Authoring, Researching, Reporting, and
Learning On-Line by Howard Taylor
"The Little Station from Tuscola"
First Commercial Radio Station,
In the corn fields near Tuscola, Illinois--
Radio Station 9JR (later renamed WDZ), Tuscola, Illinois
With its new equipment and generator. This photo was taken about
1922. The new equipment and generator on the left were for the 50 watt
phase of WDZ. Next to it is the original 15 watt G.E. transmitter (with
tubes). The next two panels are amplifiers and dial tuners on a Westinghouse
R-6 receiver that could pick up stations 1,999 miles away (cost $216).
On the right hand end is a Magnavox speaker (cost $45) and under the table,
the various wet and dry cell batteries.
the Decatur (Illinois) Tribune, Nov. 15, 1989, p. 6)
WDZ radio started in the office of James Bush's grain elevator office
in Tuscola. Call letters for the beginning years were 9JR. The
intentions of the radio station were to broadcast the grain reports.
Besides being one of the first commercial radio stations in the U.S., it
was the first to broadcast grain reports. This historical event occurred
March 17, 1921. The antenna in 1921 was a simple strung wire between
buildings in Tuscola. At the time there were only two receivers in
the area to hear the signal. This first broadcast only lasted five
minutes. Two other radio stations, KDKA in Pittsburgh and WGY, Schenectady,
N.J. were also broadcasting signals. These three were they only ones
as of this date. For some time 9JR would intermingle music with the
WDZ's new 250 foot
tower at Tuscola, Il, in 1941. Seemed like Illinois' First Commercial
Radio Station would be in Tuscola forever. In actuality, it would leave
to nearby Decatur in 1949
The WDZ White Relay Truck carrying a 100
watt short-wave transmitter and equipment for the four special mobile and
portable broadcasting units. Whenever this vehicle would arrive "in
town" in Central Illinois, a crowd would often gather. The frequency
in 1941 was 1020 AM. This would later change to 1050 and remains that
now with the Decatur station. When World II arrived the government
changed the signal frequency to 1050 AM, where WDZ AM now broadcasts.
Tuscola had a great celebration when the frequency was changed. In 1939 WDZ's
power increased to 1,000 watts at a cost of $15,000. Tuscola celebrated
and felt secure their WDZ would never leave their city. A new 252 foot
tower was also installed.
Grain Reports were given
in its first broadcasts.
In 1938 Carl A. "Pappy"
Lewis and his wife, along with postmaster, James M. Allen flew in the plane
that was carrying the first was out of range.
In the beginning days of WDZ, James Bush would send secret doce messages
to his grain customers. (This would not be allowed now). Remote
broadcasts were made from farm lots and city streets.
Began his career at Tuscola's WDZ
My "Radio History Page"