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.

Of course 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.

This 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.

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.  I then installed the chassis into the case, 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.

Sparton Bluebird

Finally broke down and bought a real Sparton Bluebird radio.  I’ve loved the look of the Bluebird (by famed industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague) from the first time I saw it.

(My “new” 1936 Sparton Bluebird model 566.)

The design of the Sparton Bluebird is extremely Deco, with blue mirror & chrome.  It was so original that no other radio looked anything like it.  Descriptions of the radio mention the “Streamline” design of the deco era represented by the three lines of chrome that span the front.

(Professional photo of my radio as seen on the Decophobia website.)

Great art (these radios are displayed in museums) lends itself to personal interpretation.  Why was the name Bluebird chosen, as opposed to anything else that was blue?  A real Bluebird flies, and one could certainly look at this “bird” as a tri-wing airplane in a blue sky.  The three chrome lines get smaller as they go down, just like the three wings of the airplane.  The inner ring would be the fuselage, and the outer ring could represent the larger circle made by a moving propeller.  The black ball stands are the plane’s tires.

At least that’s one interpretation of the design.  It may not be what Teague had in mind, but once you see the design that way, it’s a little hard to believe it wasn’t intentional.

The 14-inch mirror hides the black wooden box containing the chassis.

You can see how the radio leans back, which let’s us see the mirror better, and makes the controls more accessible.  It also gives it stability to keep that big piece of glass from tipping over.  In fact, the Bluebird originally came with an optional blue mirror for the radio to sit on.  It was the exact same size as the main mirror, and could be fabricated to replace the radio’s mirror if necessary.

Here’s a photo of the real Bluebird next to my long-owned reproduction radio from the 1990’s.

The one on the left is a little over 20-years old, and the one on the right is over 80-years old.  The reproduction’s mirror is larger (16-inches), and the feet were originally chrome.  I painted them to look more like the real Sparton, and added the Sparton dial image.  Besides the size, the biggest difference is metal vs. plastic for the chrome, and of course tubes vs. transistors for the sound.

Why was the reproduction made larger, and why were the feet chrome?  In a print ad from the 1930’s, it incorrectly says the mirror is 16-inches, even though it was really 14-inches.  Another ad mentions “silver ball supports”, even though they were black.  Or, maybe they just thought the reproduction shouldn’t precisely match the real thing.

After selling most of my radios, it was nice to add one…especially the historic Sparton Bluebird.

Extra:  Saw this photo on a radio discussion page.  It’s a Sparton Bluebird in the 1936 Jimmy Stewart movie “Born To Dance”.

The discussion determined it was the blue mirror version, and that it’s an optical illusion that it looks clear.  Ah…the Deco era had such style!

Update Sept. 2022:  Added another Sparton Bluebird (the one on the left), and still have the reproduction on top of the cabinet.

Radios & Magazine Articles

An Associate Editor of the Food Network Magazine recently called me about using some of my radios for an article.  Their Pioneer Woman magazine is featuring Bakelite and Catalin collectibles, and they requested photographs of some of my radios that are displayed on this site.  (Photos can be made clearer and larger with a “click”.)

1940 Fada “Bullet” Model 115 (made of Catalin plastic)

1938 Crosley “Split Grille” Model G1465 (Catalin)

1938 Emerson “Tombstone” Model BT 245 (Catalin)

1938 Emerson “Tombstone” Model BT 245 (Catalin)

1937 Emerson “Tombstone” Model AU 190 (Catalin)

1939 RCA “Little Nipper” Model 9TX4 (Catalin)

1938 Emerson “Little Miracle” Model AX235 (Catalin)

Tesla Talisman Model 308U (Bakelite, ’40’s design made in ’50’s)

Above are the radios they requested, and the last two I threw in.  I have no idea what might get used in the article.  They plan to edit the items onto their own background, so the photos were just “shelfies” shot on my white shelves.

Update:  Here’s the page in the article that included two of my radios, and a poker chip caddy.  You can click or touch to make it readable.

To clarify a few points:  Although Bakelite was used for radio parts in the 1920’s, it was in the 1930’s when radios with Bakelite cases joined wooden radios.  I suggested if Bakelite collectors only wanted one radio, the Fada Bullet is the most iconic design.  And, although Catalin radios are very breakable, the main reason they were discontinued was because of the man-hours needed to produce them.  Still, I appreciate that radios were included in the 4-page article about Bakelite.  The full issue is over 100 pages long.

Last year, it was nice of The Southern California Antique Radio Society to include one of my photos in their magazine.

It was the above photo of the Shyvers Multiphone tabletop jukebox owned by friend and collector David O’Hanlon.  Below is what the magazine and article looked like.  You can read the main page of the article by clicking on the photo, and then zooming if necessary.

Since I’ve sold most of my radios, it wasn’t too hard to also take photos of those that remain.  Here are some of them.

1940 Emerson “Patriot” Model 400 (Catalin)

1940 Addison “Waterfall” Model A2 (Bakelite)

1940 Addison “Waterfall” Model A2 (Bakelite)

1938 DeWald “Harp” Model A501 (Catalin)

1939 Sentinel Model 248NI (177U) [Catalin]

1945 Garod “Commander” Model 1B55L (Catalin)

1945 Sentinel “Wavy Grille” Model 284 (Catalin)

1947 Fada “Cloud” Model 845 (polystyrene plastic)

1936 Emerson “Tombstone” Model U5A (Plaskon)

1936 Emerson “Tombstone” Model 110 (wood)

1938 Grunow “Chrome Grille” Model 592 (wood)

1936 Sparton Bluebird, added 2020.

1939 Sentinel 248NR (177U) [Catalin] added 2020.

Many of these radios are featured with more information in the individual articles on this site.

Here’s the main display in 2018 before the recent sell-off:

The time seemed right to greatly reduce my collection.  Hopefully, the new owners are enjoying the radios as much as I did.

Here’s what’s left (November 2020):



Extra:  
Here’s a screen shot of an article that was in the January, 2022 edition of Farm Show Magazine.  It’s a newspaper style magazine from Minnesota that features articles on many topics, and this time they included collectible radios.  It was written by Dee George, from an interview.  (Click to enlarge.)