Forums :: Resources :: Features :: Photo Gallery :: Vintage Radio Shows :: Archives :: Books
Support This Site: Contributors :: Advertise


It is currently Oct Thu 23, 2014 6:52 am


All times are UTC [ DST ]



Post New Topic Post Reply  [ 33 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next
Author Message
 Post subject: A Short History of Truetone Radio and Western Auto
PostPosted: Apr Sun 20, 2008 8:09 am 
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Apr Wed 09, 2008 3:37 am
Posts: 13065
Location: Little Rock, Arkansas
Image

Truetone was the private label radio, television and electronics brand of Western Auto Supply Company of Kansas City, Missouri. Western Auto was a company founded in 1909 to sell tires and automobile supplies for the Model T Ford and other cars through its catalogs and, starting in 1913, through retail stores in Kansas City and other major cities. In 1915, Western Auto was split into two companies, one in California and one in Kansas City. These were separate companies with a common founder and they had virtually identical catalogs and merchandise offerings. The two companies merged again in the mid 1950s.

In the late 1920s, radio was taking the country by storm and Western Auto was looking for new items to add to its merchandise lines. After selling radio tubes under its "Wizard" brand in the 1920s, the company offered its first Truetone brand radios in 1931. Truetone was the radio brand sold by Western Auto of Kansas City while the California company sold its radios under the name "Western Air Patrol."

Truetones were never made by Western Auto itself but, like many private brands, were made by several manufacturers who were able to offer quality radios at a good wholesale price. Over the years Truetones were made by the same companies that manufactured private label electronics products for many major nationwide or regional retail chains. These manufacturers included Admiral, Belmont Radio, Wells Gardner, Detrola, Kingston Radio, Warwick, Air-King, Stewart-Warner, Maguire Industries, McGrade Manufacturing, Connecticut Telephone and Electric, Electronic Laboratories, Tele-Tone Radio, Fada Radio & Electric, Telechron, Sentinel Radio and others. The nearest Western Auto came to actually owning a manufacturer of radios was in the 1960s when it purchased Midland Radio and Electronics, also of Kansas City; but Midland's products were also largely made by contractors, primarily in Asia.

Truetone became a very popular brand of radio, particularly in small towns and cities where Western Auto, starting in 1935, contracted with local merchants to operate as Western Auto Associate Stores. Millions of Truetone radios were sold in these stores and in Western Auto's own hundreds of retail outlets in larger cities. By 1940 the company was offering many different designs of Truetone radios and record players with table, console and portable models powered by batteries and standard 120-volt current.

The Truetone line disappeared for a couple of years during World War II as electronics manufacturers switched to producing items needed by the military. By 1947 Western Auto was again offering Truetone radios and record players and had added Truetone televisions. The top of the line post-war radios included the new FM frequency band. By the 1960s, Truetones were sold in over 5,000 Western Auto stores in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico and Guam.

Truetone radios, televisions, record players, tape recorders, hi-fi systems, car radios, CB radios, tubes and even musical instruments were sold by Western Auto until 1981, when the company decided to cease marketing electronics products under its private brand of Truetone.

Today, millions of Truetones continue to give good service and numerous models have become prized collector's items, selling at auction for many times their original price. Western Auto was sold to Advance Auto of Roanoke, Virginia in 1998 and has ceased operations. Advance Auto operates stores in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands under the Western Auto name.


Image


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Apr Sun 20, 2008 8:20 am 
Member

Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 1343
Location: England
Thanks for this input. I have printed it out and will read it more closely and put it with my radio info.

Gary


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Apr Sun 20, 2008 10:45 am 
Member

Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 1024
Location: New York City
I enjoyed gaining the knowledge about the Truetone/Western Auto.
Hey, maybe we could have a historical or company history thread?


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Apr Sun 20, 2008 12:41 pm 
Member

Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 3828
Location: Berkley, Michigan
Nice article Mo, The Truetones you have pictured look like Detrola built models. I have only one Truetone and it was built by Detrola. Like Sears Silvertone and Wards Airline, they sold some high end stuff along with the economy sets.

Image


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Apr Sun 20, 2008 1:25 pm 
Member

Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 4924
Location: Bossier City, Louisiana
Thank-You ! Very informative and well written I might add.

Thanks again,
Dave

_________________
Dave

http://pages.suddenlink.net/davesradios/


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Apr Sun 20, 2008 1:37 pm 
Member

Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 4391
Location: St. Louis, MO, USA
Informative reading! We need more essays like this.

Quote:
Truetone was the radio brand sold by Western Auto of Kansas City while the California company sold its radios under the name "Western Air Patrol."

I presume this means we would expect to find many more W.A.P radios west of the Rockies, and Truetones in the east and midwest? What I mean is, did they have a marketing agreement to distribute only in their designated territories?


