Thursday, July 3, 2014




Definition of "nostalgia." Your nostalgia something did not smell right." (Ouch! Please excuse you humble author, who  is given to the sin of punning. And did you hear the one about  . . . (No! Stop!--OK) . . . the King's jester who was about to be hanged because of his constant punning. Then they thought: "He's a good jester.  If he promises never to pun again, we'll let him live." When the jester heard the good news, he couldn't resist, and said:  "No noose is good noose." And they hanged him.  (Enough already!)  

 Let's try again. "Nostalgia"--the definition according to the Google-onians, who know everything:  

. . . a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

And we have a lot of that in this Post 10, beginning with nostalgia  about the Zenith Distributors, who were vital to the success of Zenith, yet were put out of  business when Zenith went bankrupt. Also, nostalgia for Lost Chicago, and lost Chicago Manufacturing, and nostalgia for old Zenith radios and televisions, and nostalgia for the maker of The Majestic Radio--Grigsby-Grunow company, and finally, nostalgia for the McMillan-McDonald arctic exploration.   
The Zenith Distributors  were vital to the success of Zenith.  There were the eighty-nine  Zenith distributors located throughout the continental U.S.A.  We touched upon what the distributors did in Post 7, now in this Post 10,  one the largest Zenith distributors will be described in greater detail. The Distributor was--

FIRST, let us review what the distributors did as shown by the ServiceWorld magazine cover. (Yes, you've seen it before in Post 3! But please be patient. )--

What does a Distributor do?  Walter Fisher answered that question: A distributor is a wholesaling firm that buys products such as television sets, radio and stereo sets, and parts and accessories from Zenith. The distributor resells this merchandise  to dealers, who in turn, sell to customers.
  There are (were!) 89 Zenith distributors located throughout the United States and Canada. Here is a page from the ServiceWorld story about the  J.A. Williams Company, that tells how a Mrs. Fitzurka found satisfaction in a Zenith television set--

So another Zenith customer was satisfied.  Let's take a look at another page of J.A. Williams Company and its  lovely people--          
Note the picture caption where it says a buffet supper or lunch is served  to employees of independent shops after a meeting. To says that Zenith "cossetted" its supporters  is not an overstatement!

Another  Zenith Distributor.   One of the biggest , was--

So, to sum it all up:  By means of its distributors, Zenith was able to offer a range of essential services. Yes, the quality went in at the factory, but the distributors ensured that that quality was maintained for the life of the product.

However--all the Zenith Distributors are  gone now! Those  stories and those photos date back 40 years. When Zenith went bankrupt in 1988 (the cause of which will be described in forthcoming Posts), the jobs of those distributor people were gone, as well.  A search was made to see whether the distributors interviewed survived, but apparently none did. It is hoped that they were able to find another Zenith-like prime company to distribute for, or otherwise diversify.

                                                             * * * * * *

One of our devoted readers, who goes by the name "Art H.," suggested that the name of the wife of Eugene F. McDonald  was "Inez," rather than "Marianne."  I queried McDonald's daughter, Marianne, about that--

And Marianne responded:  “Her  maiden name is Elba Inez Riddle.  She was an accomplished pianist and composer, studied at the Chicago Musical College, and her music was performed by the Chicago symphony Orchestra. She spoke five languages fluently.  And she was beautiful!”

                                                                          * * * * * *

You may believe that the products of Zenith--the radios and television sets and other items have been forgotten! Not so! Just go to this website www.radioatticarchives.com  and scroll down through the hundreds  of radio manufacturers to the name Zenith. There you will find  224 images of  Zenith radios, including Zenith's first radio sets: for example,Karl Hassel's Paragon (1R), which was described in Post 2, and the Amplifigon (3R) which Karl  mentioned.  
  Visit the Radio Attic Archives.  You will find it the most  fascinating place, with 11,400 old radios listed and made by manufacturers with once-familiar names such as Admiral, Atwater-Kent, Crosley, Emerson, Farnsworth, Hallicrafters, Kent, Motorola, Philco-ford, Packard-Bell, Warwick,  et al

You may recall a Zenith radio  you were particularly fond of, but discarded years ago. You may find it among the offerings of the antique radios club of Illinois:
www.antique-radios.org.  You may buy  it, or if you have some old radios yourself, get it by “swapping” one of yours for another member’s radio.   The antique radios club of Illinois has periodic swap meets for that purpose. 


