American Ambassadors of the Airwaves: Midwest East North Central


Great Seal of the USA
USA greetings stamps © www.theus50.com
© www15.uta.fi

The most powerful and influential AM broadcasters of this region are essentially represented by the cities of Chicago, Cincinnati and Cleveland with a slight touch of Detroit.

WGN Chicago still wrapped its logo with a globe when sending this card to confirm reception in New Zealand in 1971
© David Ricquish Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

These 22 stations are identified by us as the most powerful and influential AM broadcasters operating in the Midwest East North Central region of the USA between 1922 and 1983. They reflected both the tastes of their local audiences and an emerging national culture with entertainment, news, sports, advertising and information beamed to millions of local listeners across the eastern Midwest region, throughout the USA and across international borders worldwide.

Chicago Exhibition of American Design 1941
© WPA American Design, Wiki

Ambassadors of the Airwaves

The 7 unlimited clear channel A stations [marked by ‘A’ and in bold type] within this region were created by the North American Radio Broadcasting Agreement [NARBA] on March 29 1941 and their reign ended on July 1 1983 when the Regional Agreement for the Mediumwave Broadcasting Services in Region 2 came into effect. We call them the American Ambassadors of the Airwaves because they were heard for over 60 years in places far and wide around the world by 1983.

Powel Crosley, Jr President and founder of The Crosley Radio Corporation WLW Cincinnati OH 500kW 700 AM © WLW 500,000 Watts publicity brochure, Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

Approaching 100 Years of service

In this feature we look back to mid 1983 and the call signs that these 22 stations were known by at the time. Many are still broadcasting and some are now approaching 100 years of service to their communities today. That is a remarkable record of achievement for a technology now seen as increasingly old fashioned.

The B stations were almost as widespread in their coverage but faced some limitations and the C stations had to share frequencies and were rather less known the further away from the hometowns they proudly served.

Our 22 most influential and powerful AM radio stations serving the Midwest East North Central region are classified as:

Chicago IL670WMAQA
 720WGNA
 780WBBMA
 890WLSA
WLS Chicago had moved into ownership of the ‘Prairie Farmer’ newspaper by 1934 when it confirmed reception in New Zealand
© Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation
 1000WCFLB
 820WAITC
 1160WJJDC
Cincinnati OH700WLWA
 1530WCKYB
Cleveland OH1100WKYCA
WKYC Cleveland OH sent this confirmation card to a listener in New Zealand for reception in 1971 © David Ricquish Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation
 850WJWC
 1220WGARC
Detroit MI760WJRA
 1130WCXC
 1500WLQVC
Fort Wayne IN1190WOWOB
Haillie WI680WOGOC
Indianapolis IN1070WIBCC
WIBC with 50kW Day/10kW Night reached New Zealand in 1951 and sent this confirmation card © Keith Robinson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation
Madison WI1070WTSOC
Milwaukee WI1130WISNC
Muskegon MI1520WKJRC
Superior WI710WDSMC

Obviously over this nearly 50 year period from WWII almost to the fall of the Berlin Wall, there are countless events, personalities, and stories to be told. This feature is a just a once over taster of those years.

Clear Channel FAQ and Birthdays

670WMAQ1922April 13We Must Answer Questions
720WGN1922May 19World’s Greatest Newspaper
780WBBM1924Feb 08World’s Best Battery Maker
WBBM Chicago has been heard frequently in New Zealand and sent this confirmation card for ‘clear channel’ reception in 1971 © David Ricquish Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation
890WLS1924April 12World’s Largest Store
700WLW1922March 22World’s Largest Wireless
1100WKYC1923Sep 26KY [from KYW] Cleveland
760WJR1922May 4W Jewett Radio – Phonograph

The New 500,000 watt WLW

“Here is power that will carry broadcasts to radio listeners throughout the whole of the Unites States, Canada and Mexico – and under favorable conditions, throughout the entire world! The new WLW stands as a lasting monument to the broad vision, glowing genius and tireless activity of Powel Crosley, Jr., President of The Crosley Radio Corporation, who has, from the very beginning of radio broadcasting, held steadfast to the indomitable purpose of providing the largest number of radio listeners with the best possible radio entertainment.”

WLW publicity booklet © Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

“That this has been accomplished is perhaps indicated in the fact that hundreds of telegrams, cables, telephone calls and letters from all parts of the world report reception and quality such as these listeners have never heard before.”

