Musée du son
Sauvegarder, documenter et diffuser le patrimoine sonore
|English Radio in Quebec|
click to enlarge (188 Ko)
Advertisement for Marconi receiver (188 K)
Canadian Wireless, June 1922
See also ANECDOTES OF CFCF’S EARLY YEARS IN RADIO
- CFCF “Firsts”
- Music by Radiophone at the Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto
- Anecdotes of Early Years
- Installation of CFCF in Montreal
- Programming: The Early Years
- Broadcasting in the Schools
- “Diary of a Ham”
- Announcing a Birthday
- Expo 1967
In the early
1920s broadcastes and educational
authorities discussed the subject [of radio in the classroom] from time
but very few schools had radio receiving sets. Some
radio manufacturers loaned sets to schools and a few
broadcasters arranged test programs in co-operation with local
officials, but the costs of equipment were high, and there were
involving curriculum. In due
course, however, the obstacles were surmounted.
School youngsters have not only profited by the lessons learned
radios in the class-rooms, but have won praise from parents and other
who have enjoyed children’s singing in the periods devoted to music. (
An Advertisement for Santa Claus on CFCF
Canadian Wireless, 1922
click to enlarge (175 K)
This comment by Darby Coats, a long-time employee of the
Company who was heavily involved in the early development of radio
appears at first glance to be about bringing radio to children for
educational reasons. But if one
takes another look at this anecdote in the context of the history of
in Canada, one realizes that school broadcasts were also a part of
desire to sell as many radios as possible to Canadian households. Earlier on in the autobiographical/historical
account of his
experiences in radio entitled Canada’s First Fifty Years of
and Stories Stations Tell: Featuring the Pioneer Station XWA later
call letters CFCF 1919-1969, Coats writes with pride about
school children visiting the station and accentuates the
it was because of these trips that some later may have entered
broadcasting as a
career. (Coats n.d., 31) Marconi managers knew, however, that after
station, many more children would probably run home to tell their
much they wanted them to buy a radio set.
Indeed, Coats believed that it was part of Marconi’s role as a
manufacturer and broadcaster to show the public the positive attributes
some firm had to give public demonstrations
of the new thing. Thus, as has been
indicated, it became Canadian Marconi Company’s privilege to show radio
broadcasting and reception in action wherever opportunities occurred,
mid-1919, through 1920, 1921 and 1922 before others in this country
involved in similar activities. (Coats n.d., 40)
certainly see why Coats referred to these
demonstrations as a “privilege” It
seems highly unlikely that the Marconi Company would have demonstrated
provided information to the public without anticipating some kind of
compensation for its trouble.
Up until the 1920s, the main source of revenue for Marconi had
transatlantic and marine communication and the equipment needed for
communication. (Hopkins 1960, 5) Most of their
early experimental work was in “point-to-point
communication rather than for broadcasting entertainment to the general
public.” ( Hopkins 1960, 21) But in early 1920 they began experimenting
broadcasting entertainment programs to anyone who would listen.
Why the change? If the
company was so concerned with the selling of radio equipment for
communication why did it create a radio station that required hefty
for programming and staff? How
would the company generate revenue from the station?
The answer is that radio (and now television) communication has
from the beginning in the private sector. It
is first and foremost a business. Although the Marconi Company promoted
that radio broadcasting was a service to the public, its main ambition
this decade was to sell radio products and technology.
CFCF radio broadcasting station was set up to provide
purchasers with something to listen to. Similarly,
the company set up Scientific Experimental Ltd. to sell radio products
who wished to construct their own sets (amateurs), and published its
magazine, Canadian Wireless, to stimulate interest in the field.
Early Radio and XWA
understand the growth of the Marconi Company of
Canada, it is important to have some background on early government
Although wireless communication technology was in use in Canada
as 1900, the federal government did not begin to regulate it until
1992, 5) The Canadian Wireless Telegraph Act was largely based upon
Act of 1904. Britain legislated that, while radio wireless
communication was in
the hands of the private sector, all sets must be licenced by the Post
It was argued that such licensing was necessary on the grounds that
the authorities must be in position to prevent unauthorized information from leaving the country, to prevent interference with naval communications and to enforce any international wireless agreements Britain might make. (Vipond 1992, 7)
This act was
then forwarded to the Canadian government
with the recommendation that it follow the British example.
Thus, in 1905, the Canadian Wireless Telegraph Act was passed.
virtually identical to that of Britain, except that the control was put
hands of the Department of Marine and Fisheries.
This legislation was not only for private industry, but for
individuals as well. (Vipond 1992, 8)
In 1913, the federal government passed an updated Radiotelegraph
which declared in Article 2(b) that: “Radiotelegraph includes any
system for conveying electric signals or messages including
(Vipond 1992, 9-10) The inclusion of radio-telephones in the act
the federal government authority over the development of all aspects of
including broadcasting into the 1920s. (Vipond 1992, 10)
The Italian Guglielmo Marconi is usually credited with having
wireless telephony or radio. When
he was unable to get funding from the Italian government to pursue his
moved to England in 1897 and set up the Wireless Telegraphy and Signal
to develop the technology commercially. He
changed the name in 1900 to Marconi’s Wireless Telegraphy Company and
establish subsidiary companies in other countries. (Vipond 1992, 6)
Marconi registered the Marconi Wireless Company of Canada in
November 1, 1902 and with the federal government in August 1903.
