Last updated: April 10, 2015
JEFF 7938-General Electric Radio J-125 Console Model
Of all the new products put on the market during the 1920’s, very few had the impact on society than the radio-a symbol of the radical advances in technology which created fundamental changes in everyday life. A fine example of this “technology” in the park’s collection is JEFF 7938, a 1930 General Electric Radio J-125 Console Model. This antique radio has six turned
legs, a walnut veneer, two door panels of burled walnut, and side panels of yellow poplar. The on/off switch is located on the right side. There are three control knobs in the front and fabric covered speakers at the bottom front. This model was manufactured for General Electric Company by RCA Victor Company.
Over several years, starting in 1894, the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi built the first complete commercially successful wireless telegraphy system (radio transmission) based on Heinrich Hertz’s 1888 proof of the existence of transmitted airborne electromagnetic waves (electromagnetism). Marconi then demonstrated the application of radio in military communications. In 1901, he conducted the first successful transatlantic experimental radio communications. In 1904, the US Patent Office awarded him the patent for the invention of the radio. Marconi started his own company devoted to the development and propagation of radio communications services and equipment.
The most common type of radio reception in the 1920s was called a crystal set. An instructional catalog was all anyone needed to learn how to build a crystal radio receiver. Later, vacuum tubes replaced the old crystal sets. These amplifying vacuum tubes revolutionized radios and receivers. In 1912, General Electric’s improvements to the vacuum tube helped make possible modern electronics and the home radio. General Electric began manufacturing radios in 1919 through RCA until late 1930, when they began to use their own trademark. In 1919, the US Navy suggested to General Electric that if they could create an American-owned radio company, then the Navy could secure a commercial monopoly of long distance radio communication. Hence, General Electric bought out a subsidiary of Marconi’s company and organized what we know as RCA.
The invention of radio was a miracle in the field of mass communication. A unique entertainment opportunity was brought to the public, especially those who could not afford the luxury of live entertainment. Radio provided the opportunity for the public to be better informed about local and international issues. The experience of listening to the radio often brought families closer together as the young and the old would meet around the radio to listen to their favorite shows together. Radio programming was truly a cultural phenomenon that provided general entertainment, information, education, and advertising. It also served as a guide to people during times of war. The effects of radio programming created a huge shift in popular culture and changed people’s lives forever.