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Radio Days

Gilbert Factory Aerial ViewIn the early 1920's, A.C. Gilbert was a radio pioneer. He was the owner of WCJ, the first broadcast radio station in Connecticut. Gilbert launched his broadcasts from the factory and that was the reason for the erection of the Erector Tower. An antenna was strung from the tower to an existing smokestack. Gilbert even did a sports program about current sports figures.

In the Summer of 1922, Gilbert attempted to publicize his products using the allure of the latest scientific advance, radio broadcasting. He decorated a railroad car he had hired from the New Haven Railroad in a gaudy circus style and set out to tour the Northeastern U.S.  The unique feature of the "radio car" was to receive the broadcasts sent from the factory radio station.  This worked fairly well in most of New England, but not so well in upstate New York and in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where the signal strength of the station was too weak for the receivers of the day.  In those areas A.C. cheated a bit.   He hid someone in the toilet of the car with a microphone to read the same report that was being broadcast by the station at the designated time.  In The Man Who Lives in Paradise, Gilbert's autobiography, he says, "It wasn't quite honest, of course, but it made a wonderful show."  As an interesting side note, Gilbert was prepared to use this practice 38 years later in 1960, when Gilbert attempted to use a satellite signal to start trains in an Empire State Building train layout. Someone was under the table just in case the satellite signal didn't work. (Remember he was a magician.) Photos of the car's exterior and interior are included in the slide show below.

Gilbert had also been selling radio receivers made by another radio pioneer, Clarence D. Tuska, but they were sold bearing a Gilbert name. This came to an end when RCA prevailed in their claim that the license they had granted to Tuska could not be used to manufacture radios for other companies. After that Gilbert's radio station soon ceased broadcasting. Although the radio station and the need for the tower was short lived, it stayed up until it was knocked down in a storm in 1978.

Click on the photo or link below to see a slide show.

The Gilbert Radio Car


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