Tag Archives: WLW

Clyde Haehnle: Loss of a broadcasting icon

(Source: The VOA Museum via David Snyde)

Museum Icon Passes Away

The National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting mourns the loss of one of its major leaders and benefactors. Clyde Haehnle passed away peacefully on Sunday, April 8th.   Over the years, this icon in the development of broadcasting technology, not only locally but nationally, was the driving force behind the museum.

A veteran broadcasting engineer and executive, Mr. Haehnle was instrumental in the early meteoric development of Powel Crosley’s WLW. While working at WLW, fresh out of electrical engineering school at the University of Cincinnati, he was assigned in 1942 to work on design and construction of VOA-Bethany Station, the transmission facility of the newly- minted Voice of America. The facility operated from 1944 thru 1994 and beamed programs worldwide from the highest power shortwave transmitters built in the world at that time.

The rhombic antenna design requiring extensive mathematical calculations fell to Mr. Haehnle. His work accomplished with pencil, paper and a slide rule resulted in some of the most efficient antenna arrays ever built and enabled the VOA programs transmitted from the hilltop north of Cincinnati to be heard by eager listeners worldwide. P of Engineering at AVCO Broadcasting. He held many patents in electronic technology and continued to be a curious and thoughtful proponent of technology well into his ninth decade.

Mr. Haehnle’s untiring leadership and support has enabled the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting to develop into a rich educational institution celebrating the role broadcasting has made in the dissemination of programs globally encouraging democratic principles to truth-starved audiences.

The Museum plans a celebration of Mr. Haehnle’s extraordinary life later this spring.

Read more about Clyde.

When WLW was the one and only “Super Station”

WLW's diamond-shaped Blaw-Knox radio tower at night (Original photo by RP Piper via Creative Commons)

WLW’s diamond-shaped Blaw-Knox radio tower at night (Original photo by RP Piper via Creative Commons 2.0)

(Source: National Endowment for the Humanities)

For a Brief Time in the 1930s, Radio Station WLW in Ohio Became America’s One and Only “Super Station”

by Katy June-Friesen

When President Franklin Roosevelt, sitting in the White House, pushed a ceremonial button on his desk in May 1934, a five hundred thousand-watt (500 kW) behemoth stirred in a field outside Cincinnati. Rows of five-foot glass tubes warmed. Water flowed around them at more than six hundred gallons per minute. Dozens of engineers lit filaments and flipped switches, and, within the hour, enough power to supply a town of one hundred thousand coursed through an 831-foot tower.

Thus began WLW’s five-year, twenty-four-hour-a-day experiment: a radio station that used more power and transmitted more miles than any station in the United States had or would. The so-called super station—licensed by the new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on a temporary basis—amped up the debate among broadcasters, government regulators, and listeners about how radio should be delivered to serve the “public interest,” a mandate laid out in the Radio Act of 1927, and influenced legal, programming, and technical decisions that shape the broadcast system we know today.

Since radio’s beginnings in the early 1920s, industry and government leaders promoted it as the great homogenizer, a cultural uplift project that could, among other things, help modernize and acculturate rural areas. The challenge was how to reach these areas, many of which received few or no radio signals in the mid-1930s. One solution was high-powered, clear-channel stations that could blanket large swaths of the country with a strong signal. These stations operated on “cleared” frequencies that the government assigned to only one station to prevent interference.

WLW had operated on one of forty designated clear channels since 1928. The station’s creator and owner, an entrepreneur, inventor, and manufacturer named Powel Crosley Jr. frequently increased the station’s wattage as technology and regulation allowed. In 1934, when WLW increased its power from 50 kW to 500 kW, all other clear-channel stations were operating at 50 kW or less. Now, WLW had the ability to reach most of the country, especially at night, when AM radio waves interact differently with the earth’s ionosphere and become “skywaves.” People living near the transmitter site often got better reception than they wanted; some lights would not turn off until WLW engineers helped rewire houses. Gutters rattled loose from buildings. A neon hotel sign near the transmitter never went dark. Farmers reported hearing WLW through their barbed-wire fences.

Continue reading…

Ted Landphair takes us to the VOA Bethany transmitting station

bethanyvoa

VOA Bethany transmitting station, now a museum and park.

Veteran Voice of America “Americana” reporter and essayist, Ted Landphair recently posted an essay on his blog outlining the past and present of VOA’s Bethany, Ohio transmitter site. This article is a fascinating read and takes us back to the the site’s roots in WLW and wartime propaganda.

Thanks Ted–and to Kim Elliot for bringing this article to my attention.