Discovered At Last – The Oldest Radio Station In The World

This article was originally aired over Adventist World Radio’s “Wavescan” program and now forms part of the Radio Heritage Collection ©. All rights reserved to Ragusa Media Group, PO Box 14339, Wellington, New Zealand. This material is licenced on a non-exclusive basis to the South Pacific DX Resource hosted on for a period of 5 years from December 1 2003. Author: Adrian Peterson

We could ask the question: What is the oldest radio station in the world? The answer would, of course, depend on just how you view the evidence. However, an interesting historic article in the magazine Popular Communications for July 1995 sparked our interest in this direction and so we decided to look at the evidence.

The article in Popular Communications, written apparently by Alice Brannigan, states that an experimental wireless station was constructed at the University of Arkansas in 1897. A check with the website states that it was Professor William Gladson who performed this enterprising pioneer work, just two years after Marconi began his significant work in Italy. As a result of this pioneer experimentation, the University of Arkansas constructed a wireless telegraph station that was subsequently granted the callsign 5YM.

In 1917, President Wilson closed all radio stations in the United States, along with Arkansas’s 5YM, as a security measure. However, just two years later, after the ban had been lifted, engineering students at the university re-activated the spark wireless transmitter, and on June 4 of the following year, the equipment was re-licensed, with the same callsign 5YM.

University personnel soon afterwards turned their wireless endeavors into the direction of establishing a radio broadcasting station at the university. Thus it was that amateur broadcasting became professional broadcasting in January 1924 when station KFMQ was launched with 100 watts on 1140 kHz.

The callsign was changed to KUOA in 1926 with its obvious connotations with the University of Arkansas. Then seven years later, the station was sold to a commercial enterprise who in turn sold it two years later to the John Brown University in Siloam Springs.

This station is still in Siloam Springs, Arkansas to this day, and it is on the air with still the same callsign, KUOA. The current frequency is listed as 1290 kHz with a power of 5 kW.

Thus, over a period of more than a century, we have traced the electronic development of a radio station from its very earliest beginnings. These are the major steps:-

1897 Construction of an experimental wireless transmitter
1900 Installation of a wireless telegraph station which was lciensed as 5YM
1925 Inauguration of broadcasting station KFMQ
1926 Callsign changed to KUOA
1933 Sold to commercial company who sold it to John Brown University
1936 Station transferred to Siloam Springs
2003 Still on the air in Siloam Springs as KUOA

It is true, the links are at times somewhat tenuous, and several major changes have taken place over the years. However, we would suggest that this station is likely to be the closest that we will ever get to discovering which station is the oldest in the world; a station whose history stretches for more than a century from its humble and inauspicious beginnings in 1897 right down to the present day.

We might also add that the AWR collection contains one QSL card from this station, KUOA, dated in 1941.

Oldest Radio Station in the World


Year Information & Reference
1897 Professor William Gladson constructed experimental wireless station; Web/PC 7-95 19
1900 Wireless station constructed at University of Arkansas, Fayetteville; Website
1914 Special Land Station listed at Fayetteville Arkansas; Website
1916 5YM 200 – 400 m Special Land Station, Fayetteville; Website
1917 President Wilson closes all radio stations in the United States; Website
1919 Oct, Engineering students re-activate spark set.
1920 June 4, 5YM licensed as technical and training school station; Websirte
1923 Dec 4, university’s broadcast station licensed as KFMQ; Website
1924 Jan, KFMQ goes on air, 1140 kHz 100 kW; Website
1925 KFMQ listed, 1000 kHz 500 w, University Arkansas Fayetteville; CRCB 1925
1926 Feb, KFMQ call changed to KUOA, University of Arkansas; Website
1927 KUOA Fayetteville listed, 1030 kHz 750 w; RLGBCB June 1937
1931 July, leased to Southwestern Hotel Company; PC 7-95 19
1933 Sold to SWHC & Daily Democrat newsaper; PC 7-95 19
1935 June, sold to John Brown University, Siloam Springs; PC 7-95 19
1936 KUOA re-sited at John Brown University Siloam Springs; PC 7-95 19
1972 KUOA Siloam Springs listed, 1290 kHz 5 kW, start date as Dec 4 1923; BYB 1972 B16
1999 KUOA Siloam Springs, 1290 kHz 5kW; NRC AM Log Book 167

QSL KUOA 1260 kHz 5 kW John Brown University Siloam Springs 30-3-41

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