6). As stated previously, the
primary concern of the Marconi Company was the erection and operation
wireless- telegraph stations on ships and coastal shores for
commercial purposes. (Vipond 1992, 6.) There are a number of versions
as to how
Marconi became firmly established in Canada.
One possible explanation is outlined by Mary Vipond in her book,
Listening In: The First Decade of Canadian Broadcasting, 1922-1932,
she explains that on a trip to North America for the purpose of setting
permanent trans-Atlantic receiving station, Marconi met with Nova
MP Alexander Johnston. Johnston
apparently convinced Marconi that it would be profitable for the
Marconi set up his main North American station in Glace Bay, Nova
Johnston, through his political connections, was able to raise $80,000
the venture. (Vipond 1992, 6.) Vipond
argues that by doing so, a precedent was established:
government was willing to finance the station
in the interests of cheaper communication with Europe, it preferred to
ownership and operation in the private hands of the Marconi firm.
By 1908, the Glace Bay wireless station was fully operational.
this period the Canadian government also contracted with Marconi to
coastal wireless-telegraph stations for ship-to-shore communications.
While these stations (15 by 1907) were owned by the Canadian
they were leased and operated by the Marconi company. (Vipond 1992, 7)
In 1909, Marconi opened a manufacturing plant on Delormier
Montreal for the production of wireless
apparatus in Canada. (Vipond1992, 7) Marconi, along with General
AT&T and Bell Canada, was one of the main firms that continued to
with sound and radio technology during the “teens.” Unable for reasons
competing patents to develop communication systems, these companies
the commercial use of the various parts.
Although a number of companies conducted early radio experiments
Canada, by the end of 1920 only Marconi’s test room XWA in Montreal was
seriously continuing with the work. The
development of XWA into the station CFCF exemplifies the company’s
challenge to wear two hats, namely to
create a radio station while also
developing radio technology. In
March 1919, the executive committee of The Canadian Marconi Company
due to the successful experiments in Glace Bay,
more experimentation was warranted and therefore that an aerial
erected in Montreal. At the same
time, Canadian Marconi employees began to demonstrate their findings to
firms and government offices in Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal.
In September 1920, Fred Barrow and Darby Coats showed the
the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.
Vipond argues that there are several different versions of the
of CFCF. Here are some of the
different stories she found in her research:
Bankart in 1926 ascribed the original idea of
broadcasting in order to sell radio apparatus to Max Smith (Smyth), a
Marconi employee, in January 1920. Sandy
Stewart has written more recently that voice-transmission experiments
December 1918 (which is unlikely) and credits A.J. (A.H.) Morse, the
director, for gambling on producing receiving sets.
Donald Godfrey, in the fullest examination on the subject, has
that “all records agree that speech and music were programmed by 1919"
that “the gradual expansion of CFCF’s
initial service into a continuous pattern of programming intended for
public, took approximately two years.” (Vipond 1992, 17)
There were, however, various broadcasts on CFCF before the
government gave official permission
to extend its programming to 8-10 pm every night of the week (except
January of 1922. (Vipond 1992, 17) In August 1921, with the help of the
Standard, Marconi broadcast the results of a football game. In the fall, the Layton Bros. music store in
advertising Marconi concerts that were “being demonstrated daily.”
1992, 17) Thus, Marconi’s journey
into radio began with the experimentation and selling of
equipment. As we will demonstrate,
even though later the company put more of its efforts into radio
the development of electronic equipment remained its main focus.
Advertisement for the Marconi Company
Canadian Wireless, June 1922
click to enlarge (189 K)
Economics of Radio
From Coats’ manuscript, letters of correspondence from the
Papers at the National Archives of Canada, the Marconi publication, Canadian
Wireless, and its successor, Radio News of Canada, it is
even though Marconi created CFCF, it was still largely
interested in the economic rewards of developing and selling
Marconi’s publication, Canadian Wireless, not only
innovations in radio technology, but also acted as a vehicle for
Marconi’s links with Scientific Experimenter Limited are also
indicative of the company’s persistence in pursuing profits from
sales by attracting new amateurs to the hobby.
Looking at it from another angle, much of CFCF’s early
targeted to those with higher incomes and financial connections, those
afford the relatively expensive sets of the early days.
Last but not least, the Marconi Company helped reduce the costs
by accepting advertising on the station - a practice that sometimes led
When CFCF began to broadcast in the early part of the decade,
a radio station was relatively inexpensive.
Mary Vipond points out that when radio communication began,
a little more than fifty dollars a year and some used equipment
that was needed to open up a station. By
the late 1920s, however, “one well-informed observer estimated, a
investment’ of $54,000 was needed to construct a 500 watt-station and
for one with 5000 watts of power.” (Vipond 1992, 54)
Thus, what was once for Marconi a cheap way to encourage radio
and sales, became quite dear. (It
should be noted, however, that most of the expensive transmitting
by the growing number of stations across Canada was purchased from
Along with the development of more costly radio technology,
also the rising costs of programming. Vipond
costs rose dramatically as the decade
progressed.... While records and
amateur talent sufficed in the first two or three years of radio,
became more sophisticated and demanding as time went on.
