Thursday, October 11, 2007
Bridge and Whist by Radio!
In the broadcast world of the 1920s, Powel Crosley, Jr. was best-known for WLW. However, he owned two other stations before World War II. One was WSAI.
WSAI was established by the United States Playing Card Company of Cincinnati in 1923, as a means of promoting the game of Bridge (along with Whist and other card games). Advertising still wasn't common, but U.S. Playing Card executives were aware of the potential of radio for reaching the masses. So the company applied for and received a commercial broadcast license. Programming alternated between live bridge games and musical acts. Surprisingly, the station helped sell playing cards--enough to more than earn its keep. That is, until 1928, by which time advertising had become commonplace and it was possible to reach farther than WSAI with the NBC network, at less expense. Powel Crosley, Jr. bought the station, whose transmitter was at the site where WLW's 500,000-watt transmitter and the disinctive diamond radiator antenna would be built. (The antenna is still in use, and WLW's current transmitter is on the same site.) The image here is a 1924 WSAI magazine advertisement, requesting listeners to tune in at specific times to listen to a famous foursome play Bridge. Players' initial hands were listed in the ads, too, so listeners could follow along with their own play at home. Whist and other games were played, too. (Click the image to see a larger version.)
---MikeCopyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks