Museum Talk

Wednesday, March 12, 2014
1940 radio donated by the Flannigan family is on display at the Buffalo Island Museum.

One antique at the Buffalo Island Museum is a Zenith radio made in 1940 and donated to the museum by Bobby Flannigan and the Flannigan family. This floor model radio is still beautiful after more than seventy years. It appears to be made of mahogany wood with intricate designs

and the material covering the speakers still looks like new. It has dials for local stations and dials for shortwave radio stations.

These radios got their start at a kitchen table in Chicago in 1918 by Karl Hassel and Ralph Mathews. The next year they moved to their garage and by 1921 had moved to a 3000 sq. ft. factory making five radios a week. In 1923, they formed the Zenith Radio Corporation. It quickly grew and in 1927 they started using their slogan "The Quality goes in before the Name goes On". During the 1930's and early 1940's Zenith radios were known for their breathtaking cabinets. By 1940 Zenith was producing 12,500 receivers daily. Most had two speakers, a twelve inch for bass tones, and a smaller one for higher tones. The Zenith shortwave radios were guaranteed to receive waves from around the world. During World War II, most Americans relied on their radio to stay informed about the developments of the war. Whenever a major battle was fought or the President spoke to the nation, everyone was glued to the radio. When not listening to the latest war news, Buffalo Island families gathered around the radio for scary shows like The shadow, and The whistler. A favorite western was The Lone Ranger. For lighter listening we heard Abbot and Costello, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Molly and The Life of Riley.

The radio lost its appeal with the invention of the television. But it was fun to imagine what that radio voice really looked like.

Buffalo Island Museum is closed during the winter months, but will open soon. Visit the museum and see the antique items that Buffalo Island residents used in times gone by.

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