Atwater Kent (an online exhibit)

Arthur Atwater Kent started the Kent Electrical Manufacturing Company in 1895 making motors and fans. In 1902, he started manufacturing small electrical devices at hiscompany in Philadelphia and soon branched outinto automotive components and eventually radios. Early Atwater Kent radios were constructed on wooden planks that became known as “breadboards.” The absence of a case permitted these radios to exhibit their quality components and sold for very high prices. “Breadboards” are highly prized by antique radio collectors.

Atwater Kent radios were later produced in chassis that fit beautiful wooden cabinets manufactured by the Red Lion, Kiel and Pooley companies. At one point during the 1920s, his radio company was the world’s leader. He spent $500,000 on advertising in 1924. By 1927, he was spending many millions on printed advertising and his radio show, The Atwater Kent Hour, was the most popular show on radio.

The depression put a damper on the sales of the more expensive console radios that commanded the top prices. Some companies survived by switching to the manufacture of smaller table-model radios and by sacrificing quality. Atwater Kent tried a number of cost-cutting measures to keep his company afloat. However, in 1936, he closed his factory doors and retired to Hollywood to spend his remaining years hobnobbing with stars of society and the movie industry.

The Atwater Kent factory which was located at 4745 Wissahickon Avenue in North Philadelphia can still be seen with the name engraved above the door. The Kiel furniture company that manufactured many of the beautiful tables and desks to house Atwater Kent Radios is still in business in Philadelphia.