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Apr Sun 20, 2008 2:53 pm 
Member

Joined: Oct Sat 13, 2007 5:30 pm
Posts: 2408
Location: Loveland, Colorado
I love this kind of stuff. Thanks!


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Apr Sun 20, 2008 3:03 pm 
Moderator

Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 21365
Location: Detroit, MI USA
Detrola had one assembly line dedicated to the production of the Truetone brand for Western Auto from around 1936 to the early 40's. When orders exceeded the capability of that assembly line, another would be temporarily switched over. One former manager told me that in some of those years, Truetone production was well over 25% of Detrola's total output of radios. Detrola also built some other entry-level sets which Western Auto sold under the Pla-Mor brand. Some have turned up with Western Auto information rubber stamped on the bottom of the wood cabinet.

The main differences in the radio chassis between the many brands which Detrola built were usually minor. Typically the dial scale, brand of tubes installed, and addition of a rubber stamped identifying text on the rear of the chassis would have been the changes on a Truetone they built. There are of course cabinet differences, which didn't affect anything on the chassis assembly lines.

_________________
Dennis

Experience is what you gain when the results aren't what you were expecting.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Apr Sun 20, 2008 3:10 pm 
Silent Key

Joined: Jan Tue 16, 2007 11:48 pm
Posts: 9664
Location: Hueytown, AL
Unless my memory is seriously flawed (a good possibility), Western Auto was owned by Sears during part of the 80s and possibly was sold to Advance Auto parts by Sears in 1998? After joining Sears, they were strictly an auto parts and tire store, having dropped appliances, hardware, electronics, etc. The asscciate stores still sold many of the items dropped by the corporate arm and I am not sure of the relationship, if they only used the name for convenience or if any goods were furnished them by the corporation. Got convoluted during the later years!


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Apr Sun 20, 2008 5:28 pm 
Member

Joined: Dec Sat 08, 2007 9:51 pm
Posts: 1786
Location: Nashville TN
Hi thanks love reading stuff like this..Its what this sites all about well done.Doug very nice set you got looks like new..Angelo 8)

_________________
Be happy ,enjoy life as its so short!


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Apr Sun 20, 2008 8:21 pm 
Member

Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 1086
Location: Hartford, KY, USA 42347
Very nice Truetone there, Doug.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Apr Sun 20, 2008 10:56 pm 
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Apr Wed 09, 2008 3:37 am
Posts: 13065
Location: Little Rock, Arkansas
Doug VanCleave wrote:
Nice article Mo, The Truetones you have pictured look like Detrola built models. I have only one Truetone and it was built by Detrola. Like Sears Silvertone and Wards Airline, they sold some high end stuff along with the economy sets.

Image


Doug, this is absolutely the best example of this Truetone I've ever seen. It's absolutely beautiful.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Apr Sun 20, 2008 10:57 pm 
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Apr Wed 09, 2008 3:37 am
Posts: 13065
Location: Little Rock, Arkansas
jkaetzjr wrote:
Unless my memory is seriously flawed (a good possibility), Western Auto was owned by Sears during part of the 80s and possibly was sold to Advance Auto parts by Sears in 1998? After joining Sears, they were strictly an auto parts and tire store, having dropped appliances, hardware, electronics, etc. The asscciate stores still sold many of the items dropped by the corporate arm and I am not sure of the relationship, if they only used the name for convenience or if any goods were furnished them by the corporation. Got convoluted during the later years!


That's correct. Western Auto was owned by Sears and then sold off to Advance Auto.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Apr Sun 20, 2008 11:28 pm 
Member

Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 5071
Location: Ortonville, Michigan
Also from me, a top notch article. There was a Western Auto store somewhere in my neighborhood in Detroit, as as a kid, I loved to look at the radios.

Some of the big Truetone sets were made by Wells- Gardner, as has already been told. W-G made some of the most superlative sets for private brands, like Western Auto. Today, a re-capped Wells-Gardner set can out-perform a lot of high end radios. Thus, a lot of Truetone sets are dynamite performers.

In 1935 or 1936, Wells-Gardner made a 16 tube chromium plated chassis set for Ward's Airline. It featured two speakers, and parallel push-pull 2A3 power amplifiers. I wonder if Western Auto used this set, too?

The factory sets for Cadillac were made by Wells-Gardner from 1932 through 1939. You could see similar sets with the Truetone name.

And finally; was there evre a FALSE tone radio?


