapuit Golf Club”, but
that's not the one it's licensed for. In mid-August, the
Radio Inspector catches the staion using the wrong call sign,
and forces them to use the assigned one, WJBX, until the
station finally shuts down.
- Sept. 4
- WJBX (“WSGC”) leaves the air.
- WAGS, a low-power station (only 5 watts) in Somerville goes
on the air at 1200 kHz; its owners (who include J. Smith
“Jack” Dodge, an engineer at WNAC, and an
announcer at WGI before that) will later move
it to Lexington where it will become WLEX.
- Special land station 1XM is licensed to the MIT Radio
- Nov. 9
- WRES (owned by the Wollaston Radio Electric Shop) becomes
Quincy's first station, at 1020 kHz.
- Nov. 26
- WEPS in Gloucester goes on the air, owned by the Matheson
family (Captain John J. Matheson and his son Ralph); it soon
moves to 1010 kHz with 100 watts. The transmitter was behind
the Matheson family home.
- WBET (owned by the Boston Evening Transcript)
is licensed (Dec. 18), along with WRSC in Chelsea and WBSO in
Wellesley Hills; all three will take to the air in the new
year. WTAB in Fall River and WIBH in New Bedford are
The Radio Act of 1927, signed into law on February 18, creates
the Federal Radio Commission, and begins the task of regulating
the huge number of stations. All broadcast stations are
required to reapply for their licenses; in General Order 4, the
FRC grants an automatic temporary extension to all stations that
were previously licensed by the Secretary of Commerce. Portable
stations are restricted to just two frequencies. General
Order 11, published on May 21, sets the temporary license period
to end on June 1—which is quickly extended to June 15 to
allow stations more time to implement the new frequencies.
The new licenses are good for 60 days, to allow for testing the
new frequency allocations “by actual practice”. The
FRC will last for seven years before it is replaced by the FCC
in the Communications Act of 1934.
The following table shows the frequency assignments as they
changed through the year:
||General Order 4
||General Order 11
- Jan. 29
- WBSO, Wellesley Hills (owned by Babson's Statistical
Organization) goes on the air at 1240 kHz.
- Jan. 31
- Shepard's WNAB changes its call sign to WASN (“Air
Shopping News”). Unusually, all of its announcers and
its program director were women, making it a contender for the
first all-female station in the U.S. The only man on the
staff was musical director Will Dodge. WASN offered an early
version of home shopping, with various department stores
participating, but only lasted for six months. All of its
women announcers would go on to long careers in radio.
- WLBM, Boston, is licensed to Browning Drake Corp. The
license is granted before the new radio law was enacted, and
the Department of Commerce reports that the station proposes
to operate on 624.6 kHz at 50 watts and is located at 353
- Feb. 27
- WBET does its first official program, at 1130 kHz with 500
watts. The technical problems are so bad that an apology
appears on page 1 of the next day's Transcript.
- Mar. 10
- WBZ moves to new studios at the newly opened Hotel Statler.
It is now affiliated with The Boston Globe
instead of the Herald-Traveler.
- Apr. 20
- WBET moves to 760 kHz, still with 500 watts, from the old
- June 1
- WMES, owned by the Massachusetts Education Society, signs on
at 1420 kHz.
- June 15
- WBET moves back to 1130 kHz.
- Somerville's WAGS is relicensed to Lexington.
- July 4
- WBIS, another station owned by the Shepard department
stores, is on the air at 990 kHz, replacing WASN; the call
letters stand for “Boston's Information Service”.
Its hours are very limited, and it also broadcasts shopping
news, as well as music and some sports.
- Aug. 15
- WBET and WSSH move to 1040 kHz, where they will share
- WLEX, the former WAGS, goes on the air from Carl
Wheeler's home. (J. Smith “Jack” Dodge still owns
the station for now.) It operates at 1390 kHz with 50 watts,
sharing time with WMAF.
- WRSC, Chelsea, changes to 1420 kHz at 100 watts.
- WEEI moves to 820 kHz. WMES transmits with 50 watts.
- WEEI moves to 590 kHz. WLEX is transferred to The Lexington
Air Station, and is licensed for 50 watts of power. New
Bedford's WNBH moves back to 1210 kHz, while WSAR in Fall
River moves to 1410 kHz and increases power to 250 watts.
WTAG, Worcester, also gets a power increase to 250 watts.
WRSC (1420 Chelsea) becomes WLOE.
- Dec. 16
- WRSC moves to Boston, with studios at the Hotel Bellevue,
and changes call sign to WLOE.
