Radios…1930’s to 1950’s

“Radios Past” features collectible radios of the 1930’s and 1940’s, with some from the 1950’s.

The main presentation is a free 47 Page digital book (no ads).  It’s radio photos, with years, model numbers, and short comments.  To see the book click Here

After this main page are short articles on various radios or topics.  Article titles are listed to the left of this page (on a tablet or computer), and you can go directly to an article by clicking on the title, or use the search box.

(A photo of my ever-changing collection in 2018)

Note: Photos in the articles can be made larger by clicking on them.

Contact email:

Those of you into music can also visit my music website “On The Records”:

From Jet Age Radios To Space Age Stereos

Normally, these articles are about radios from the 30’s to 50’s, but we’re going to take a “giant leap for mankind” by moving from the Jet Age to the Space Age.  It was in 1957, when this unit (below) was designed and manufactured in Germany under the name Kuba, using some Telefunken components.

This very dramatic design integrated radio, records, recording, and television into one unit.  It had 8 speakers for hi-fi, and the wing-like TV portion could swivel for better viewing angles.  This was available until 1962, and underwent some style updates.

Then in 1964, a small startup company in Canada, Clairtone, came up with this cool design called Project G.

The eye-catching parts of the look are the two globe speakers almost floating in air.  The stereo was very expensive, about the same price as a small car at that time.  In today’s money, it would be $20,000, and that’s the lower end of what they currently sell for.  The top slid to one side to reveal a stereo amplifier, a record holder, and a turntable.

There were various designs through 1967, with components being moved around, and even reel-to-reel recorders being added.  Another model, the Project G2, has an additional wooden section.

The case is not as deep as the Project G, and it has smaller speaker globes.  Each globe could be rotated, and included a woofer and two tweeters.  Here’s a comparison of the two models:

What got me started exploring space age stereos was when I spotted one on a TV show that was set in 1971.  It was this “flying saucer” model by Weltron.

Here’s a close look at the stereo components inside.

Hidden under the lid are a record changer, an AM/FM radio, and the controls.  You can see this 1970 Model 2005 has an 8-track tape recorder at the front.  The 1973 Model 2007 changed that to a cassette recorder.

The Weltron was available in yellow, and although it had built-in speakers, the larger floor/shelf speakers could be added for better sound.  The above photo includes one of the colorful portable sphere-shaped radio/tape players also made by Weltron.

Weltron’s space ship stereo had four round feet on the bottom so it could land as a table model.  Just for a comparison with radios we collect, these Weltrons (refurbished) are mostly priced around $4,000.

All of these space age stereos are highly collectible, and the most popular ones still have parts being made for them, so collectors can return the stereos to functioning models.

Hope you fellow collectors of tube-type radios enjoyed a trek into the space age.

Extra:  Speaking of 1970’s stereos…my “recording console” originally designed and built in 1973 wasn’t space age, but it did have two Sony reel-to-reel recorders (discrete 4-channel & standard 2-channel), an AR turntable, a space-age desk lamp, and a tiny alien playing a guitar.

Extra II:  For an article about the Setchell Carlson “Jet” radio (that’s superimposed on the very first photo), there’s a link below this photo.

Here’s the link:

Colorful Radios of the ‘50’s

One of the many fun things when I started collecting radios was that there were cool ones I could afford!  Organizing some old photos recently, I came across shots of some of my early radio acquisitions.  Among those I collected were Crosley “Bullseyes” and Motorola “Jets”.

The top row of Crosley “Bullseye” radios are reminiscent of 1950’s cars.  They have speedometer-looking dials, shiny baked-on paint, and fins that actually foreshadowed what was to come on automobiles.  These Crosleys came out in 1951 as part of what Crosley called “Coloradios”, because they came in a variety of colors.

This advertisement shows the Crosley lineup in 1951.  It includes what are called “dashboard” radios.  The D-25 clock radios, and the Series-10 radios with the large chrome circular grilles, do look like dashboards.  My first one was white, and my second was metallic silver-green.

Here’s another old photo of part of my collection in the early 2000’s.  You can see the entire bottom row is all Crosley radios.

If you click-to-enlarge the photo, you’ll see a D-25 clock radio in dark metallic blue, a white Series-10 Crosley with the large chrome center dial and two chrome knobs, four Bullseyes, and a red “Left Bullseye” from the “Serenader” series.

