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WWJ Detroit - Early Years 1920-1935

WWJ in Detroit will celebrate its one hundredth birthday on August 20, 2020. In 1920, the de Forest Radio Telephone and Telegraph Co. offered to lease de Forest transmitters to interested newspapers, with the "franchise open only to one newspaper in each city". William Scripps, owner of the Detroit News, was apparently the only taker, and acquired a 50-watt transmitter which went on the air on August 20 using the an employee's amateur call sign 8MK. The station broadcast daily news and entertainment under the amateur call sign, and in 1921 converted to a 'Limited Commercial' license with the call letters WBL. This call sign was changed to WWJ in March, 1922. WWJ has been on the air continuously since 1920, and is now celebrating 100 years of continuous broadcasting service.

Fortunately, because WWJ was operated by a newspaper, there was always a photographer at hand to record the details of the station's operation. We present here some of the hundreds of photos that document WWJ's early years of broadcasting. (Most of the original prints in this collection are from the radio historian's personal collection, and are reproduced with permission of the Detroit News Archives.)

WWJ Early Studio and Staff Scenes