Asheville - Early Radio (1920s)
Radio Manufacturing in Asheville
In the early 1920s one of North Carolina's first and only radio manufacturing companies opened in Asheville. Beginning as a seller of parts made by others, the Hi-Grade Wireless Instrument Company soon began to design and manufacture its own radio sets, purchasing cabinets from a local woodworking shop. The photo shows one of their radios, which they called model HS-2.
Only two of these radios are known to still exist. The one in the Asheville Radio Museum was restored by Robert Lozier and was donated from his collection.
At the time of the donation, Mr. Lozier also donated a presentation about the origins of commercial radio and further detail on the men behind the Hi-Grade Instrument company and the workings of the HS-2. You can access his presentation here.
For a more extensive article on this topic, please visit When Radio Comes to Asheville.
Radio Broadcasting in Asheville
The earliest experimental broadcasts began in May of 1922 under amateur radio license 4AF, owned by the Hi-Grade Wireless Instrument Company mentioned above.
The first commercially successful radio broadcasting station in Asheville was station WWNC, launched in 1927, as explained in detail elsewhere on this website. However, there were briefly at least two other commercially licensed stations much earlier.
Then, in September of 1922, Citizen's Radio Broadcasting Station" began commercially operating station WFAJ on a frequency of 832kHz and power of 250 watts (modern AM stations today broadcast with power as high as 50,000 watts). It broadcast only three days each week, for about two hours per day (a common schedule in the early days). WFAJ continued broadcasting until at least March of 2023.
Of further interest is radio station WABC... started in Asheville! The license was assigned to the Asheville Battery Company (hence the ABC in WABC) for a transmitter with the miniscule power of 10 watts (later 20). The license was for the period between July 1924 and June 1925.
It is not clear today whether the transmitter was ever actually used for commercial broadcasting or whether the license was obtained in anticipation of an enterprise that did not get off the ground.
There may have been mention around 1925 of a program being broadcast on WABC (further research is required to confirm).
Asheville Battery Company, the local Atwater Kent radio reseller, uses a sound truck in 1927 to broadcast a heavyweight boxing match.