  The photo above shows a swap meet of  the Illinois  antique radios club.  There are actually 55 antique radio clubs in the USA,  and 49  clubs internationally.   For the full list, which  includes  clubs  nation-wide, click on--             

             Who would have ever thought that there would be so much interest in antique radios!
     Join in the fun! Join a club!
                                                                           * * * * * * * *
The odd-looking device  shown below is the Zenith Uniscope NVS-404A Light Amplifier.  Yes, it amplifies light to provide a clear image of the target.  It won’t work in Mammoth Cave or in a coal mine where there is absolutely no light,  but it will provide a clear image of a target wherever there the slightest presence of light,  such as on a moon-less night.  It was a product of Zenith's Government and Special Products  Division.

 It was used to good effect during the Viet Nam war against truck traffic traveling at night  along the Ho Chi Min trail that ran from China to supply the Viet Nam army.  The sides of a slow-flying plane such as an old DC-3 were opened and the plane was fitted out  with 50-caliber machine guns and Gatling-like cannons, all aimed at a predetermined target.  The targets were clearly visible with the  Zenith light amplifier.  The plane would circle the target area where the supply trucks were passing. The drivers were chained in their trucks to prevent them from taking early departure when under fire.  The trucks were like rows of sitting ducks, and of course destroyed in bursts of fire.  (Note: However, the destroyed trucks were merely pushed out of the way  and the unending train of trucks on the Ho Chin Min trail  continued like a trail of ants. But it did halt traffic temporarily. What a loser for us that war was! )

A small group of Zenith employees who had developed the amplifier under government contract pooled their Zenith profit-sharing money and formed a company to manufacture the light amplifier, then they sold the company.  They got their profit-sharing money  back; in fact, they all retired as millionaires.  Ferd Fender, where are you now?  (Ferd was one of the participants, and the only name The Author recalls). And hey!—the light amplifier itself  is really quite impressive, is it not?  --typical of the Zenith quality whatever Zenith manufactured.   And many thousands have been  manufactured. In fact, the U.S. Government has been giving thousands  of them away as army surplus to police departments all over the country to assist in surveillance—surveillance of  us—we U.S. citizens!

In short, it proved to be an item of immense value and those who manufactured it made a bundle.  It was also a product that was given away during the "great divestment" that occurred when Zenith was in financial trouble.  It was one of the "babies thrown out with the bathwater." 
                                                                   * * * * * * * *
IT WAS IN 1928 IN THE RICH VILLAGE OF RIVER FOREST,ILLINOIS that a mansion was built—a mansion that cost over a million dollars—a fabulous sum in those days, even for River Forest.  The neighbors heard that the owner was  a chap named “Grunow,”  a partner in  The Grisby-Grunow company.   The mansion had a bowling alley, a mammoth swimming pool, and even gold-plated bath room fixtures! The Grigsby-Grunow company made radios under the name “Majestic.”   The price of the  Majestic model shown below was  $169.50, a big price in those days.                                     
The point of this dissertation is  that  if one could build a mansion like that,  the radio business must have been  fabulously profitable, and it was --in the later 1920’s.  But it was not so the following decade of the  1930’s—the years of the Great Depression, when the Grigsby-Grunow Company went bankrupt.  (Zenith, too, had trouble during the depression, but that is a story yet to be told.) 
A footnote:  The Grunow mansion was eventually bought  by Anthony Accardo, who was known to be in a profitable business of another type.  
* * * * * * * *
LOST CHICAGO!  Chicagoans will love this. Just click on this address-- http://www.craigslostchicago.com/lost-mfg.php    and photos of lost manufacturing  industries will be revealed. (Thanks to Don Gayle for recommending this!)  
This name is well-remembered--
Florsheim shoes are now manufactured in India.

Also listed are Schwinn Bicycles / 1718 N. Kildare Ave. & 1856 N. Kostner Ave. Chicago, IL. , 1895-1982 (Bicycles once made in America are made in China now); Tucker Autos/ 7401 S. Cicero Ave. Chicago IL. (1947-1949), and many more! 

