WFAA Radio’s “Altitudinous Antenna System”

by Paula Bosse

wfaa_towers_1920s_belo-coll_degolyerSeems … “busy” … (click for much larger image) Belo Collection, SMU

by Paula Bosse

Broadcast radio was very, very, very new when WFAA radio went on the air in June, 1922; it was Dallas’ second radio station, but it was the city’s first commercial station, and its debut was a BIG deal. (WRR had preceded WFAA, but it was mainly used for city business.) Figuring out where to place towers and aerials and antennae (which may all be the same thing, for all I know) was a major problem, with not a lot of precedents. So why not just do what they did in the photo above?

WFAA began broadcasting at 12:30 p.m. on June 26, 1922, and the day before that, a giddy and surprisingly technical article appeared in The Dallas Morning News (which owned WFAA). The full article is linked below, but this is the specific passage devoted to those towers/aerials/antennae:

wfaa-towers_dmn_062522DMN, June 25, 1922

I’m not sure if the photo at the top was from these first days (it appeared, undated, in the DMN in 1927), but here is a photo that accompanied the above article from 1922:


Is that a little building? Why, yes it is.

wfaa_beginnings_dmn_052150DMN, May 21, 1950

When WFAA began, it broadcast from inside of and on top of the old Dallas Morning News building, which was located at Commerce and Lamar. By 1927, it had moved its studios to swankier digs in the Baker Hotel. Below, another description of how the rooftop aerial situation functioned, featured under the headline “Broadcasting of WFAA Programs Requires Much Equipment.”


wfaa_photos_dmn_022027-captionDMN, Feb. 20, 1927

But back to that little shack. Let’s see it a bit closer. Here’s the exterior.

wfaa_rooftop-broadcasting-room_belo-degolyerBelo Collection, SMU

And here’s the interior.

wfaa-studio_ca1922_belo-degolyerBelo Collection, SMU

The generator and battery room.

wfaa_generator-battery_dmn_062522DMN, June 25, 1922

And the supervisor’s office.

wfaa_supervisors-office_dmn_062522DMN, June 25, 1922

And Dallas broadcasting never looked back from its humble beginnings.


ad-white-electric-co-detail_dmn_062522Advertising detail, DMN, June 25, 1922



Photographs from the Belo Records Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University. Top photo can be accessed here; rooftop “broadcasting room” (exterior) is here; “broadcasting room” (interior) is here. More photos here. (The interior and exterior shots of the studio seem to be from 1922. The announcer is reading from the DMN’s sister publication, The Dallas Journal, which contains an article about a subject hot in the news in July, 1922 — a strike by Kentucky coalminers.)

A Belo photo identified as showing the room containing the “Transmitter on top of The Dallas Morning News building, 1924” is here.

To read the article describing how WFAA (which, by the way, at some point stood for “Working For All Alike”) was put together — how it was literally put together — see the Dallas Morning News article “Most Complete Radio Station in the Southwest to Begin Broadcasting” (June 25, 1922), written by R. M. Lane, here, and the accompanying photos here.

See the companion post, “Radio Broadcasting, 1922-Style,” here.

Other Flashback Dallas posts on WFAA radio can be found here.

Other Flashback Dallas posts on Dallas Radio & TV can be found here.

Photos and many of the images larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.