KDKA Memories: Celebrating 95 Years of KDKA Radio

On November 2, 1920, the Westinghouse Electric Company of East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania launched the world’s first broadcast of delivering the 1920 election results to listeners. This year we celebrate 95 years of broadcasting and we couldn’t have made it this far without our loyal listeners, and many thanks to George Westinghouse!

To celebrate 95 years we want to know what makes KDKA Special to you.

Call the Westinghouse Memories hot-line at 412-353-1155 to record your favorite KDKA memory. We’d love to hear your favorite KDKA Memories!

Or, tweet us your favorite KDKA memory @KDKARadio and use #KDKA95.

The KDKA Memories page is brought to you by Westinghouse Electric Company LLC.

Westinghouse

Frank Conrad of Wilkinsburg was assistant chief engineer of Westinghouse Electric.  An inventor who was fascinated with technology, Conrad built of a transmitter, which he housed on the second floor of his Wilkinsburg garage. This experimental station was licensed 8-X-K and was the forerunner of KDKA Radio.

The U-S Department of Commerce, Bureau of Navigation – which served as the radio licensing agency of the day — issued the first radio license ever, to KDKA, on October 27th, 1920.

Many people ask if “KDKA” stands for anything — and the simple answer is: no. The call letters “KDKA” were assigned from a roster maintained to provide identification for ships and marine shore stations, these being the only regular services then in operation under formal license by the Federal Government. “KDKA” was simply the next set of call letters available on the roster.

 

Plans were finalized with the Pittsburgh Post morning newspaper to acquire election returns by telephone. The election night broadcast, which began at 6-pm on Tuesday, November 2nd, 1920, originated from a shack on the roof of the K Building of the Westinghouse Electric Company “East Pittsburgh Works” in Turtle Creek, PA.

Four men basically manned that first broadcast:
Engineer William Thomas… telephone line operator John FrazierR.S. McClelland, a standby … and Leo Rosenberg, radio’s first announcer.

The election results were relayed to about a thousand listeners, who learned through this incredible new medium, that Warren Harding beat James Cox in the race for the Oval Office.

RELATED: See photos from our 95 years! Click the image below.

Moving to Gateway Center9.jpg

 

KDKA HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS

January 1921: Harold Arlin was KDKA (and radio’s) first full-time  announcer. He was a Westinghouse Electric employee before becoming a broadcaster.

January 2, 1921: KDKA provided its first remote broadcast by airing a religious service from Calvary Episcopal Church.

August 21, 1921: KDKA became the first radio station to broadcast a major league professional baseball game, announcer Harold W. Arlin called the Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Philadelphia Phillies game from Forbes Field.

October 8, 1921: KDKA aired the first college football game, West Virginia Mountaineers against the Pittsburgh Panthers.

December 4, 1922: First musical group established exclusively for radio broadcast: The KDKA Little Symphony.

1928-1934: KDKA studios in the William Penn Hotel (Downtown).

1934-1956: KDKA occupies the entire 3rd floor of the Grant Building.

The Grant Bldg studios housed large studios which held the KDKA Orchestra… and even the Westinghouse Kitchen, where Evelyn Gardiner hosted KDKA’s Home Forum broadcasts.

January 1, 1951: a couple named Ed and Wendy King launched Party Line.

1955: KDKA began regular broadcasts of the Pittsburgh Pirate baseball games and continued for 51 straight years. Then in 2012, the when KDKA-FM began carrying Pirate games.

1956: KDKA moves to Gateway Center.

1946: First year of KDKA’s Children’s Hospital Campaign

Mid 1950s: KDKA makes the switch from many network serials and soaps, to all-local programming.

1976: KDKA’s first mobie studio – The Incredible Rainbow Machine

July 23, 1982: KDKA becomes first station to broadcast in AM stereo.

1983: KDKA’s first Spaghetti Breakfast takes place in Market Square.

November 2, 2000: KDKA opens 50th anniversary time capsule (from 1970), in Gateway Center. Places new time capsule to be opened in 2050.

KDKA       HIGHLIGHTS OF NEWS STORIES

Stock Market crash of 1929

St. Patrick’s Day flood of 1936

WW II

JFK assassination, 1963

Arrival of the Beatles to Pittsburgh in 1964

Moon landing, 1969

Pittsburgh’s Renaissance II

Organ transplants in Pittsburgh – Dr. Thomas Starzl – 1980s

Ashland Oil tanker spill on the Mon river – 1988

Death of Mayor Richard Caliguiri – May, 1988

Space Shuttle disasters in 1986 & 2003

Gulf War 1991

New Pittsburgh International Airport opening in October, 1992

USAir Flight 427 crashes on approach to Pittsburgh in Sept., 1994

New Allegheny County Jail opens May, 1995 (Cigna stays overnight and broadcasts live in-jail next morning).

Tornadoes on Mount Washington, June 1998.

Close Presidential elections in 2000 & 2004.

September 11, 2001.

War in Iraq 2003

Hurricane Ivan flooding: Sept 17, 2004

Below are vignettes of the history of KDKA Radio created by KDKA Reporter James Garrity. Throughout these recordings, you'll hear familiar voices including Mike Pintek, Jack Bogut, Bob Koplar, Father Ron Lengwin, Bill Green, and many more!









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