The Federal Radio Commission begins to exercise its mandate to
bring order to the broadcast band. The FRC repeatedly gives
one-month extensions to all broadcasting licenses while it
works its way through the rulemaking process. In General Order
30, it cancels the licenses of all “portable” stations.
Some stations settle down and become regular fixed stations, but
Boston's do not survive. 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. Unlike
other stations that plan to protest their removal, one local
station agrees and voluntarily surrenders its license in
mid-June: WLBM in Cambridge, which had broadcast sporadically in
mid- to late 1927 on 1300 kHz. (The station was owned by the
Browning-Drake Company, a receiver manufacturer.) General Order
40, promulgated on August 30, classifies the broadcasting
channels, giving each one a specified use (regional, national,
or local) and maximum power. As directional arrays have not yet
been invented, regional channels are limited to three full-time
- WEEI is now at its final frequency, 590 kHz; WBET moves to
Medford, and WLBM moves to Cambridge. WNBH changes channels
again, to 1150. WBIS and WNAC are assigned to share time on
- WNAC is now combined with WBIS, at 650 kHz.
- WLEX owners Jack Dodge and Carl Wheeler put Massachusetts'
first television station on the air: 1XAY is a 500-watt
mechanical TV station, operating from the WLEX studios. Few
people have the necessary equipment to receive it. The station
operates only briefly, but returns in July.
- WLBM (1300 Cambridge) is deleted.
- Jul. 1
- General Order 30 goes into effect, terminating the licenses
of all portable stations. WAIT (1400 Taunton), WATT (1490
Boston, portable), and WRES (1380 Quincy) deleted.
- Aug. 1
- General Order 32 goes into effect, closing many small
stations. WMES and WLOE are on the list, but a hearing in
Washington gives them a reprieve.
- Aug. 30
- The FRC publishes General Order 40, which rearranges
broadcasting frequency allocations. Many stations will change
frequency as a result. For the first time, certain
frequencies are set aside for the exclusive use of Canadian
- Oct. 1
- All amateur and experimental stations receive international
call signs by prepending the letter “W”; 1XAY
thus becomes W1XAY.
- Nov. 2
- WEPS moves to 1200 kHz, sharing time with WKBE.
- Nov. 11
- The frequency changes resulting from the FRC's General Order
40 go into effect, with many stations in the U.S. changing
frequency. WBET and WMAF move to 1360 kHz. WLEX gets a power
increase, to 100 watts. WNBH moves to 1310 kHz with 100
watts. WBZ and WBZA move from 900 to 990 kHz.
- WHDH (830 Gloucester) licensed, with 1000 watts. WBSO (780
Wellesley Hills) increases power to 250 watts; WLEX increases
day power to 250 watts as well, but its night power remains at
- WNAC and WBIS are now operating on 1230 kHz with 500 watts
(soon to be 1000 watts). WMES is now on 1500 kHz, still with
50 watts, and still sharing time with Chelsea's WLOE, which
has been granted 250 watts daytime. Boston's WSSH (1420
Boston) also increases day power to 250 watts. WEPS,
Gloucester, and WKBE, Webster, are now sharing time on 1200
kHz, with 100 watts each.
- Feb. 15
- WBET, facing numerous expenses and on-going technical
problems, is sold to Carl Wheeler's company, Lexington Air
Stations, and moved to Lexington. WBET's call sign changes to
WLEX, and the old WLEX becomes WLEY. The stations remain on
their existing frequencies (WLEX on 1360 and WLEY on
- WNAC and WBIS move their transmitter to Squantum, Quincy,
and increase power to 1000 watts..
- Apr. 19
- The move of WLEX from Medford to Lexington is completed with
the construction of new studios, and WLEX returns to the air.
Mechanical television station W1XAY operates from the same
location, although it is still owned by J. Smith Dodge.
(Dodge is a partner of principal owner Carl Wheeler in
Lexington Air Stations, which owns the two radio stations; in
addition, Dodge still works part-time at WNAC as an
- WMES, despite a newspaper and letter-writing campaign, is
deleted by the FRC. (The FRC had turned down its request for
its own frequency and a power increase.) However, WMES still
broadcasts sporadically until January 5, 1930.
- June 20
- WHDH, Gloucester, signs on at 830 kHz, owned by Ralph
Matheson. Its transmitter was on a hill in West
- WEEI moves its transmitter to Weymouth, and its power is
increased to 1000 watts.
- July 30
- WKBE is authorized to move from Webster to Auburn, changing
call sign to WORC; it remains on 1200 kHz and continues to
share time with Gloucester's WEPS.
- Aug. 12
- WORC begins broadcasting from Auburn, with studios in
- WBSO, Wellesley Hills, moves to 920 kHz.