Government regulations required that most programs had to be
audiences began to insist that they be “high quality.” ...
Most stations claimed, most of the time, that they lost money;
the profitability of the larger stations, the average profit for all
stations analyzed in 1931 was a measly $415. (Vipond 1992, 55, 58)
clear, therefore, that Marconi needed an extra
source of revenue to keep the station afloat. It
could not be carried permanently as a “loss leader”
for equipment sales.
Among the various methods the Marconi Company used to foster its
and its equipment sales was the founding of a little magazine called Canadian
Wireless, primarily geared towards the ham radio operator.
Marconi used the magazine to promote its products under the
umbrella of a
seemingly friendly publication that encouraged progress.
One of the main features of this magazine was a series called
a Ham,” which among other things, told
the adventures of a young radio ham operator.
Other features included articles on new stations, new
technologies and a
list of the stations that were currently broadcasting.
As well, the magazine contained many ads for Marconi’s
products from the company it was affiliated with, Scientific
Although the direct connection between the Marconi Company of Canada and Scientific Experimenter Ltd. is still debatable, it is clear that a financial relationship existed between these two organizations. Darby Coats makes reference to the company’s retail affiliations with Scientific Experimenter Ltd during his early demonstrations at the CNE:
booth at the Exhibition displayed amateur radio
transmitting and receiving equipment, crystal sets, etc., such as could
purchased from the Company’s retail store on McGill College Avenue,
known as, “Scientific Experimenter Ltd.” (Coats n.d., 30)
At any rate,
the relationship culminated in the
announcement, in the July 1925 issue of Radio News of Canada,
newly renamed Canadian Marconi Company had officially taken over
Experimenter Ltd. of Toronto, which had closed on April 30, 1924. (Radio
of Canada 1925, 15) It is clear that Marconi sold the radio
produced for amateurs and listeners through Scientific Experimenter Ltd.
This was in addition to its continuing business of selling
radio-telegraph communications equipment and its new business of
broadcasting equipment to other newly opened stations.
When CFCF ‘s new location was opened in 1922, Marconi saw this
excellent opportunity to promote is products.
In the June 1922 issue of Canadian Wireless, the editor,
none other than Darby Coats, put two articles on the same page that
the station’s opening and the technology it was using.
The first article, “Broadcasting Station CFCF,” describes
the move of the station to the roof of the Canada Cement Company on
Square where “Radio stores catering to amateurs are springing up
around it.” The article went on:
“Four or five wireless supply shops are already to be found within a
throw of the station, and the indications are that this is to become
Montreal’s amateur radio centre.” (Canadian Wireless 1922, 6)
This article also mentions the Marconi Portable Set which was
temporary operation on a wavelength of 440 metres.”and says that some
set’s particulars were described elsewhere in the issue. (Canadian
1922, 6) These “particulars”
were in fact placed right next to the aforementioned article with a
reading “In temporary use at the Montreal broadcasting station ‘CFCF.’
(Canadian Wireless 1922, 6) The emphasis on the new station and
equipment was highlighted by an italicized statement: “We publish
following particulars regarding the YC-3 set as we believe they will be
interesting to our readers, especially to those who are within range of
‘CFCF’ station.” (Canadian Wireless 1922, 6) Thus Coats made
explicit the link between broadcasting technology and broadcasting
Another aspect of Marconi’s early marketing strategy was the
on wealthier purchasers. An
examination of program listings suggests that CFCF’s programming was
directed to the financial community or the middle and upper classes.
For example, in the August 1922 edition of Canadian Wireless,
station announced that it had made arrangements with the Financial
in Montreal to provide Bulletins from the Montreal Stock Exchange
noon hour program. (Canadian Wireless 1922, 10)
In a programming list published by Radio News of Canada
1923, we see that between 1:00 and 1:40 pm daily except Sunday, along
other news features, Financial and Livestock Market Reports were
News of Canada 1923) This was,
at the time, 50 per cent of CFCF’s programming. The other 50 per cent
devoted to the station’s 7:30-9:30 pm time slot on Monday and Wednesday
evenings in which they played music, theatre and other
programs. This trend appears to
have continued into the mid-1920s. In
the July 1925 issue of Radio News of Canada, the listings show
programming between 12:45 and1:40 pm every day (except Sunday) was
Weather and Stock reports. (Radio News of Canada 1925)
By the late 1920s, however, the programming changed and began to
much more on entertainment interposed with news and commentary. (Radio
Broadcasting Schedules 1928-29) While Stock Market Reports remained a
feature, they became a much smaller proportion of the total scheduling
the station picked up more ordinary “listeners-in” and began to cater
Last but not least, like other radio stations in Canada, by the
CFCF was actively seeking advertisers to help pay for programs in
access to the ears of listeners. Sometimes,
however, the use of advertising for a particular program created
between the company, its management, the public and the federal
example in the early history of CFCF is the “Sir Harry Lauder
of 1929. The problem was that CFCF
wanted to broadcast the singer at the same time that CHYC, a station
the Bell Telephone Company, was broadcasting a church service. During
the 1920s, each station was licensed by the federal government to be
“on-air”only at specific times during the week, because “dual
as it was called, could lead to unacceptable interference between
stations. The Radio Branch of the
Department of Marine and Fisheries, to which CFCF turned for a special
was not very sympathetic to the station’s plea, and in the end the
not aired in Montreal.
