A Universal Speaking Service: The Role of Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company in the Development of National Network Broadcasting, 1922-1926

By Crawford, Amy Graban | Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, September 2007 | Go to article overview

A Universal Speaking Service: The Role of Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company in the Development of National Network Broadcasting, 1922-1926


Crawford, Amy Graban, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media


Radio transmission evolved into something new on November 2, 1920. On Election Day a recently established radio station in East Pittsburgh, KDKA, reported the election results to a public that was becoming increasingly interested in radio. How to define "the first broadcast station" is still debated, but on that day Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, the company that owned KDKA, transmitted a general purpose program designed to reach a mass, general-interest audience of casual listeners.

As the decade progressed, corporate powers in radio manufacturing battled for prominence as the industry headed in a potentially lucrative new direction. The patent pool that had been in effect during the war was lifted, leaving corporations vying to become the bellwether of the industry. The battle for leadership and dominance in the largely experimental and unregulated world of radio broadcasting led to legal arbitration, corporate negotiations, personal animosities and, eventually, cooperation and cross-licensing (Bilby, 1986; Hilmes, 1997; Spalding, 1964; Sterling & Kittross, 1978). In his biography of David Sarnoff, Kenneth Bilby writes, "The years between 1922 and 1926 were the most crucial in the development of American broadcasting. The service matrix that exists today, for television as well as radio, was configured then" (Bilby, 1986, pp. 68). As the dominant broadcasting and communications companies of the day struggled to establish a regular, national broadcast presence, Bilby notes that "in security-sealed corporate board rooms and Manhattan legal offices, and at secret arbitration hearings, the penumbral drama unfolded" (Bilby, 1986, pp. 68).

The story of how Radio Corporation of America, General Electric, and Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company worked together, if occasionally at cross-purposes, to build the structure of national network broadcasting has been told, but not from each company's perspective. The personal and business correspondence of Westinghouse Vice President and broadcast pioneer Harry Phillips Davis illustrates how Westinghouse planned to enhance and, later, preserve their leadership position as the industry evolved. If the drama unfolded behind closed doors, then these documents provide a window into the negotiation from Davis's and Westinghouse's perspective.

H. P. Davis's Broadcast Proposals

Broadcast history texts tell the familiar tale of how Frank Conrad, an engineer at Westinghouse, set up an experimental radio station at the Westinghouse factory in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At Westinghouse, Conrad had been in charge of the governmental wireless experiments during World War I. After the end of wireless restrictions imposed during the war, Conrad began airing programs of music, lectures, and sports scores that were picked up by wireless enthusiasts with receiving sets. As the broadcasts grew in popularity, a local department store, the Joseph Horne Company, ran an advertisement promoting Conrad's station and the store's radio department. The advertisement read that "Mr. Conrad will send out phonograph records this evening for amateurs with radio receivers" ("First Radiophone Station," 1922, p. 7; "Great Men of Radio," 1922, p. 6; "Story Told of Birth of Broadcast," 1922, p. 7).

Conrad's supervisor, H. P. Davis, an engineer and vice president at Westinghouse, saw the advertisement and inferred that if the broadcasts found an audience with little promotion, an organized, high-quality program designed to reach a wide, mass audience could be very effective (Barnouw, 1966; S. J. Douglas, 1987; Head, 1956; Sterling & Kitross, 1978). Davis later recalled thinking that if there was entertainment on the air, people would demand "ears," or Westinghouse could establish a wide market for radio receiver sets. ("Great Men of Radio," 1922). Davis sent for Conrad and informed him that Westinghouse was shutting down Conrad's experimental station. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Universal Speaking Service: The Role of Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company in the Development of National Network Broadcasting, 1922-1926
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.