History of "WRW"

The Kansas City Post's Early Radio Activities

This article was originally written by Mark Roberts for the Oldradio mailing list in 1996. The "WRW" calls are in quotes because there is minimal evidence that this station ever was assigned those call letters.

It's now time to throw yet more confusion into the early history of KMBZ radio, which may -- or may not -- be related to the early broadcasting efforts of the Kansas City Post.

The Post was owned by Frederick G. Bonfils and Harry Tammen, also owners of the Denver Post. (In fact, Bonfils' family was from Troy, Missouri, where "Bonfils" is still a common last name.)

To say the least, the Post was a scuzzy newspaper. Headlines screamed. Murder and mayhem were prominently featured. Editorials and news articles were somewhat indistinguishable. (Sounds like local TV news.) It's a shock to see it compared to the austere Star and the relatively middle-of-the-road Journal.

Yet it was the Post that erected the first newspaper-owned radio station in Kansas City. While the Star produced and sponsored some broadcasts over 9XAB on February 15, two days before 9XAB became WOQ, the facilities were actually owned by the Western Radio Company.

The Central Radio Company was hired to erect a temporary station for the Post, with the construction overseen by Arthur B. Church. (Remember this name!) The station was located at the old Convention Hall, where concerts by the St. Louis Symphony were scheduled for Thursday, February 23 and Friday the 24th.

Mysteriously, the Post on Thursday afternoon before the concert announced the wave length of its temporary station was changed from 360 to 375 meters. The newspaper also printed the Symphony's program for the concert at 3 pm. (Yes, it was an afternoon paper: maybe the microfilm is of an early edition?)

The Post headline boldly encouraged, "Wire Your Radio Report to the Post at Our Expense" for out of town listeners; Kansas City listeners were asked to call either of the Post's phone numbers (the city still had two non-interconnected phone companies early in 1922). On page 3, a photo showed the aerial strung on the Convention Hall roof. The next day, the paper crowed, "HEAR POST CONCERT BY WIRELESS -- Broadcasting of Symphony Concert Reveals Possibilities of Radio." The Post also announced a weekly Radio Review to begin that Saturday.

Somewhat pompously, the newspaper reported, "The department of commerce, having heard of The Post's efforts in the radio field, telegraphed its appreciation in the form of a special government permit to broadcast the concert." The telegram was reproduced for "Special Amateur Station Nine ZH".

(This seems slightly at variance with the Radio Service Bulletin's report of the Post's temporary call letters as "WHO". The calls "WHO" never were used in the Post's accounts of its radio activities.)

Telegrams from distant listeners were printed from Topeka, Kansas; Sedalia, Missouri; Columbus, Kansas; St. Joseph, Missouri, and other towns and cities in the region.

In Saturday's (2/25) Post, one could read "POST RADIO CONCERT IS DECLARED TO BE 'PERFECT'", with a coverage radius of 250 miles. In a box was this report from the school superintendent at Amoret, Mo.:

The high school here has installed a receiver set for radiophone and we were delighted with the results of listening in on your concert by the St. Louis Symphony orchestra.

"....As we were able to hear distinctly several feet away, we shifted from the wave sent out by the Central Radio to the Western Radio and were able to pick up either almost instantly."

(This suggests that the Western Radio Company's transmitter was used for the Post broadcasts.)

More telegrams were printed. One from Liberal, Mo. said, "Your Friday program was much better than Thursday's. Modulation near perfect. Bring on some more."

The Post Builds A Station (or so it claimed)

That Sunday, the Post's headlines shouted:

POST TO ERECT MOST COMPLETE RADIO BROADCASTING PLANT IN U.S.

On Monday, February 26, construction was scheduled to start on the Post station, "From the Post roof will tower a giant antennae [sic]--the poles and wires above the delicated machines, which will be in the operating rooms below."

Also announced was a semi-weekly series of concerts, beginning March 3 with Miss Virginia Bell of the "Greenwich Village Follies of 1922," along with co-stars of the show then touring the Midwest.

And, by March 3, it was ready. That day, the newspaper announced that it would broadcast daily baseball scores. In large type above the banner, the Post wrote:

It is expected that the corner drug stores will install receiving sets capable of taking The Post baseball results and you may get them almost as soon as the game is over, whether it be played in New York, Chicago or Kansas City.

"Your paper, The Post, is the first newspaper in the United States to attempt the broadcasting of baseball results."

(It would be interesting to see if this were really true. Anything in the Post has to be taken with a grain of salt, or sometimes an entire salt lick.)