Here is how the story appears to have played out.
Apparently CHYC was first asked by the American broadcaster,
NBC, and the
Canadian network Trans-Canada Broadcasting, if it wanted to broadcast
Lauder pick-up on the evening of Sunday, September 1, 1929, but due to
that it was committed to the church service, and would offend many by
it, CHYC management had to refuse the offer.
R.W. Ashcroft of Trans-Canada Broadcasting then turned to CFCF,
agreed to do it. (Ashcroft 1929) However,
in a letter dated July 23, 1929, C.P. Edwards, Director of the Radio
told Ashcroft that “if CHYC is still on its church service broadcast in
hour scheduled for Sir Harry Lauder, we would not approve of the dual
broadcasting. You appreciate the
Department has to be careful in all religious matters.” (Edwards 1929)
Unfortunately for CFCF, there was indeed an overlap in times. CHYC’s church service ran from 6 to 7:15; the
program would be coming from NBC from 7 to 7:15.
(Wren 1929) Jarvis C. Wren of H.C. Goodwin Inc., the program
advertising agency, sent a telegram to Marine and Fisheries Minister
Johnson on July 26 asking for special consideration because of the
popularity of Sir Harry Lauder, but was turned down on August. 2.
Johnston, 1929) The Radio Branch’s ruling was that it could only allow
dual broadcasting as a special exception when the program being added
a church service. Even more
importantly, the program being proposed in this case was a commercial
the Branch was very leery of allowing commercialism to taint the
Sunday, the day of rest. Johnston
We have no
objection to granting permission for
simultaneous broadcasting on Sunday in the case of broadcasts of
interest to the listeners, such as that under discussion.
We do, however, feel that there might be objection from a
of listeners to having Sir Harry Lauder broadcast simultaneously with a
service, particularly, as this broadcast is for the purpose of
Jettick Shoe Company of New York, and we think that a local listener
who is in
the habit of regularly listening to a religious service, and, has found
this particular occasion he was compelled to either listen to an
programme or close down his receiving apparatus, would have reasonable
complaint against the Department. (Johnston 1929)
couple more pleas from Wren to Johnson, the
Branch did not budge, and the program was not aired on CFCF.
A letter from listener Frank Jammes to the Deputy Minister,
September 24, 1929, expressed his
outrage over the government’s handling of the situation:
I am sorry
to say that this incident forces me to
conclude that your Department, as a matter of deliberate policy, is
cater to the English speaking Protestant minority of Montreal without
feelings of the other groups which make up an overwhelming majority of
population of this city and vicinity. I
myself am a French-Canadian, and as such I deeply resent an attitude of
sort. ... I have no objection to the broadcasting of Protestant
services as a matter of principle, but I certainly feel that I have a
protest most vigorously against a policy which aims to please the few
expense of many. If such is the
attitude of your Department, please state whether you are prepared to
all French-Canadians of the obligation of paying the annual license
[fee] of One
Dollar, and to charge the cost of administering your Radio Branch
for whose exclusive benefit it apparently operates. (Jammes 1929)
One can find a number of elements in this story that indicate
some of the
problems with early radio programming. First, there were difficulties
government regulations that seemed arbitrary and peculiar.
Second, the letter just quoted demonstrates that different
listeners had different responses to such broadcasting decisions, which
sometimes broke down along linguistic lines.
Lastly, this is an example of how advertising could be a source
difficulty and complication for the Canadian broadcaster.
CFCF simply wanted to pick up a popular light-entertainment
sponsorship, that would have appealed to many listeners.
Instead it found itself hamstrung by government regulations that
biased against advertising; the government seemed unable to understand
private broadcasters needed to attract large audiences and sponsors
entertaining programming - whatever the origin of the program and
day of the week..
From the evidence presented, it is clear that the Marconi
main interest during the early years of CFCF was the sale of
equipment and that it used its station, CFCF, primarily to further that
company’s affiliation with Scientific Experimenter Limited and the
of the magazine, Canadian Wireless, were both geared toward
success of the parent company, Canadian Marconi.
Most importantly, the types of programs broadcast on CFCF were
at first toward the middle and upper classes and then in the later
popular entertainment that would attract the largest possible number of
listeners. Those listeners would in turn
buy more radio sets, and they
would also entice advertisers to help pay the cost of CFCF’s programs
sponsoring some of them. CFCF is
thus an excellent example of how early Canadian radio broadcasting
the private sector to enhance the profits of equipment manufacturers,
some of the consequences of that road chosen.
R.W., 1929. Letter
to W. D Simpson of CFCF, July 18,
1929, National Archives of Canada, RG97, vol. 149, file 6206-72, part 2.
October. Vol. 1, no. 5.
November. Vol. 1, no. 6.
December. Vol. 1, no. 7.
June. Vol. 2, no. 1.
Darby, n.d.. Canada’s
50 Years of Broadcasting and Stories
Station XWA later given the call letters CFCF
C.P., 1929. Letter
to R.W. Ashcroft, July 23, 1929, National Archives of Canada, RG97,
file 6206-72, part 2.
of Canadian Marconi Co. 1901-1959. (Montreal: Canadian Marconi Co.