Here’s a much better look at the style of the Bullseye radios.  The design is wonderfully compact, combining the speaker and dial, plus a symmetrical case.  The metallic blue paint was beautiful.

To show how good the colors of Crosley radios look together, here’s a stack of them belonging to a radio friend, John O’Connor.

Motorola used the style of newly developed jet airplanes for their 53-H radios in 1954.

Besides the cool style, Motorola promoted the fact that the fairly small table radio had a large speaker for fuller sound.

Motorola called the color “red”, but most people would call it pink.  The side shots show the swept back design with what looks like jet engines on the sides.  Here’s the black Bakelite (not painted) version.

More ‘50’s radios that were once on our shelves:

There are two colorful Motorola clock radios, a bright green Olympic, a Philco “Split Level”, an orange Zenith clock radio, and two Canadian Northern Electric radios with unusual hammertone paint.

The reality of radio collecting for me was that I routinely sold the lower cost radios to help buy more Catalin radios from the 30’s & 40’s.  Also, prior to moving across the country in 2008, we sold a lot of our collection.  By 2013 my remaining ‘50’s radios fit into a small cabinet.

Why were these the last ones?  The two Crosley dashboard radios were near mint versions of the two hardest to find colors.  The Bullseyes & Jets were the ones I liked best.  And, the three Emerson 744B’s were some of the most collectible radios from the decade of early Rock & Roll.  With the selling of the majority of my radios in 2018, my ‘50’s radios were gone…but not forgotten.

DeWald 561…The Craziest Way I Bought A Radio

The 1939 DeWald Catalin Model 561 “Jewel” is “somewhat obscure and difficult to find” according to Classic Plastic Radios of the 1930’s and 1940’s author John Sideli.  In fact, he only found one example for his book, a yellow and red model.

When I spotted the below radio on eBay many years ago, I wanted to buy it.

Except it didn’t look like that, and it wasn’t even listed as a radio.  Instead, it was in multiple listings, because the seller had taken the radio apart, and was selling it in pieces.  There were separate listings for the chassis, the case, the trim ring, the knobs, and the handle.  In order to get the radio, I had to win each auction.  The listing times were very close together, so it had to be done efficiently.  Of course any failure would be problematic.

I won the chassis.  I won the case.  I won the trim ring.  I won the knobs.  I lost the handle.  I had bid enough to win the handle, but there was a technical problem that made my bid late.  So, I contacted the buyer who had won the handle (for a bid that was actually quite low). He gave me a price that was double what the handle was worth, and about eight times what he had paid.  Eventually, I talked him into accepting a large percentage profit, but at about what the handle was worth to someone who needed it to complete a radio (half of what he originally wanted).

The case was perfect, although it had to be polished back to it’s original translucent green onyx color.  It came out beautifully.

It’s a great radio, but it was a little nerve wracking to buy.  By the way, the seller should have simply sold it in one complete auction, because I got the radio at quite a bargain.  According to Sideli, the DeWald 561 cases came in three colors, Onyx, Maroon, or White (which turned to yellow, or what is often called butterscotch).

This is the only other 561 I owned.  It wasn’t as nice as the Onyx, but it’s still a model that isn’t found in every collection.

Above is how the two DeWald radios displayed together in about 2006 (click to enlarge).  The DeWald Jewel is about 10” W, 6” H & 5” D.  Here are some of my other Catalin radios by DeWald.

The radios are…a red 1938 A501 “Harp”, a brown (with yellow swirls) “Harp”, and a 1938 A502 in Sand (with an insert grille).  The only DeWald radio I still have is the red Harp.

Fada Radios from the 40’s

Some of the most popular collectible radios were made by Fada in the 1940’s.

At the start of the 1940’s, the Fada corporation began moving away from boxy designs (though their Catalin radios of the 30’s are beautiful), and came up with one of the most famous radios of all time, the Fada “Bullet”.

This is a streamlined 1940 Fada 115 Catalin radio that was originally an alabaster white with red trim. The Catalin case has oxidized over the years to a beautiful butterscotch.  Luckily, the red Catalin maintains its color.

