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American Ambassadors of the Airwaves
Midwest East North Central

Great Seal of the USA

Great Seal of the USA

USA greetings stamps © www.theus50.com

USA map

© 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 QSL

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.

American Design poster 1941

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

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 IL 670 WMAQ A
  720 WGN A
  780 WBBM A
  890 WLS A
 
WLS QSL

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

 
  1000 WCFL B
  820 WAIT C
  1160 WJJD C
Cincinnati OH 700 WLW A
  1530 WCKY B
Cleveland OH 1100 WKYC A
 
WKYC QSL

WKYC Cleveland OH sent this confirmation card to a listener in New Zealand for reception in 1971 © David Ricquish Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

 
  850 WJW C
  1220 WGAR C
Detroit MI 760 WJR A
  1130 WCX C
  1500 WLQV C
Fort Wayne IN 1190 WOWO B
Haillie WI 680 WOGO C
Indianapolis IN 1070 WIBC C
 
WIBC QSL

WIBC with 50kW Day/10kW Night reached New Zealand in 1951 and sent this confirmation card © Keith Robinson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

 
Madison WI 1070 WTSO C
Milwaukee WI 1130 WISN C
Muskegon MI 1520 WKJR C
Superior WI 710 WDSM C

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

670 WMAQ 1922 April 13 We Must Answer Questions
720 WGN 1922 May 19 World’s Greatest Newspaper
780 WBBM 1924 Feb 08 World’s Best Battery Maker
 
WBBM QSL

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

 
890 WLS 1924 April 12 World’s Largest Store
700 WLW 1922 March 22 World’s Largest Wireless
1100 WKYC 1923 Sep 26 KY [from KYW] Cleveland
760 WJR 1922 May 4 W 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

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.”

WLW publicity booklet

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

Industrial Heartland

Towers on the Detroit River

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

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

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

1 Chicago IL 9.537m
 
WMAQ QSL 1975

WMAQ Chicago broadcast from studios in The Merchandise Mart Building when confirming reception from New Zealand in 1975 © David Ricquish Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

 
2 Detroit MI 4.295m
3 Cincinnati OH-KY-IN 2.137m
4 Cleveland OH 2.065m
5 Columbus OH 1.967m
6 Indianapolis IN 1.954m
7 Milwaukee MI 1.570m
8 Grand Rapids MI 1.017m
9 Dayton OH 0.802m
10 Akron OH 0.706m

Top 10 Cities 1950

1 Chicago IL 3.621m
2 Detroit MI 1.850m
3 Cleveland OH 0.915m
4 Milwaukee WI 0.637m
5 Cincinnati OH 0.504m
 
WCKY QSL 1934

WCKY Cincinnati ‘5000 watts Cleared Channel Unlimited Time’ confirmed a report of reception in New Zealand in 1934 © Eric Shackle Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

 
6 Indianapolis IN 0.427m
7 Columbus OH 0.376m
8 Toledo OH 0.304m
9 Akron OH 0.275m
10 Dayton OH 0.244m

Steel Plant in Youngstown

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 QSL 1953

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

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 QSL 1945

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

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