Frank, 1929. Letter
to Alexander Johnston, September 24, 1929, National Archives of Canada,
vol. 149, file 6206-72, part 2.
1929. Letter to Jarvis C. Wren, August 2, 1929,
National Archives of Canada, RG 97, vol. 149, file 6206-72, part 2.
Schedules, CFCF, 1928-9. National Archives
of Canada, RG 97, vol. 149, file 6206-72,
of Canada, 1923.
of Canada, 1924.
of Canada, 1925.
Mary, 1992. Listening
In: The First Decade of Canadian
Broadcasting 1922-1932. (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press).
C., 1929. Telegram
to Radio Marine, National Archives of Canada. RG 97, vol. 149, file
C, 1929a. Telegram
to Alexander Johnston, July 26, 1929, National Archives of Canada, RG
149, file 6206-72, part 2.
One advertisement for Santa Claus on CFCF radio
Canadian Wireless, 1922
click to enlarge (49 K)
ANECDOTES OF CFCF’S EARLY YEARS IN RADIO
Fishbane and Mary
Canadian Wireless, December 1921
click to enlarge (88 K)
As the oldest radio station in Canada, CFCF has the distinction
and Quebec of being the station with the most “firsts.”
Darby Coats, one of the station’s founding employees in the
days when it was still operating under the experimental licence XWA,
Fifty Years of Broadcasting, an
“autobiographical” account late in life, in which he described his
experiences in the early years of radio. The Marconi Company of Canada,
owned and operated CFCF, published a monthly magazine, Canadian
in which they not only advertised the new innovations in wireless
but their own station's programming and production. Coats also compiled
reminiscences of many pioneers in a collection called Marconi Men
From these two sources we are able to provide a flavour of early
Quebec and Canada. These anecdotes also demonstrate where people
was going and how it would influence the lives of Canadians.
at the CNE
exhibition in Toronto: “This exhibit, set up in a couple-booth,
a facsimile of a ship’s wireless cabin equipped with a 1.7kw spark
of the then latest type; the emergency spark set and the receiving
exactly as used at sea. . . At appropriate intervals one operator would
the booth to the second exhibit, which was a radio telephone-telegraph
transmitter and receiver similar to the one then in use at XWA, the
Company’s broadcasting station in Montreal.
The radio announcer-operator would wind up the Edison
gramophone and play records, announcing the titles and the location
from time to
time. During the periods when the
receiving set in the Horticultural Building was scheduled to be in
the announcer-operator in the Railway Building would make appropriate
to the listeners there. Another
booth at the Exhibition displayed amateur radio transmitting and
equipment, crystal sets, etc., such as could be purchased
from the Company’s retail store on McGill College Avenue,
Montreal, known as “Scientific Experimenter Limited.” (Coats 30)
following excerpt from Canadian Wireless Magazine, in 1921 was
re- published in Marconi Men
by Radiophone at the Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto
“At the ‘greatest annual event of its kind in the world,’ The
Canadian National Exhibition held in Toronto, it is said that almost
under the sun can be seen or heard and, in keeping with this spirit it
yearly endeavor of those officials responsible for the amusement end of
program to provide the most up-to-date forms of diversion, at once
One such attempt this year which proved highly successful
daily program of radiophone music which was transmitted between the
Noon and 1 p.m. from the offices of the Marconi Company at 93 King
Toronto. Well-known artists were in
attendance at that point and their enjoyable programs were transmitted
radiophone to the Exhibition grounds where a receiving station had been
on the main band stand.
Five standard loud-speakers had been grouped around the flag
pole on the
top of the band stand, and the volume of sound emanating from these
was such that the music, both instrumental and vocal, could be heard
plainly over the greater portion of the extensive grounds.
It would be difficult to estimate the number of people who were
given an opportunity of hearing a real radiophone concert for the first
the daily attendance is well up in the thousands, but from the interest
this feature each day it is safe to say that an army of heretofore
have been convinced that the radiophone is entitled to its own place in
of present wonders.” (Marconi Men Remember, 2-3)
on air: "Among those who
appreciated the Standard’s enterprise was a crowd of nearly 200
football game at Greenfield Park. A
wireless amateur there, Mr. Fred Dombeck, erected a temporary receiver
field and was able to pick up and let the football fans hear the music
fight result. In Chateauguay, another
group of sportsmen listened to the
program, while somewhere on the St. Lawrence, between Montreal and
party heard it in a motor-boat equipped with a receiver for the
“Sports events were put on the air: hockey and later football,
was suggested that this would reduce attendance at the games.
Doubters objected that broadcasting music festivals would keep
home. It didn’t.
The broadcasts did much to stimulate public interest in the
festivals...” (Coats 271)
Anecdotes of Early Years:
Claus on XWA, 1920
first visit to a Canadian broadcasting station was to XWA, on Christmas
1920. As we had arranged a program
of recorded music appropriate for the season, it occurred to us as an
last-minute idea that we might introduce Santa.