Here’s an old Fada advertisement from 1941 that shows the original colors of the Bullets.  The largest photo in the ad is what the radio in the previous photo originally looked like.  Too bad I couldn’t have bought it for that $19.95 price!  The four basic colors of the cases were alabaster white, onyx green, maroon, and lapis blue.

This maroon Bullet is the first Catalin Fada I bought.  It’s the 1946 post-war Model 1000.  There are differences in the dial, the knobs, and the handle from the pre-war model.  A friend of mine sold it to me after he got it for a dirt cheap price at an auction.  Later, he became a radio collector, and eventually I sold it back to him (at the price he sold it to me).  The size is about 10” W, 6” H, 5” D.

Another original design that was started in 1940 and continued post-war was that of the Fada 252 & Fada 652.  The two models look nearly identical.  The 252 has gumdrop knobs, 8 grille slots, and three grooves around the case.  The 652 has pinwheel knobs, 7 grille slots, and two grooves around the case.  The nickname for this radio is the “Temple”.  It’s one of the larger Catalin Fadas, about 11” W, 7” H, 6” D.  The photo on top (butterscotch & red) is the first Temple I bought.  The second Temple I got was blue.  My individual photos of it are lost in some digital void, so the second photo is a Fada that was owned by a friend.  Both of these Temples are 652’s.

Here’s part of my collection from about two decades ago.  My first four Catalin Fadas are displayed and marked 1, 2, 3, & 4 below.  You can see the sizes of the Fadas compared with other radios in this old photo. (Click to enlarge.)

This is a 1946 Fada Model 711 “Diptop”.  It’s about the same size as the Bullet.  When I first bought it, the case had been polished back to its original alabaster white, but had started getting its patina back.  You can see how light it was in the large radio display above, and how it had returned to a butterscotch color in the lower photo.

Another 1946 model that was close to the size of the Bullet is the Model 700.  This one is a friend’s rare blue Catalin version.  I owned the more common maroon Catalin one…seen here on the right in an old photo.

As Fada transitioned their cases from Catalin to polystyrene in 1947, they came up with the “Cloud”.

You can see that the white swirled case of the Model 845 does look like a cloud.  The case is not quite as impressive as the Catalin models, but it still looks great, has a cool dial, and maintains the color it was meant to be.  It would’ve been cool if Fada had produced another round of Bullets in polystyrene in the 1941 colors, so they would have kept their colors as originally conceived.

Cool radio sighting:

So my wife and I are streaming the movie L.A. Confidential (which is set in the 1950’s), and we spot this Fada radio in the background.  The person in the hooded coat is Kim Basinger, who won an Oscar for her role.  At this point she’s probably admiring the radio (or maybe all those bottles in the liquor store).

The biggest problem with Catalin cases not keeping their color was with the blue models.  They turned green, and eventually brown.  Even after they’re taken back to blue through a careful sanding and polishing process, they’ll oxidize again to green/brown.  Polystyrene allowed Fada to have radios that stayed blue.  The above cobalt blue 1947 Model 1005 is a pretty rare radio.  It’s a shame radio makers didn’t produce more blue models, because they’re certainly popular with collectors (although rarity is part of the collecting equation).

The Fada corporation came up with some of the best designs for plastic radios, and the likely reason so many have survived is how cool they look.

Addison Radios…Thanks Canada!

Canada’s always been a good friend to the U.S.  They’re a very important trade partner, and gave us Neil Young & Joni Mitchell.  They also provided a couple of outstanding designs with their Addison radios.

The first Addison I was able to add to my collection (more than a couple decades ago) was this 1940 Model 2 (sometimes called A2).  It’s made of maroon Bakelite, with dramatically contrasting ivory Plaskon trim.  It’s a fairly small table radio, about 10” W, 6” H, & 5” D.  The style is very distinctive, with a “waterfall” grille, and a wide band of wraparound trim at the bottom.  By having these major design elements, Addison was able to provide many contrasting colors in a variety of plastics.  Here are some other A2’s I added to my collection.

This one has a black & white swirled Beetle plastic case with the same ivory trim.

Another one has a swirled Catalin case, with Catalin trim that started out ivory and changed to butterscotch over time.

Addison also used colored Plaskon, including this fairly rare blue-green one.

Here’s a shot of a two-page spread in the book Radios, The Golden Age that shows just some of the many color combinations.  By the way, Addison didn’t sell any painted A2’s, so painted ones are not original.