(Note:  Tucker's  autos never succeeded. The final model couldn't go backwards, and went "put-put."  Critics   said it "lo0ked like an Oldsmobile sucking a lemon." But if you have one , they are worth a bundle, now.)

And this gem--

 --a product of American Flyer, located at 2818 South Halsted Street.

--and  THIS  gem, also lost--


Those are examples in Lost Manufacturing. Other Lost Chicago items in the Craig's Lost Chicago http://www.craigslostchicago.com/  are these, which are listed in the banner at the top of the website, and you can access them by clicking on one of them--


Become a kid again! When your are on the Lost Chicago website (see address above) click on LOST TV AND RADIO, and you can view posters for  shows such as Kookla, Fran, and Ollie; Howdy Doody, Bozo's Circus, the Ding Dong School, Clutch Cargo,  and many others.

                                                                  * * * * * * * *

                                                             Jean and John's Antique Radio Collection,

                                                                  * * * * * * * *

Zenith made cabinet radios in the early years. The one shown above is  the “Zenith 1004 Stratosphere” model.
In the 1929’s and -30's, kids used to lie on the floor with the Zenith Stratosphere radio  towering and  booming over  them, and listen for hours to radio shows such as The Lone Ranger, Harold Teen, and Little Orphan Annie.  And for the adults, it was Amos and Andy.  The Amos and Andy show was a blackface show that was started back in the vaudeville days by two white actors named Corell and Godsden. It was a much-loved show because of the  warmth of its colorful characters—Amos with his beloved wife Ruby (when she died, the nation wept), and bumbling Andy:  “Buzz me, Miss Blue.”  Despite their worth, shows like that could never be broadcast now.  We have come a long way, but have lost something in the journey. 
--and those same kids  of the 1929's went on to become the soldiers, nurses, and members of the Woman's Army Corps  in World War II. It was a war in which over a million
of those kids were casualties. (Wikipedia)

                                                                        * * * * * * * *

Commander McDonald (right)  is shown with Commander McMillan in a 1923 photo.  Their association is described in connection with an exploration of the Arctic sponsored and commanded by McMillan, and which included explorer Richard Byrd.  During this exploration, McDonald introduced short-wave radio to the world.  He proved the efficacy of  short-wave radio by broadcasting on-sight stories about the exploration, and even short-wave broadcast songs  sung by  Eskimos! As a result of his demonstration,  the navies and commercial shippers adopted short-wave radio as the best means of world-wide communication.  (Another Zenith "first!") The story of the exploration and the dangers  experienced by the explorers is told in a book titled “dangerous crossings,” available from Amazon.com, as shown below.  That  sure is a great price--from $0.24 new!  Snap one up! It is a great read.
The aircraft shown resembles a flying boxcar.  It relied on one engine, and could land in water, and snow if the right consistency, on its skid.  The wings were detachable  which made it possible to transport three of the flying boxcares by boat for the expedition. 

SO THAT IS IT FOR POST TEN!   POST 11 will continued in this vein until we come to the account of why Zenith failed and who was responsible.  And it was not only a failure of Zenith, but of the entire consumer products industry, which was handed to Japan on the proverbial "silver platter."  It is a story to make the good angels of American industry weep.

 Please encourage readership of the blog.  If it doesn't reach enough of the former Zenithites,  your friends and associates, and the public in general, then the memory of Zenith Radio (and Electronic ) Corporation, will be truly lost.  And that should never happen! Google provides careful evidence of readership, and it hasn't proved overwhelming, as indicated by the readership response for June 24, and ensuing days.   

But maybe better. . .  next time?

And don't forget the space for comments below.   I am always thrilled to hear from you.
 (And  receive your helpful articles!)
Apology: "Links" have been giving me trouble.  When you click on an internet address (also called an URL--"universal address locator") the website is supposed to appear.  If not, you will have to copy and paste the web address  into your internet address bar. Establishing a working link  is one of the things that drive me  crazy about this blogging system.










  1. Good interesting article! Keep it up.

  2. I enjoyed the article and the was happy to have learned new facts about Zenith.
    Thank you.