The notice was short and there were no sleigh bells, but Santa
the William Street studio and with his familiar “Ho! Ho! Ho!”
reindeer, spoke of dolls and toys for good girls and boys, and dashed
the night. The known audience on
that occasion numbered a few
dozen only, as the event occurred to us too late
for advertising in the press.” (Coats
Claus on the Air in Montreal and Toronto, 1921
Hundreds of eyes opened wide with childish wonder on Christmas
, as a corresponding number of little ears listened to the jingle
sleigh bells and heard Santa Claus himself speaking on the wireless
The genial Santa had promised the Canadian Marconi Company that
speak, by radiophone, to every house equipped with suitable wireless
within two hundred miles of Montreal and Toronto.
More than one amateur radio experimenter felt the weight of his
responsibility that evening and prayed that nothing would go wrong with
to mar the enjoyment of the unusually interested and critical audience
gathered round the magnavox.
On the dot of seven-thirty, as the newspaper advertisements had
the “performance” began. A
voice came through the ether, calling “Mister Santa Claus,” and then,
enough, the sleigh bells jingled louder and louder until the kindly old
gentleman pulled up his reindeer with a “whoa!” and set the ether
with “A Merry Christmas to you all my dears!” How the little faces
Santa told of the wonderful bag-full of presents he was carrying!
He even mentioned names, mind you, and two little girls in
P.Q., hearing theirs, laid down their telephones and said “all right,
we’ll go to sleep now, before he comes!” Then there were nursery rhymes
songs and a poem called “The Night Before Christmas”, and a Brer Rabbit
story, after reading which Santa Claus showed what he could do with
some of the
toys in his bag. He played a
musical box, a tin trumpet and a mouth organ.
He even had an Edison Diamond Disc phonograph, for a “grown-up,”
doubt, and he played some pieces on that also.
Altogether, he was very obliging indeed.
But a busier time was ahead of him.
Punctually at half-past eight, he jumped into his sleigh,
whipped up his
reindeer, and with a shout of “Merry Christmas” drove off on his
among the chimneys. No one saw him,
of course, but kiddies’ minds are bound by no legal demands for visual
evidence. They heard him most
distinctly and believed their ears.
So it happened that, in many a home within the 125,000 square
covered by the wireless transmitter, there toddled off to bed on
Christmas Eve a
youngster who years hence can claim to have heard Santa Claus speaking
first time to Canadian children by radiophone.
Santa Claus was represented at the Marconi office in Toronto by
Eaton and in Montreal by Mr. D.R.P. Coats." (Canadian Wireless, January
1922, reprinted in Marconi Men Remember, 2, 4)
Installation of CFCF in
“The Marconi Company’s broadcasting station at Montreal is
the roof of the Canada Cement Company’s new ten storey building on
Square. Radio stores catering to
amateurs are springing up rapidly all around it.
Four or five wireless supply shops are already to be found
stone’s throw of the station, and the indications are that this is to
Montreal’s amateur radio centre, just as Place d’Armes is its financial
and St. Paul Street its wholesale fur district.
It might be suggested that a growth of such stores in the
vicinity of a
broadcasting station was the natural result of a desire to obtain good
“signals” for demonstration purposes. But
such a suggestion would be unfair to the radio stores, whose receiving
appears to be quite efficient, as well as to “CFCF’s” output, which is
generally conceded to be excellent. As
a matter of fact, it would be difficult to say whether the station or
“got there” first. They all
arrived in May, the month which sees many lease-expired Montrealers
offices and apartments in the great gloried game of musical chairs
the arrival of Spring. Certainly,
no more suitable site for such a station could be found in the city.
In the heart of the shopping and theatre district, it is easily
accessible to the artists who sing, play or speak to their invisible
listeners. Being set back somewhat
upon the roof, the two fifty-foot lattice steel masts do not obtrude
to spoil the imposing picture made by the splendid buildings which form
sides of the square and flank King Edward’s statue.
Although the masts appear clearly in our cover design, they are
not visible from the street. They
are spaced seventy feet apart and carry a seven-strand flat top
A 2 Kilowatt valve transmitter is shortly to be installed.
At present, a Marconi ½ K.W. “YC3" portable wireless
telephone-telegraph set is in temporary operation, on a wavelength of
. . The Marconi Company announces that “commencing on Monday June 3rd,
concerts will be radiated every evening, except Saturdays and Sundays
from 8 to
9 p.m. This is in addition to their
usual daily programme which runs from 1 to 1:30 p.m." (Canadian
June 1922, 6)
Programming: The Early Years:
would open the show, to be followed by a familiar church
concert or recitation of some popular verses, a saxophone solo, a
another piano solo. . .and so on. . .all with unpaid talent.” (Coats 14)
summer evenings when the heat of the passing day added to the
pungency of the atmosphere, squadrons of files [sic] flew in by the
unscreened windows. Quite
frequently an audience of young men and women in the street below
jeered as program items pleased or displeased them.
Being on the second storey of the building, that didn’t bother
of course, we could monitor the phonograph music to some extenct [sic],
the ‘live talent’ contributions.” (Coats 26)
Broadcasting in the Schools:
broadcasters and educational authorities discussed the subject from
time, but very few schools had radio receiving sets.