The look of the Addison Model 2 is so striking, it was used as the featured radio on the cover of this classic John Sideli book.

The other major Addison radio is the 1940 Model 5 (sometimes called A5).  Again, Addison came up with a design unlike any other radio.  It’s nicknamed “The Courthouse”.  It’s a larger radio, about 12” W, 9” H & 7” D.  Above is the first Catalin A5 I bought.  It’s beautiful, but since the trim wasn’t original, I replaced it with this one.

Radios, The Golden Age also did a spread of the major colors available with the Model 5.

The other cool version of “The Courthouse” is made of wood.  It’s basically the same size as the Catalin model, but if you look closely, you can see some minor differences in the way the wood is shaped.  The wood version is the original Model 5, and the Catalin versions were added later.

Canada didn’t produce anywhere near the variety of radios made in The United States, but they did design two of the best!

Extra: (Sept. ‘22)  Just came across an old photo of the first wooden Addison I had long ago.

Tesla Talisman 308U

When I started collecting radios in the late ‘90’s, it seemed like I wanted to buy almost any radio I spotted at a reasonable price.  In a short while, I decided to concentrate mostly on Bakelite, Catalin, and other types of plastic table radios.  Plastic was a new medium in the ‘30’s & ‘40’s and designers came up with such clever modern designs.  One radio that really caught my eye was a maroon Bakelite radio from Czechoslovakia, the Tesla Talisman 308U.

I’d seen a photo of it in a tabletop book on Bakelite, and the streamlined style really appealed to me.  An added attraction might have been that my grandparents on my mother’s side were from Czechoslovakia.  I never saw a Tesla in anyone’s collection at the time, and certainly never came across one at an antique store or auction.  Finally, I spotted one on eBay, but the auction had already ended.  I took a chance and sent an email to the seller, who was in Europe.  He had another one that he sold to me for the same price as the auction…only $200 plus shipping.  That’s the above radio.

Radio books have had trouble nailing down some of the details of the Tesla.  Above are two book listings.  The top one is from the 2014 book DecoRadio by Peter Sheridan.  It shows the Tesla as being from 1946.   The bottom photo is from the 1997 book Bakelite Style which was edited by Tessa Clark.  It says the Tesla was designed in the 1930’s, and produced in the 1940’s (which is what I believed because of it).  Apparently, both books are wrong.  The best information I could find online is that the Tesla Talisman was designed in the late 1940’s, and was produced from 1953 to 1958.  You can see the radio design fits in with the earlier Deco Era’s streamlined style.

Another interesting comment that was in the Bakelite Style book was that the Tesla was “highly desirable in the Iron Curtain days”…meaning that Teslas are less desirable now that they’re more available.  To me, the radio is as desirable as it always was, it’s just cheaper for collectors.  Tastes vary, but I think it’s one of the coolest radio designs ever.  The Tesla was also available in brown Bakelite & black Bakelite.  If you see one painted, it’s not original.  The Tesla can be easily switched between European and American voltages, and the plug works with an inexpensive adapter.

One unusual and cool feature is the dial.  It has the major cities of Europe printed right on the dial glass, along with the radio frequencies.  (The photo can be enlarged with a click.)

When I reduced my collection, the Tesla Talisman was one I couldn’t part with.  It’ll stay in the family.

Grill or Grille?

Which way do you spell it?

Grilles (or Grills) come in so many shapes and styles.  They’re essential to let the sound from the speaker project through the case.  Designers figured out how to make them cool.  Sometimes they were cut right into the cases, and other times they were added pieces in contrasting colors.

Often on wooden radios, and sometimes on plastic ones, beneath the grill (or grille) was a cloth.  It was there to protect the speaker, let the sound pass through, and to add a touch of elegance.  For collectors who have to replace old worn and torn grille (or grill) cloths…it seems like there were as many cloth styles as there were radios that used them.  That doesn’t make it easy to find replacements!

So…should we spell it grill or grille?

According to one dictionary’s description, the word Grille is defined as the covering of an opening, such as a car grille.  The dictionary also defines Grill as a place to eat.  Don’t be fooled by places that have a sign saying Bar & Grille…they just thought the “e” made it seem fancier.  But like those bar owners, we can spell the word either way.