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Apr Mon 21, 2008 2:50 am 
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Apr Wed 09, 2008 3:37 am
Posts: 13065
Location: Little Rock, Arkansas
A new illustrated book, "The Last Western Flyer--the Western Auto Century," chronicles the almost century long story of one of the most successful small town franchise operations in Twentieth
Century USA. From its humble beginnings as a penny mailer sent from the kitchen of a Kansas City home, through a quarter century of mail order, and on to over 5,000 retail outlets under its famous "Circle Arrow" signs, Western Auto brought everything from tires and spark plugs to socks and ties and, of course, its well known Western Flyer bikes, to small towns all over America.

Packed with illustrations from Western Auto catalogs, sales brochures, and company literature from as early as 1911 on, "The Last Western Flyer" tracks the company's growth and relates it to the country's progress during the century of the automobile, the airplane, radio and television, and the Barbie doll.

In the beginning, Western Auto sold tires, oil and spark plugs, and everything else imaginable for the Ford Model T. By the 1930s, Truetone radios and Western Flyer bikes were leading the company's expansion into non-automotive products.
Western Auto's growth exploded with the introduction in 1936 of its small town "Associate Store" concept and the company's "Circle Arrow"
logo came to villages and towns across the country.

Despite delays in expansion during World War II, Western Auto continued to grow, calling itself "the Family Store" to reflect its thousands of product offerings of everything from washing machines to outboard motors to puppy dogs by mid-century. It expanded even further with a return to catalog selling in the 1960s and 1970s.

The book's author, Jim Marchman, traces Western Auto's growth through the work of his father who joined the company as a manual laborer in 1935 and quickly advanced through company management until he bought his own Associate Store in 1953. The changes in Western Auto's product lines that are shown from company literature provide an interesting history of the changes that modern technology brought to both the American home and the automobile during the last century.

The book's final chapters examine what went wrong as Western Auto's growth reversed in the face of "super store" retailers, corporate takeovers, and policies that drove away small town dealers. Taken over by Sears and later by Advance Auto, the company ceased supplying its dealer stores on December 31, 2003.

The book honors the contributions of the thousands of Americans who worked for this great company, its stores, and associate stores over the last century. It brings back many wonderful memories for those of us who grew up in small towns all over the country, riding those wonderful Western Flyer bicycles, listening to our Truetone radios, watching our Truetone televisions, and washing our clothes in a Wizard washing machine.

"The Last Western Flyer--the Western Auto Century" is currently available only from the author in a paperback bound 8 1/2 x 11 inch, 295 page edition. The price of $25 includes shipping. Interested purchasers should contact the author, Jim Marchman, at: marchman@vt.edu

ImageImage

Image


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Apr Mon 21, 2008 3:34 am 
Member
User avatar

Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 791
Location: Lawrence, KS,
As a side note, the Western Auto building in Kansas City, Missouri still operates the huge circle-arrow neon sign (maybe 50' by 50' ?) atop the building. This landmark is close to Union Station. The building was erected adjacent to a railroad freight spur, so that it has 2 flat sides and one long curved side that hugs the spur.

If I am not mistaken, this building was converted to condominium "lofts" as were many other empty plants and warehouses between downtown and (Halls' Hallmark) Crown Center.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Apr Mon 21, 2008 3:42 am 
Member
User avatar

Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 791
Location: Lawrence, KS,
Ah, I found a picture!

Image

There is a short history of the building on this website I found. The web address is:
http://www.kc-lofts.com/bldgs/westauto.htm


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Apr Mon 21, 2008 4:06 am 
Silent Key

Joined: Jan Tue 16, 2007 11:48 pm
Posts: 9664
Location: Hueytown, AL
If you ever bought a Wizard outboard motor, chances are you had a Mercury in disguise. Here in my neck of the woods in the early days of TV, '49 to about '57, WA sold Truetone TV sets by Wells-Gardner and Belmont, later Raytheon, by the truckload.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Apr Mon 21, 2008 4:08 am 
Member

Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 343
Location: MS
Our small town had one years ago. These were great stores and most were locally owned. The one here was not large but had a huge amount of merchandise. This was THE place for bikes, toy trains and auto parts in the 50s. Too bad they are gone.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Apr Mon 21, 2008 5:19 am 
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Apr Wed 09, 2008 3:37 am
Posts: 13065
Location: Little Rock, Arkansas
Martin Blankinship wrote:
Ah, I found a picture!

Image

There is a short history of the building on this website I found. The web address is:
http://www.kc-lofts.com/bldgs/westauto.htm


Awesome picture Martin. I've always wanted to see Western Auto's old headquarters building in Kansas City. I hope the building owners never take down that big cirlcle sign. It has terrific historical significance for Kansas City.


Top
 Profile  
 
Post New Topic Post Reply  [ 33 posts ]  Moderator: sofaslug Go to page 1, 2  Next

All times are UTC [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google Adsense [Bot], palegreenthumb and 9 guests



Search for:
Jump to:  




















Privacy Policy :: Powered by phpBB