Home of WLW publicity booklet
© Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

Industrial Heartland

Towers on the Detroit River = The City that Cars Built © Black Star, Cities of the North Central States, Lands & Peoples VI, 1960 The Grolier Society NY. Radio Heritage Foundation Collection

The Midwest East North Central region contains some of the most well known industrial heartland cities of the USA having a strong ethnic representation of immigrants from Germany, Ireland, England, Poland, Italy, France and Scandinavia. Their music, their voices, their languages, cultures and traditions found their way on to the local airwaves alongside the All American culture that flowed in from other regions, the nation-wide radio and TV programs and the movement of people into and out of the region as local economies underwent change.

Heart of Indianapolis – The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument © Ewing Galloway, Cities of the North Central States, Lands & Peoples VI, 1960 The Grolier Society NY. Radio Heritage Foundation Collection

The local airwaves also reached listeners in other regions and across the world. Today, less and less local voices and music grace the airwaves as station ownership becomes even more consolidated in fewer hands and local radio stations become just mere marketing brands with network radio programs from out of town or more often from out of state replacing local personalities and local interests. The All American radio “cookie cutter” has reached the Midwest East Central North region.

Planes-Eye View of Columbus, Ohio © Chamber of Commerce, Columbus, Ohio. Cities of the North Central States, Lands & Peoples VI, 1960 The Grolier Society NY. Radio Heritage Foundation Collection

2010 Population Data

Total:46.422m
Male:49.1%
Female:50.9%
Under 18:24.0%
Over 65:13.4%

These are the main metropolitan areas now found in the region. They are increasingly replacing the individual cites that once provided the variety found on the dials of our 22 most influential and powerful AM radio stations of the 1922-1983 years as detailed in the following section:

Top 10 Metropolitan Statistical Areas 2010

1Chicago IL9.537m
WMAQ Chicago broadcast from studios in The Merchandise Mart Building when confirming reception from New Zealand in 1975 © David Ricquish Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation
2Detroit MI4.295m
3Cincinnati OH-KY-IN2.137m
4Cleveland OH2.065m
5Columbus OH1.967m
6Indianapolis IN1.954m
7Milwaukee MI1.570m
8Grand Rapids MI1.017m
9Dayton OH0.802m
10Akron OH0.706m

Top 10 Cities 1950

1Chicago IL3.621m
2Detroit MI1.850m
3Cleveland OH0.915m
4Milwaukee WI0.637m
5Cincinnati OH0.504m
WCKY Cincinnati ‘5000 watts Cleared Channel Unlimited Time’ confirmed a report of reception in New Zealand in 1934 © Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation
6Indianapolis IN0.427m
7Columbus OH0.376m
8Toledo OH0.304m
9Akron OH0.275m
10Dayton OH0.244m
Steel Plant in Youngstown, Ohio during the Night Shift © Ewing Galloway The North Central States: Facts and Figures. Lands & Peoples VI, 1960 The Grolier Society NY. Radio Heritage Foundation Collection

Thanks for the Memories

We hope this brief look at our 22 of the most influential and powerful AM radio stations from the Midwest East North Central region brings back familiar happy memories for those of you ‘remember when’ and if you have your own stories about these stations in those days you’d like to share with others here then write to us and we’ll be looking forward to them!

The Good Old Days

“It gives us a great deal of pride to hear that our station is being heard at such a great distance. Your letter was circulated through the Program, Engineering, Sales and Announcers Departments where it was very much enjoyed. Martin F Hogan, General Manager WCFL”

WCFL Chicago enjoyed hearing from a listener in New Zealand in 1953
© Keith Robinson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

If this is just a “history lesson” for those of you who were never able to enjoy the power of these American Ambassadors of the Airwaves, the local voices, the local music and traditions and other memories your parents and grandparents still talk about today…. we hope you’ve enjoyed your visit and will go back to the demands of today feeling a little refreshed, nourished and more understanding of ‘the good old days’ and even feeling a little more connected to your heritage.

Chicago World’s Fair 1933 poster Weimer Pursell, Neely Printing Co., Chicago © Wikipedia

Enjoy other features in this series “American Ambassadors of the Airwaves” covering the remaining regions of the USA from 1941-1983 and the most influential and powerful AM radio stations of the era as they appear. Images are from our collections of radio broadcasting memorabilia of these AM broadcasters as heard by New Zealand listeners.

WOWO Fort Wayne IN confirmed reception in New Zealand in 1945 © Keith Robinson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation
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