Whether they’re split or wavy, patriotic or exotic, you can call them grilles or grills…and that’s okay.  The classic Catalin book by John Sideli used the grille spelling, but far and away most other radio sources, such as sales on eBay, and descriptions by radio collectors tend to use grill as the spelling.

As long as we all know what we mean, it’s not critical how we spell it.

Remler…A San Francisco Treat

The Remler Company of San Francisco started making Bakelite parts in 1918, and evolved into manufacturing early radio receivers.  By 1933, they were producing Bakelite and Plaskon table radios.

I never had the earliest models in my collection, but I pulled a couple photos from my Pinterest favorites.

Remler produced this Model 26 in 1933 as their first Bakelite table radio.  They called it “The Scottie”.

They even had this Deco blue mirror cover that slipped onto the front of a Remler Model 40 in the 1930’s.

The Remler company was started by Elmer Cunningham.  The name of the company is his first name backwards, with an added “r” at the end.  When the company started producing plastic table radios in 1933, Scottish Terriers were popular, including one owned by Eleanor Roosevelt.  Plus, Cunningham is a Scottish surname.  So, they used a Scottie dog as the Remler logo.  That cute touch sets them apart from other radios.

My first Remler was this 1948 “Scottie Pup”.  When it was originally released, customers could get the radio in regular brown Bakelite, which they called “Walnut” for $20 (Model 5505), or for $3 more they could get the above “White” (Model 5510), which was made of smooth ivory Plaskon with a bamboo-colored grille.  (With a click you can see the radios more clearly.  The ivory Plaskon is a good one to click first.)

This Remler design became available in black Bakelite.  I acquired the above radio a few years after the Plaskon one.  They have an unusually styled (billowy) case, a dramatically contrasting grille, and the slide dial is uniquely located at the bottom.  This model also had good sound from the five-tube chassis.

The above radio, Model 6000, (I had years ago) is from 1947.  Remler called it a “Personal Portable” radio.  It had a handle for easy carrying that dropped down when not in use.

Maybe the most unusual Remler is the 1947 Model 5300:

It looks like a fairly normal table radio made of Plaskon and Bakelite, but the top tips back to reveal a turntable.

When you laid the lid all the way back, there was room for playing 78 rpm records.

You can see my 10-inch Vogue 78 rpm picture record is actually larger than the top of the radio.  It was a very compact design to be both a radio and a record player.  The radio/phonograph is also quite heavy for its size.  I really liked having these Remlers as part of my collection.

Unfortunately, Remler ceased making radios in the early 1950’s, even though they continued making electronic components until 1988.

We’re just lucky Remler gave us twenty years of well-designed high-quality plastic table radios that collectors will enjoy for many decades to come.

Setchell Carlson “Jet”

It’s one of the most dramatic radio designs ever!

Maybe there were two designers, or maybe a designer and an audio engineer.  The designer said… “I’m designing a sleek, modern radio”.  And the audio engineer said… “Yeah, but it’s gotta have a big-ass speaker!”.  That would explain the difference between the right and left sides of this radio.

The Setchell Carlson model 58A-375 “Jet” was originally manufactured in 1949.  Unlike most wooden radios, the case is not made of solid wood.  Instead, it’s made of thin wood that could be bent into the desired shape.

When I first got this radio, it was just a case.  In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, there was an annual “Radio Auction” in Marshalltown, Iowa.  It was a great place to find all kinds of radios.  One year, I found a brand-new old-stock Setchell Carlson Jet case.  It was still in it’s original box with factory cardboard cutouts that suspended the case for shipping.  The Jet cases are very fragile, so I figured this was a replacement case from a radio dealership.  After all, the Setchell Carlson Company had been located right next door in Minnesota.

I was surprised and happy to get the case (with a perfect grille cloth installed) for just $100.  Eventually, I spotted a broken Jet on eBay.  Here’s the actual listing photo:

Pretty scary, right?  I won the bid for $200, and luckily the chassis and faceplate were in good shape.  With the help of radio collector/technician Jon Walker, the chassis was put into working condition, and an original knob was found.

Then I installed the chassis, and finally it was a complete radio.

The Jet is a pretty large radio.  You can see how it compares in size with other radios as they were displayed in Lincoln, NE, and then Eugene, OR.