Some radio manufacturers loaned sets to schools and a few
broadcasters arranged test programs in co-operation with local
officials, but the costs of equipment were high, and there were
involving curriculum. In due
course, however, the various obstacles were surmounted.
School youngsters have not only profited by the lessons
learned from radios in the class-rooms, but have won praise from
other listeners who have enjoyed the children’s singing in the periods
to music.” (Coats 288)
“Diary of a Ham” (excerpts
from Canadian Wireless)
"Diary of a Ham"
Canadian Wireless, 1921
click to enlarge (79 K)
published a serial that told the story, in his own language and
spelling, of a
young lad who discovers the joys of being an amateur ham operator.
This serial not only shows how the Marconi Co. used different
to advertise its products but it also gives us a glance into the
culture of the early 1920s.
Advertisements for the Marconi's Company
click to enlarge (54 K)
shushed, as Bill told me, and heard music.
It must have been miles and miles away and it was ever so
Presently it stopped and a man’s voice said “This concert is
played on an Eddison Dimand Disk fonograf at Montreal.”
Then the man said he was going to play a fox trot, and when it
full swing I bust the fone cords wagging my head. “Now,”
said Bill after a while, “That’s all for
tonite. Don’t you wish you were a
Ham?” “Beleeve me, “ I said, “I wish I hadn’t bought a baseball mitt
last week. I might have got a peach
of a set with the money.” Bill grinned and handed me a catalog.
“Take that home and think it over,” he said, “Perhaps your old
will help you.” “Fat chance of
that, “ I replied, “when I’ve been keeping out of his way for persunal
reasons lately.” Bill said,
“That’s too bad, because a generus father is absolutely essenshul to
in being a Ham.” My domestick
drawbacks looked like putting the tin hat on my becoming a Ham then but
sykerloggical moment (as Aunt Sarah says) it struck me, why my birthday
nearly here! Oh boy; Pa can’t give me a cent less than a dollar! Bill
‘have a good look at the catalog and pick out all the things you want
buy yourself a V24 with the change.” Sometimes
I think Bill’s joking. Never mind
I got back at him before I left. Bill
said he’s writing a book on continuous waves and doesn’t know what to
it. I said what about “Life on a
Lightship.” Bill got wild and
asked me if I thought he was writing a blamed sea story.
“Well,” I said, “What is it, anyway?” “Its all
about Undamped Wireless, you Nut,” he said.
“All right,” I said, “Call it ‘Wireless Without Tears’.” Its funny how Bill flares up over nothing. I
had to go home
without my cap. (To be continued)
This morning at breakfast I said to Pa, “Say Pop, do you know
tomorrow is?” Pa said, “Sure; its Thursday.” Then I said “yes Pop, but
what IS it?” Pa said “It’s the 3rd.” I said “Yes, but what important
event in history happened on the 3rd? Pa stopped buttering a piece of
said “Bless us! How do I know? Let
me see-didn’t Ceaser cross the Delawhere, or something?” Ma broke in
“Oh Pop, don’t teeze the boy,” she said, “You know what tomorrow is.”
Then Pa put down his knife and lent over and patted my shoulder,
at me just as he did when I came through the Tifoid.
“There, little man,” he said- “I knew; you’re anxious for your
birthday to come. You’ll be glad
enough to forget it when your my age- its like shaving-.”
Ma sniffed just then and Pa stopped short and looked at the
clock. “Bless us!” he siad,
“I’ve only ten minutes to make it. -What shall I bring you home?” “A
Wireless.” I said quickly. “Bless us!” he said, rolling his napkin
Ma went for his hat. “That’s a
large order, young man. How can I
buy a- well, all right- let’s talk it over tonite and you come to town
Gee, I was happy when he had gone. I
grabbed Ma round the waist and danced her down the room before she knew
happening. “I’ll be a Ham, Mom,”
I shouted. “You’ll be an orfan,
child!” she gasped, flopping into her chair- “What IS the matter?” So I
told her all about Bill and the ham Club and the funny little gadgets,
queer noises he hears, and everything. Ma
said she feared I’d blow the house up, but I told her Bill had had a
for months and his house hadn’t blown up YET.
Then Ma said it would cost a lot of money.
I said “Think of the fun.” Finally,
anyway, Ma promised she would help me talk to Pa and said I might tell
was going to be a Ham. Bill was
glad to hear the news, you bet. He
gave me a copy of a pome he wrote. Here’s the first verse:-
“Its easy enough to be happy
“With sigs coming in QSA;
“But the Ham worth while
“Is the ham who can smile
“When his aerial’s carried away.”
sensored the other thirteen verses. I don’t blame
him. Its awful stuff.
(To Be Continued.)
I met Pa at the door when he came home, and showed him a bunch
lists Bill gave me. Pa said it was
a pity some of them weren’t written in English so’s a feller could
understand them. ‘For
instance,” he said, “what’s a vacuum bulb when its boiled down? It
like a lamp, sounds like word in a seed catalog, and costs like the
is it?” ‘It IS a sort of lamp,” I said, “But it don’t have so much air
in it as ordinary bulbs; that’s why it costs more.” I had an awful job
explaining this to Pa, but when I told him I didn’t need one yet, he
Then he saw a picture marked “Oscillation Transformer,” and of
he had to ask me what that was, too.” “Its
for receiving,” I said, “Bill has one and he works it like a trombone
he gets the kind of noise he wants, and then he shifts all his other
begins again.” Pa said it sounded
exciting. Ma called us to supper
then, but Pa carried one of the price lists with him and took a look at
in a while. Ma said she had been
talking to a lady who had a son who had a wireless.
