Battery Operated Radios
of the 1920s & '30s
Few homes in the early 1920s where wired for AC operated appliances.
True, many had electric lights that were ceiling mounted but that's
about the extent of the AC wiring. Electric operated radios first
appeared on the market around 1926 and were promoted as
*"Light Socket" operated"
and showed a picture of the AC wire plugged into the ceiling's light
socket. Up 'til that time all radio sets were battery operated and required
more than one type of battery. There was the "A", "B" & "C" supply.
While all radios did not require a "C" battery, all needed the "A & B"
supply. The "A" battery was for the tube filament supply. For most
radios that would operate a
loud speaker (which
was usually external), that supply was 6 volts and
was usually provided for a standard car battery. Some radios
incorporated "Dry Cell" tubes, these were mostly smaller radios with
not enough power to operate a loud-speaker. These dry-cell tubes
typically required a 3 volt "A" supply and was available from the
standard No.6 battery. The "B" supply (B+) was the high voltage supply and
varied considerably; from 22.5 - to 135 volts (multiples of 22.5
volts). The radio's tube count and the loud-speaker power output
determined the high voltage supply needed. The "C" battery was used in
some circuits to improve the sound quality. Battery radios of the type described
above were made until about 1930.
Few radios made after 1930 were of the type described above as the
switch to AC power became the "norm". Battery power radios of the ‘30s
were mostly sold for rural use where electricity had not yet arrived.
Power for these type radios was derived from what was called a “battery pack
which contained all the batteries needed to operate the radio. Radios
that used such batteries had a multi-pin plug that plugged into the
battery pack. These battery packs were special to particular models and
not universal for other brands and models and there were many, many of
these type battery packs. Such radios were made through-out the 1930s
into the ‘40s. These are commonly referred to as “Farm Radios” and were made
for rural areas that were not get wired for electricity. These radios
came in all types of cabinetry from console (floor models), wood table
sets and portable models.
of some of these AC operated radios used this term as the few homes at
that time that were wired for AC power, many did not have wall
receptacles and a plug adaptor had to be screwed into a light socket.