The program was scheduled for 360 meters at 7:45 pm. Some coordination was required, as the newspaper reported, "The Western Radio company has announced that it will not broadcast anything after the first market reports, which are sent out at 7:30 o'clock.

"The Post requests that other amateur operators cease sending until 9 o'clock Friday night so that the air will not be filled with messages." Call letters were not given for the station until the Sunday, March 5 issue:

  FACTS ABOUT THE POST'S NEXT RADIO CONCERT.
Time--Monday night, 8 o'clock.
Wave length--360 meters.
Broadcasting station--WRW, Kansas City Post.

PERFORMERS.
Carroll Ault, Chicago English Grand Opera
baritone, who will render selections from Schumann,
Homer, Tours, and other great operatic composers.

Miss Trixie Friganza, appearing at the Orpheum
theater, in "My Little Bag o' Trix."

Carson J. Robison, Kansas City composer, introducing
some of his own compositions.

Note those call letters--WRW!! The only place I have seen those call letters is in the copies of the Post articles that I have. I couldn't find them in the RSB lists that I obtained from Jeff Miller back on the old Oldradio mailing list.

Post Coverage of Radio

The Post also hyped radio with a daily radio section, which quickly dwindled into a daily article or two and a Saturday radio page. On April 8, the Saturday page featured a map of stations in the United States.

But, in classic Post, er, style, radio editor Ed Fetting wrote, "Of course, all the broadcasting stations in the United States are not found on it. It would be impossible to list them on such a small map."

Stations that were listed: WRW, KDKA (there were also weekly listings given in the Post for KDKA), WGY, KDN, 5DD, WOQ, KYW, WHA, WBL, WGL, KFG, WRR, NOF, WJZ, WJX, WBZ, 8XB, 4CD, 5ZU, 9YY, KYJ, 8YO, KQW, 4BQ, WOS, WLK, WLB.

The End of the Post's Station

If WRW did exist, events soon conspired against it. On May 4, the Post reported a power increase for its broadcasts, noting, "Special arrangements have been made at the Central Radio Company, making it possible to increase the power used many fold." The Post also quit reporting the use of the WRW calls that day. By this time, the Central Radio Company, with which Arthur B. Church was involved, was using the calls WPE. Those calls were not reported in the Post.

On May 18, Journal publisher Walter S. Dickey bought the Post from Bonfils and Tammen and took control of it immediately. The Post's screaming, lurid headlines were quickly toned down, with the two newspaper plants combining on June 5.

On, or just before, that June 5, the Post radio broadcasts ceased. The Post no longer had its station, and was about to move out of that building into the Journal building. The daily radio articles continued to dwindle, and disappeared by July.

Relationship with KMBZ (KMBC)

The early history of KMBZ (KMBC) seems especially tangled, with KMBZ claiming a start date April 5, 1921 as Church's amateur 9AXJ. I have found no contemporary newspaper accounts to support that date. With Church's involvement at various times in 1922, could WRW/9ZH be, in some way, considered another ancestor to KFIX, which was the successor to WPE? With the relative paucity of newspaper coverage in Kansas City of radio from mid-1922 to about 1925, except for the Star's hype of its own WDAF, it may be difficult to find contemporary accounts of various points in KFIX's history (as in, when did the Reorganized Latter-Day Saints buy it, and did that purchase cause WPE to become KFIX, or did WPE shut down in favor of KFIX?).

The more you look at this thing, the more questions you get.

(The WPE call letter sequence is generally accepted as: WPE, KFIX, KLDS, KMBC-KLDS, KMBC, KMBZ. WOQ was forced off the air by court order June 14, 1934. WDAF is still here.)

(End of Oldradio article.)

Additional Information

Thomas H. White and Jeff Miller had these comments and clarifications:

>    (This seems slightly at variance with the Radio Service Bulletin's
> report of the Post's temporary call letters as "WHO". The calls "WHO"
> never were used in the Post's accounts of its radio activities.)

Picky point: No information for the WHO grant (as with virtually all temporary grants) appeared in the Radio Service Bulletin. The information on temporary grants comes from some Dept. of Commerce cards files at 1919 M Street.

>   "Your paper, The Post, is the first newspaper in the United States
> to attempt the broadcasting of baseball results."
>   (It would be interesting to see if this were really true. Anything in
> the Post has to be taken with a grain of salt, or sometimes an entire
> salt lick.)

Also remember that the previous fall WJZ broadcast the World Series...

