The Colossus of Radio
into the Crosley trademark at
the top of the tuning dial. The
trademark consisted of the
name “Crosley” with a bolt of
lightning passing through it.
The lightning part of the logo
was cut out and a neon tube
was installed behind it. The
intensity of this tube’s glow
increased or decreased as the
voltage in a DC amplifier varied.
The effect produced when a
station was tuned in was a lit,
orange-red flash of lightning
through the Crosley trademark.
The stronger the signal that was
being received, the brighter the
flash of lightning would be. So,
tuning into WLW would make
the most of this feature!
The WLW Model Super-Power Radio Receiver was
announced on November 25,
1936. The press release for the
set was headed, “Here is the
Colossus of Radio,” and offered a breathless listing of the
components and capabilities of this new wonder of the
radio world. The receiver was presented as both powerful
and practical. “In spite of the fact that it has a tremendous
volume range with a maximum output of 75 watts,” the
release explained, “this gigantic receiver can be toned down
to arm chair or living room levels and still retain all the
original expression of the music as rendered in the studios.”
The set made for excellent PR and Powel Crosley, Jr.
surely had a laugh over it with his friend, Eugene
MacDonald at Zenith.
The set was priced at $1,500.00. There is no record of
Figure 3. RF tube schematics and
Figure 4. Tuned transformer schematics
how many of the WLW Model Super-Power Radio Receivers
were built, but the first sale was made to Wheless Gambill
— a Crosley distributor in Nashville, TN. Powel Crosley, Jr.
certainly put one in his home and probably sent one to
Eugene MacDonald at Zenith.
Designer Amyle Richards received a bonus of sorts for
his work. He had earned a Bachelor of Science degree in
Electrical Engineering from the Oklahoma Agricultural
and Mechanical College in 1927. In 1939, he submitted a
thesis on the WLW Model receiver to the college’s engineering department; on the basis of the project, he was granted
a Professional Degree in Electrical Engineering. NV
Those Mysterious Call Letters
The call letters by which radio stations identify themselves are
a never-ending source of puzzlement.A few have a readily discernable
reference to ownership (WABC or WNBC) or actually form a word
(WARM). Most, however, were arbitrarily assigned, with no meaning
One rule was established early on, in 1914, but that was only so
stations could be identified by country. For no reason in particular, it
was decided that all US radio station call signs would begin with W
or K to distinguish them from, say, Canadian radio stations, which
begin with the letter C. In 1923, it was further determined that
stations west of the Mississippi would begin with K and those east of
the mighty river would begin with W.A few stations with out of place
call signs, like Philadelphia’s KDKA, were left as they were.
Some call signs were granted by request. For example, WKRC
in Cincinnati, OH was originally owned by Kodel Radio Corporation.
WSM, in Nashville, TN was originally owned by a life insurance
company and WSM was requested as an anagrammatic fit for “We
WLW, however, is one of the arbitrary call signs. The applicant
was Powel Crosley, Jr., on behalf of the Crosley Manufacturing
Corporation. The letters WLW fit neither of these. Had Crosley
thought to request a specific call sign, the station might have been
WPCJ or perhaps WCMC. He might even have requested WCIN (for
CINcinnati), but he didn’t and so he was handed WLW.
Of course, there have been attempts to assign meaning to the
letters WLW over the years. “Whatta Lotta Watts” was fitting in the
1920-30s, as the station went first to 50,000 and then to 500,000
watts. Any number of WLW employees in the old days (and perhaps
now) might tell you that WLW stands for “World’s Lowest Wages.”
Other possibilities are: “We Love Watts” and “World’s Largest
Wireless.” Still, the fact remains that WLW is an arbitrarily assigned