Radio Waves: Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio
Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers. To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’sRadio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!
In 1949, Victor Hoeflich held a press conference to introduce the “Man from Mars, Radio Hat”. Hoeflich knew a picture would tell the story so he had several teenagers modeling the radio hats for the reporters and photographers. Soon pictures and news stories appeared in newspapers coast to coast. The articles typically included a photo of a young lady wearing the hat and a six-paragraph story.
Although the radio hat had a futuristic appearance at the time, this was in fact due to technical limitations. While the transistor had been invented in 1947, it was still experimental and not widely available. The hat’s radio relied on vacuum tube technology, and Hoeflich made the tubes a prominent feature, as well as the loop aerial. The tuning knob sat between the two valves. The battery was carried in the user’s pocket.
TURNS OUT, LISTENING TO PODCASTS on your morning commute is nothing new. In 1931, the British cinemagazine Pathetone Weekly—which documented odd fashion trends during its run from 1930 to 1941—premiered a new invention: the Radio Hat.
In it, a man waiting for the bus decides to listen to the radio—via his straw hat, from which two large antennas poke out.
As a Pathetone Weekly title card read: “They say there’s nothing new under the sun—this little French idea to while away the bus waits, must surely be!”
According to an August 1930 issue of Modern Mechanix, a Berlin engineer invented the hat, which allowed its wearer to “listen to the Sunday sermon while motoring or playing golf, get the stock market returns at the ball game, or get the benefit of the daily dozen while on the way to work by merely tuning in.”
The video link in the article to a 1930’s British cinemagazine Pathetone Weekly-which documented odd fashion trends during its run from 1930 to 1941-shows a fascinating demonstration of the Radio Hat, which was way ahead of its time!
Inventor Victor T. Hoeflich, founder of novelty manufacturing corporation American Merri-Lei of Brooklyn, New York, introduced his “Man-from-Mars Radio Hat” in March 1949.
In the press conference, he used teenagers as models. Sold in department stores across the U.S. and by mail, the hat retailed for $7.95. Designed after a pith helmet, it could be ordered in eight colors: Lipstick Red, Canary Yellow, Blush Pink, Rose Pink, Tangerine, Flamingo, Chartreuse and Tan. Later seven more color options were added.
Although the hat had a futuristic appearance at the time, this was in fact due to technical limitations. While the transistor had been invented in 1947, it was still experimental and not widely available. And portable transistor radios did not appear until 1954. The hat’s radio relied on valve technology, and Hoeflich made the valves a prominent feature, as well as the loop aerial. The tuning knob sat between the two valves.[…]