The lady was glad, because the son had dropped playing round the
since he got the wireless fever. All
the neighbours were tickled to death, and the cop had got put on
disarmament, and Ma said the only trouble the lady had now was getting
to bed at nights. Ma said she hoped
Pa WOULD get me a wireless because SHE’D see I went to bed early all
Pa said he’d buy me one in the morning, sure, and I had better
to Bill’s place and ask him for a prescription.
“A PRESCRIPTION?” I said. “Yes,” said Pa, “ a list of the
instruments you’ll need to start with.” So I ran over to Bill’s and got
the list. It came to thirty
dollars, but Bill said it wasn’t a cent too much to pay for a receiver.
Bill gave me another pome, but I’m not showing it to Pa YET,
might scare him off letting me be a Ham.
“There, little Ham, don’t cry!
“Your transformer is bust, I know.
“You may well look blue, for your bank roll, too,
“Went West quite a while ago.
“So kiss your transmitter a fond good-bye-
“There, little Ham, don’t cry!”
Announcing a Birthday, 1927:
“On July 1st. of this year  an historic event took place in which
Company’s beam station at Drummondville and station CFCF, Montreal,
participated with distinction. This
was the great Jubilee broadcast from Parliament Hill, Ottawa, arranged
commemorate Canada’s Diamond Jubillee. Through
the co-operation of the telegraph and telephone companies and the
stations throughout the country, the broadcast was heard from sea to
Canada and the transmission from the beam station at Drummondville was
very clearly in many foreign lands.” (Coats 239-240)
“July 1st., 1927 was (an) important day in Canadian history, for
marked the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation and was celebrated in a
unthought of by the “Fathers” when they drew up the document which was
bind the parts of this country into a nation.
Even the telephone wasn’t invented in 1867, and if speaking by
an amazing achievement, how much more astonishing would the idea of
speech and music have seemed to them!
Twenty-two radio broadcasting stations across Canada
the addition of WWJ, Detroit, which covered a portion of Ontario then
adequately reached by a Canadian station. Readying
all the wire systems required for the event presented difficulties, as
the telephone and telegraph systems were at that time equipped with
specially designed for such transmission. By
commendable co-operation, however, the hook-up was accomplished and the
was in every way a complete success.
There were three programs, in the morning, afternoon and evening
respectively. Massed choirs and the
inauguration of the Carillon at Ottawa, playing The Maple Leaf
Canada and God Save the King featured the morning broadcast.
In the afternoon the Carillon was heard again, and a
Centenary Choir with the added voices of ten thousand children from
Hull, Que. and Ottawa who sang in French and English and were followed
appropriate addresses by eminent speakers.
In the evening, the Governor-General, Lord Willingdon; Prime
L. Mackenzie King and other speakers were heard.
There were solos by Eva Gautier and Allan McQuhae; a poem
especially for the occasion by Bliss Carman and read by Margaret
instrumental items by the Bytown Troubadours, conducted by Charles
contributions by the Chateau Laurier orchestra, conducted by James
The success of the Diamond Jubillee of Confederation broadcast
believed to have done much to speed up the completion of permanent
facilities across Canada. Also,
assistance given by the Canadian Marconi Company through the use of its
station at Drummondville in transmitting test programs overseas, and
re-broadcasts at Yamachiche, Que. demonstrated very effectively
of the Beam stations on such occasions.” (Coats 272-273)
Expo 1967: Marconi’s
television stations had the opportunity to provide the public an
account of the
day to day events.
“For CFCF Radio, CFQR-FM and CFCF-TV, involvement in the World’s
took many forms to ensure that the stations were, [sic] in the main
the EXPO news, instantly in touch with major programming events and
and prominently in public view.
The Broadcasting Division had a futuristic studio designed and
in the Pavilion of Economic Progress. Many
programs originated from this location and many of the stations’ on-air
personalities were seen by tens of thousands of visitors touring the
building’s exhibit hall. Many of
the programs produced by the Company’s Broadcasting Division on the
EXPO were later scheduled on other radio and television stations across
and the United States.” (Coats 253)
Magazine. October, 1921, November,
1921, December, 1921, January, 1922; National
Archives of Canada Documentation Centre.
Coats, D.R.P. Canada’s
50 Years of Broadcasting and Stories Stations Tell:
Station XWA later given the call letters CFCF
Canadian Marconi Company Library, Montreal.
Men Remember. Unpublished manuscript, n.d.,
Canadian Marconi Company Library, Montreal.
|English Radio in Quebec|
CFCF: The Early Years of Radio (see also Anecdotes...)
In the Name of the "Public Interest": CFCF and some Controversies...
Relations among the English Stations in Montreal
Chronological Master List of Quebec's English-Language Radio Stations
|Galerie d'images / Gallery||Extraits sonores / Sound Clips|
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© 1997 Phonothèque québécoise / Musée du son.
Mise à jour le 29 juillet 2004