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The Many Radios of Gilfillan Brothers, Inc. By Blake Dietze
In the late 1920‘s through the late 30‘s, almost every west coast radio manufacturer had some relationship with the Gilfillan Brothers. What follows is a brief history of Gilfillan, and an attempt to expose many of the brands that were built, at least in part, in the Gilfillan factories in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Waukegan (Illinois). Gilfillan was arguably the best-known radio manufacturer on the west coast during the late twenties and early thirties. The Company‘s roots begin around 1912 when Sennet Gilfillan purchased his uncle‘s smelting business in Los Angeles shortly after graduating from Stanford University. Sennet was joined later that year by his younger brother, Jay, and the company was incorporated in 1914 under the name Gilfillan Brothers Smelting and Refining Company. In 1915 the company ventured into the automotive components industry (manufacturing products similar to Atwater Kent), becoming the first company on the west coast to manufacture and distribute products made of Bakelite. In 1921 the company was re-organized and shortened its name to Gilfillan Brothers. 1921 also marked the year that Gilfillan entered the radio industry offering radio parts to amateur radio operators and wireless enthusiasts. The company continued to design, build, and market radios through the late 1940‘s changing it‘s name to Gilfillan Corp. in the mid-1950‘s. Gilfillan was eventually purchased by ITT in 1963 and still operates as ITT Gilfillan today, building equipment for Air Traffic Control systems. Gilfillan Brothers built its first radios using a license from Hazeltine as part of the Independent Radio Manufacturers (IRC) to avoid RCA‘s strangle-hold on radio design patents. In 1927 RCA sued several members of the IRC, claiming that the Hazeltine design infringed on RCA‘s neutralization patents, and the courts agreed. After lobbying RCA for a costly license, they received territorial rights to the RCA patents. By working with RCA, and licensing otherwest-coast radio manufacturers, Gilfillan was able to defray some of the licensing costs (and royalty payments to RCA).
Here is a fairly comprehensive list of radio manufacturers known to have ties with Gilfillan Brothers during the late 1920‘s and early 1930‘s:
Advance Electric (Falck)
Balkeit Barker Brothers (Invincible and Templetone) Breting
Consolidated (Mission Bell)
Continental Radio Co.
Davis Haynes (contracting for Montgomery Wards)
Golden Bear Radio
Griffin Smith (Royale)
Herbert Horn (Tiffany Tone)
J.W. Robinson (Autocrat)
Los Angeles Radio
Mission Bell (Trinity, Freedson, Florette,)
Royale Radio Mfg.
Shelley Standard (Radio Apparatus)
Western Auto (Western Air Patrol)
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