Saturday, October 27, 2007

Another Auto Accessories Manufacturer Who Switched to Radio

In the late 1920s, the name Atwater Kent was almost as big as Crosley. And it remains a big name among collectors today. Atwater Kent company founder Arthur Atwater Kent was, like Powel Crosley, Jr. a successful automobile accessories manufacturer and marketer before he got into radio. Kent got into electrical manufacturing in 1895 (fans and motors), and in the early 1910s expanded into automotive electrical connectors. He next perfected several automobile ignition systems and other electrical devices that made him wealthy.

In 1924 Kent decided to get into the burgeoning radio field. He took a cue from Crosley and decided make his product really different. He accomplished this by selling radios without cabinets. In the earliest days, nearly all radios had been sold without cabinets, and it was left to the buyer to buy or build a cabinet. The industry was moving away from this in 1924, building radios in cabinets that doubled as fine furniture with complex veneers and trendy designs.
So, a radio without a cabinet was something different. But Atwater Kent radios weren't simply ugly radio components mounted on a board. Kent designed his radios to be objects of beauty, like the one shown here. All the wood, brass, and ceramic components were highly polished, and some were enclosed. The overall effect was pleasing, and expensive. The idea of making his radios really different--along with spending %500,000 on advertising in 1924--put him and his company on the map, and Atwater Kent quickly became a major brand.

Once Atwater Kent radios were established, Kent left the "breadboard" design started building sets in cabinets, like all the other manufacturers. He continued to promote his radios in a manner similar to that of Crosley. He bought full-page ads in newspapers and magazines to tell "The Atwater Kent Story," and even established an NBC Network radio program, "The Atwater Kent Hour."

In the midst of the Great Depression, Arthur Atwater Kent decided to pack it in and retire--no doubt much to the relief of Crosley, RCA, and other manufacturers. He shut down his factories in Philadelphia (where he had been a noted philathropist) and moved to Hollywood, California, where he continued his tradition of philanthrophy and hung out with clebrities until his death in 1949.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

1 comment:

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