>         FACTS ABOUT THE POST'S NEXT RADIO CONCERT.
>       Time--Monday night, 8 o'clock.
>       Wave length--360 meters.
>       Broadcasting station--WRW, Kansas City Post.
>    Note those call letters--WRW!! The only place I have seen those
> call letters is in the copies of the Post articles that I have.
> I couldn't find them in the RSB lists that I obtained from Jeff Miller
> back on the old Oldradio mailing list.

This appears to have been a second temporary authorization, although one I've never come across.

>    On May 4, the Post reported a power increase for its broadcasts,
> noting, "Special arrangements have been made at the Central Radio
> Company, making it possible to increase the power used many fold."
> The Post also quit reporting the use of the WRW calls that day.
> By this time, the Central Radio Company, with which Arthur B. Church
> was involved, was using the calls WPE. Those calls were not reported
> in the Post.

WPE was first licenced May 5th...

>    The early history of KMBZ (KMBC) seems especially tangled, with KMBZ
> claiming a start date April 5, 1921 as Church's amateur 9AXJ. I have found
> no contemporary newspaper accounts to support that date.
>    With Church's involved at various times in 1922, could WRW/9ZH be,
> in some way, considered another ancestor to KFIX, which
> was the successor to WPE?

Maybe, if you are willing to mix temporary broadcasting and/or Special Amateur authorizations with later regular broadcasting licences.

> With the relative paucity of newspaper coverage
> in Kansas City of radio from mid-1922 to about 1925, except for the Star's
> hype of its own WDAF, it may be difficult to find contemporary accounts
> of various points in KFIX's history (as in, when did the Reorganized
> Latter-Day Saints buy it, and did that purchase cause WPE to become KFIX,
> or did WPE shut down in favor of KFIX?).
. >    The more you look at this thing, the more questions you get.
>

Hopefully I've got some answers. For the following dates, RSB info has just the apparent month listed, other dates are from DOC records:

(1)
04/05/22 WPE, new station, licenced to Central Radio Company, Kansas City, MO
01/--/23 WPE, still licenced to Central, moved to Independence, supplanting
the very short-lived WPAG (see WPAG entries, below)
06/18/23 WPE deleted
07/03/23 Station relicenced as KFIX, LDS, Independence (the DOC had all
the cards together, so they considered WPE and KFIX to be the same
station)
01/--/25 Call changed to KLDS
09/--/27 Call changed to KLDS-KMBC
03/--/29 Call changed to KMBC
later still: Call changed to KMBZ

(2)
11/--/22 WPAG, new station, licenced to Central Radio Company, Independence
01/--/23 WPAG deleted
				

Hope this helps...

Thomas H. White == Wilmington, NC

>         FACTS ABOUT THE POST'S NEXT RADIO CONCERT.
>       Time--Monday night, 8 o'clock.
>       Wave length--360 meters.
>       Broadcasting station--WRW, Kansas City Post.
>    Note those call letters--WRW!! The only place I have seen those
> call letters is in the copies of the Post articles that I have.

WRW is listed as a new station in the April 1, 1922, Radio Service Bulletin, but it was in Tarrytown, New York. I wonder why the call was in that article...

Jeff Miller

Just before Mark left Missouri, he found mention of the Post's early broadcasts in back issues of Variety at the University of Missouri library. Variety's Kansas City correspondent, Will R. Hughes, focused on the rivalry between the Post and the Star. However, no call letters were mentioned in his reports.

For instance, on March 10, Hughes reported, "The radio craze has hit this part of the country with a vengeance. It is being pushed and promoted by two of the leading papers. [...] So rapid has been the spread of the fad that dealers in radio apparatus report they will be unable to supply the orders for several months."

On May 26, 1922, Hughes reported that Bonfils and Tammen leased the Empress vaudeville theater in downtown Kansas City to new operators right after selling off the Post:

Everything has been done to build the business up to a paying proposition--contests have been worked, prizes given to the children, who were admitted free Saturdays, ten acts of vaudeville and a feature picture have been offered on some of the bills, but the business was spotted, and if the promoters had to pay rent instead of owning the house, it would probably have had to close many weeks ago. Another angle to the affair is that no advertising was carried in the "Star" or "Times." The house being owned by the Kansas City "Post," which has carried on a bitter fight against all the other papers, all of the publicity was carried by their own paper. [...]

As it is, with the sale of the "Post" and the leasing of the Empress to the Drama Players Stock company, Bonfils & Tammen have given up practically all their interests here.

This suggests that, between the newspaper war and the financially weak vaudeville house, Bonfils and Tammen left town to cut their losses.