(Photos can be enlarged with a click or touch.)

Setchell Carlson also made the case in blonde wood to go with some Mid-Century furniture.  I found a photo of a blonde Jet online:

As production of the Jet moved into the 1950’s, an AM-FM model became available.

Like I said, I believe many of the radios at the auction were from a Setchell Carlson dealer, because there were a lot of their radios that year.  I also bought this 1946 “Frog Eyes” model 427:

If you’re familiar with “Frog Eyes”, you’ll know this is larger than the similarly styled 416 models that were also introduced in 1946.  It has a beautifully designed sweeping sculpture on the top that leads to the knobs.  The chassis is mounted upside down, which allows those controls to be at the top of the radio.  The case is made of colored Plaskon, and is not painted.  If you ever see a painted Setchell Carlson, it’s not original.  I believe this radio was also new old stock, because there were absolutely no signs of use or wear.  It looked and played like new, and the original warranty tag was still inside.

Another purchase I made that day was a new ivory Plaskon 416 case, still in the original box.  I already had a chassis for this one.

And finally, here’s a page from the digital book at the beginning of this site.  It provides a comparison of colorful “Frog Eyes”:

(Click or touch for a better look.)

Sentinel Catalin Radios (Updated)

Some of the most uniquely styled Catalin radios are those by the Sentinel Radio Corporation.

(All photos can be enlarged with a click or touch.)

My favorite Sentinel design is the 248NR (177U) from 1939.  The first time I saw the dramatic oxblood-red and yellow version was in the late ‘90’s among the radios of a longtime collector, Ron Stoner, in Lincoln Nebraska.  The radio looked striking in the antique bookcase.  Unfortunately, when the radio was removed there was a fairly large chunk of the case missing on a back corner.  That’s common, because of the poor way the chassis connects with the case.  It’s hard to find this Sentinel without similar damage.  It took me more than two decades to finally come up with two really nice examples (that were also priced right).

The design features are mostly asymmetrical.  The grille is raised-up higher than the center of the radio’s front, and also wraps around the side.

The Deco looking groves in the case are to one side, and intersect the dial.  The dial pointer is set to the left, instead of in the middle or on the bottom like most radios.

This all gives the Sentinel 248NR a “classy” appearance.

Sentinel could also do “quirky”.

Above are two 1945 Sentinel model 284 radios.  What a unique design!  It’s the only Catalin radio model to have the chassis mounted upside down.  That allows for having the controls at the top, and leaves the tubes hanging inside.

The case is one of the most rounded Catalin designs, but the real appearance grabber is that “Wavy Grille”.  It gives the radio it’s nickname, and also provides a sense of quirkiness.  There’s really no other radio like it.  The size is about 11″ wide, 7″ high & 6″ Deep.

This version of the Sentinel has a case that’s called “sand”.  It’s a harder-to-find color, and is much more swirled and striking than the regular alabaster version that develops a plainer butterscotch patina.  This sand radio also has the seldom seen red Catalin knobs, like the model shown in John Sideli’s famous book “Classic Plastic Radios”.  If you enlarge the photo, you can see the beauty of the Catalin knobs.  Too bad Sentinel didn’t manufacture a swirled red grille to go with them.

This oxblood-red case with nicely contrasting butterscotch knobs and grille is a popular color combination.

Sentinel produced a version of this radio without the grille…simply a Catalin surround and a large exposed grille cloth:  img_2700It’s still a nice-enough looking radio, but it just seems like there’s something missing.  Sentinel also produced the open version under the name Musicaire.

And finally…

The 1940 Sentinel 195ULTA.  For this one, Sentinel added push-buttons for instant station selection.  This is definitely one of the rarer radios.  Author John Sideli didn’t even have this model pictured in his book of classic plastic radios, although he showed a similar radio under the Lafayette brand.

All in all, Sentinel made some pretty cool Catalin Radios.

Extra:  Came across a couple of old photos of other Sentinels I’ve had.

 The top photo is a nice example of the all butterscotch version.  The bottom Sentinel (yellower because it has less patina) has replacement knobs and a grille that were made by a man who was a great provider of replacement parts, Kris Gimmy.  Sentinel 284’s were never produced with red grilles, but some collectors wanted to dress up the plain butterscotch models.